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Sometimes we are just too efficient for our own good. No sooner had we sent this week’s podcast off for transcription than the news broke that NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler had announced he will be leaving the job in November – just weeks after he signed a year-long extension to his contract. We’ve covered that in detail HERE and will pick up on the news for next week’s podcast. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to talk about this week, including the TV report that they have discovered that apartment blocks in Victoria have defects.  Who knew? You can watch the ABC report HERE. There’s the anti-strata beat-up about the couple from Earlwood in Sydney who, thanks to bad advice saw an $18,000 special levy blow out to a $44,000 debt – and that was after they had paid off $13,000. Then, on the subject of debts, we have a chunk of last week’s interview with strata lawyer David Sachs which I cut out and set aside for this week as it’s mainly about Section 232 of the NSW strata Act and the various – almost limitless – ways it can be used to resolve disputes. Then we talk about the things we like about hotels that end up being included in apartment designs. So there’s lots to talk about before next week, when rest assured we will get into why David Chandler resigned and what kind of building commissioner the NSW government will be looking for to replace him. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Okay, back from Bali. Sue  00:02 Yes. Jimmy  00:03 With no suntan, but a lot of mosquito bites. Sue  00:07 Yes, but much more relaxed and happy and content. Jimmy  00:13 Well, I was until we had to sit on the plane next to a teenage girl who refused to put a mask on. Sue  00:20 Yes, that was very annoying, wasn't it, really? And she wasn't the only one, there were quite a few people on the plane who weren't wearing masks, which is a bit disturbing. Jimmy  00:27 Because it says on the announcement, that it's a legal requirement that you wear a mask for the duration of the flight. Sue  00:33 But it's pretty hard for the air stewards to insist. They kept coming around and reminding people and people would put on the mask... Jimmy  00:39 And then as soon as they were gone, take it off again. And then they ask you to respect people's choices, which means you can't grab them by the throat and say "put your effing mask on." Sue  00:40 Even though you want to. Jimmy  00:52 Very much so. So today, we are going to talk about... Apparently they've just discovered defects in buildings in Melbourne; it was a big thing on the TV while we were away (shock, horror). Welcome to the real world. And, we're going to have another chat about that. What I think was a confected scandal, about the old couple who couldn't pay their levies... I think we were the first to (apart from the story that broke in the Sun-Herald before we left).. We were the first people to actually pick up on that and comment on it, so I think we're entitled to have another swing at it, now that we've had a chance to think. And, David Sachs, the strata lawyer, was talking about debts last week. And I chopped out a thing (because we kind of went off on a tangent at one point), to talk about section 232, which is part of the act that basically, allows you to resolve disputes with your strata committee, or your strata scheme. So, that's quite a lot really, isn't it? Sue  01:59 Absolutely. Jimmy  02:00 I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  02:04 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  02:07 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy So, apartment blocks in Melbourne have defects... Who'd have thunk it? Sue  02:28 It's interesting. I guess this story about the defects in the Melbourne block got a lot of traction, because the couple who live in the building were prepared to face up to the med...
Last week saw the publication of a confected scandal of an elderly couple who’d been given bad advice, blaming their owners corporation for a special levy of $18,000 that had blown out to a debt of $44,000. As we pointed out in this story, and on this podcast, the owners corp were probably just fulfilling their legal obligation to fix common property and charge owners according to their unit entitlements. But the appallingly one-sided yarn glossed over the influence of the financial and legal advisers who got the couple into that financial hole and instead took potshots at the strata committee and owners corp. Anyway, purely by coincidence, the previous week I had sat down with David Sachs, principal of Sachs Gerace Lawyers to talk about levy debts, how they can be recovered and what you should and shouldn’t do when they mount up for one owner. This includes tracking down overseas investors who leave their units empty and never pay levies ... which may involve hiring private detectives in foreign countries. Ooooh... exciting! But seriously, David provides a calm voice of reason in what can be a highly emotive area … something that was notably lacking in the previously mentioned “fake news” travesty. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:03 Last week, before the story blew up about the old couple in Earlwood being (allegedly) driven out of their home because of a levies debt, I interviewed David Sachs from our sponsors, Sachs Gerace Lawyers, mainly about debt. That was something we'd organised well in advance, so it's purely coincidental... and this is by way of an explanation, if people listen to this and think "well, why are you not talking about that story that was in the Sun-Herald?" The reason is, it hadn't happened yet. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. And this is a very special Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy I am with David Sachs of Sachs Gerace Lawyers,  here in Woolloomooloo, technically, and we're going to talk about levy debts and what you can do about them and what you can't do about them. Good afternoon, David. David Sachs  01:26 Hi, Jimmy. Jimmy  01:27 Okay, question one; there is a mandatory 10% penalty rate for unpaid levies, or overdue levies... When does that kick in? David Sachs  01:38 Well, I would never use the word 'penalty.' It's actually a bit of a black mark for lawyers, because penalties mean, you can't recover it. But, there is interest that is chargeable, and it is chargeable from, I guess, the day after the levy is due, but unpaid, but, there's a grace period, so that if you pay within a month after the levies are due, then you're not charged the interest. But, if you paid two days later, then you'll pay for the full 30 days, plus two days. Jimmy  02:09 Which is a proportion of the 10%. David Sachs  02:12 Yes, it's 10% per annum, just calculated in the ordinary ways. So if there was a $100 debt, then 10% of it will be $10, and that would be calculated on a daily basis. It accrues notionally for the first month, but it's only able to be recovered, if the levies are not paid within that one month grace period. Jimmy  02:34 What processes does a strata scheme have to take, to get unpaid levies back? David Sachs  02:42 So there's procedures that are specified in the Act that every strata manager would know about, but it's essentially, you make sure that a valid levy has been struck that the notices to pay the levies have been issued, that the requisite amount of time has been allowed for people to pay. You've got to allow at least 30 days for people to pay, then if they don't pay them, you've got to give them a notice with information that's required under the Act about that payment; how the things' been calculated, etc. And then, after that point, an owners corporation can recover it like any other debt. So most of the time, you'll be commencing a case in the small claims d...
This week on the podcast we hop into the highly dubious story that appeared in the Sydney Sun-Herald this week about a poor old couple who are facing bankruptcy because of a special levy imposed on their block by a heartless and cruel strata committee … Hang on! Heartless and cruel? Strata committees can’t set special levies.  And owners corporations have to maintain and repair common property. The block is 50 years old – has nobody been putting money in the sinking fund? (Rhetorical question – don’t even bother). More to the point, as we explore in depth here, how come the couple paid $13,000 of the special levy but are now $44k in debt. And if you think Jimmy tends towards the cynical, wait till you hear Sue’s solution for retired couples who can’t pay their levies because they’re on a fixed income.  FYI, it ain’t setting up a Gofundme appeal. Also on the pod, based on this story, we look again at how much you need to tell prospective purchasers about problems in your block (a lot, it turns out). And we look at a case where two top-floor owners took over their roof space and added rooms, without a by-law or a by-your-leave, but the owners corp over-reached in their efforts to put things to rights. Finally, we have a new promo for our travel website  Is it an intrusion or a little light relief?  You tell us via By the way, in case you were wondering, how can we claim in the intro to pod number 180 that we have had 200 episodes? That’s because in the early days we were on a not-very-good podcast platform and our first 20 episode had just a handful of downloads. Just as well we switched to our current pod host Blubrry and started the count from scratch, we now have literally ten times as many listeners as we had before. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 We have reached a milestone, in terms of the number of downloads and listens on this podcast. Sue  00:06 Oh, yes, what's that? Jimmy  00:07  Just in the past week, we have ticked over 40,000. Sue  00:13 Wow! Is that 40,000 different people who've listened to us? Jimmy  00:16 No, it's one person, who's listened 40,000 times. Sue  00:19 Is that my mum? Jimmy  00:20 That's the one person who is most likely to have done that. But no, it's good. We've had 200 episodes (almost; we're coming up to our two hundredth. In fact, this might be the two hundredth). That works out at an average of 200 per episode. But the early episodes; like the really early episodes, hardly anyone listened to them, and now we're tracking at just over 50 listens per day. Sue  00:47 Oh, fantastic! Jimmy  00:47  Which is 350 a week, which is pretty good. Sue  00:50 So people want to keep up-to-date with what's happening with apartments and also, find out what they've missed, perhaps. Jimmy  00:55 Yes, exactly. I think people listen to it in different ways. Some people listen to it while they're cooking dinner, or while they're driving home from work, or whatever...In the bath. Sue  01:05 At the EC meeting, when they get bored. Jimmy  01:07 Just switch this on... They feel that they're getting more out of this, than they are out of their own committee. Oh, we shouldn't say things like that. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  01:19 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  01:22 And this is the 200th Flat Chat Wrap. We've been getting a bit legal, on Flat Chat this week. A couple of things have come in. One of them is quite interesting, because I have a question for you... If you had a neighbour who was so awful, that you decided to sell up and move out, would you tell the purchasers, that you've got a terrible neighbour? Sue  02:01 Absolutely not. Because you want to get rid of your apartment, don't you? You want to sell it for the best possible price,
This week’s Flat Chat Wrap has a look at something we predicted a few weeks ago – that the knives would soon be out for Building Commissioner David Chandler, just as they were all those years ago for Police Commissioner Peter Ryan. Why? Maybe because he's been a bit too successful at doing exactly what he was asked to do - get rid of of a crooks and shonks in the property development industry. Those crooks and shonks didn't get where they are today without having friends in high places ... and the media. We also take a quick squiz at some new statistics that show that more and more Australians are moving into apartment blocks. And Jimmy has a bit of a rant about Airbnb (what, again???) and passes on a brilliant suggestion from a reader that could fix the issue of residential properties being switched to holiday rentals when there’s a dire housing shortage. And then we look at the block where someone got themselves elected to their strata committee than promptly gave their vote to a mate and took off for a year’s holiday.  There’s all that and more on the Flat Chat Wrap this week. TRANSCRIPTION IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 You got over your post-COVID brain fog? Sue  00:03 I don't think I ever had any. Jimmy  00:04 Well, I had it. Sue  00:05 Did you? Jimmy  00:05 Yes, last week.  I did the newsletter and got it all ready and then decided at the last minute to change just one line. I went back in, edited it and then forgot to resend. It was only that I got an email on Friday morning from a reader saying "oh, have you stopped doing your newsletter, because I really look forward to it," that I thought "oh god, it hasn't gone out!" Sue  00:29 Wow, because I actually got the newsletter the other day, and I thought "oh, this is a bit weird. Why am I getting it today?" Jimmy  00:35 Because of brain fog! Okay, right. We'd better crack on. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:44 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:47 This is the Flat Chat Wrap. Remember a few weeks ago, we were talking about David Chandler, and how he was in danger of moving into Peter Ryan territory? Sue  01:12 Oh right; being white-anted? Jimmy  01:13 Yes, and it's started. There's an article you pointed out in The Australian newspaper, that he is being investigated by the Fair Trading Department; his boss, Eleni Petinos, the Fair Trading and Small Business... Sorry, I should correct myself... She's Small Business first and then a bit of Fair Trading, added on. Yes, because of a speech that he made, where he said he'd provided a list to the banks of all the dodgy certifiers... Sue  01:49 Right. It's probably beyond his remit, is it? Jimmy  01:53 Well, he was saying at the time, that these are people who will probably never work again, because they've been shown to be dodgy. And of course, this has set off alarms, because it's much more important for dodgy certifiers to be protected, than it is for people who buy apartments to be protected from dodgy certifiers. Sue  02:18 Well, dodgy certifiers have more access to the funds that you need to go to court... Jimmy  02:24 Dodgy certifiers are employed by dodgy developers. And so this is where somebody (I don't even know who it was in Parliament. I don't know which party they were members of; I don't really care, to be honest). It's just so typical of "oh, he said this thing!" The thing is, he has said this, and there's no doubt that he said it. He was recorded saying it and I think we might have spoken about it before, at a meeting that journalists were not invited to. He said this thing, but has he actually done it? Is there any evidence? Has anybody seen the list? Has anybody from the banks come up and said "oh, yeah, here's the list of dodgy developers." Do you think he was maybe,
Having braved the wilds of Scotland and the woes of Covid, we are back with a brand new Flat Chat Wrap podcast, with our usual mixture of optimism and, it must be said, the occasional bout of weary skepticism. The optimism stems from the plans for a new high-end apartment block that will bring owners together with key worker in affordable rentals, plus some social housing. And the remarkable thing about this is that the purchasers of apartments costing up to $2.4m actually like the ides of having a broad democratic spread among their neighbours. The skepticism comes from wondering what the government is going to do about rental affordability and availability when they are so desperately keen not to do anything about holiday rentals having taken over what should be residential homes.   And then we have the woman in a small apartment block whose racist neighbour is just making up the rules as he goes – aided and abetted by absentee owners and a supine strata manager – including banning her from common property.  That’s all in this week’s refreshed and renewed podcast. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 We're back, after a couple of weeks' break while I was away, and while we were doing the 'Lawyer in the Hot Seat' thing. Sue  00:07 And then when you came back, you brought a special souvenir for me; two souvenirs. One was a really nice pair of pyjamas, so thank you for that, and the other one was a dose of Scottish COVID! Jimmy  00:17 Yes, it's a very special Scottish COVID. Deep-fried COVID. Sue  00:23 So my pleasure at seeing you back was tempered somewhat, by both of us then falling ill. Jimmy  00:28 Yes. At one point earlier this year in Scotland, one person in 11 was infected with COVID. If I had known that, I would never have gone over there! And we are in a very unusual position for us, this week. Sue  00:45 What's that? Jimmy  00:45 You've just finished writing a book? Sue  00:48 Yes. Jimmy  00:48 Which means for the first time that I can remember, you are not in the middle of writing a book, because they've all overlapped. You know, you had 'Elizabeth & Elizabeth,' and then you had 'Daughter of the River Country,' and then you had 'Mary Mary.' Oh sorry, the Fiona Wood biography, which is coming out... Sue  01:07 In September, I think, yes. It's weird, isn't it? I mean, it's so strange, because all the time you're on a mad deadline and you're working and you're thinking "oh my god, I wish I didn't have these books to write.' You think it's going to be so wonderful when you don't have them and and as soon as you don't have them, I start getting really fidgety and thinking "oh, my god, what am I going to do with my life?" Jimmy  01:08 You'll think of something. Sue  01:31 Yes. I wrote the words 'the end' today, which is my favourite part of writing a book, but I still need to go through the book and just trim it up and kind of refine it a little bit, I think. Jimmy  01:43 The essence of good writing is rewriting. Sue  01:45 Yes, but hopefully not too much rewriting! Jimmy  01:49 Okay, now back to our proper job, which is this podcast. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  01:58 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  02:00 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [Music] Jimmy One of the features on the Flat Chat website at the moment, is something that you wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald, about a development in Wollongong. Sue  02:26 Yes, that was fascinating. I mean, I went there just before you came home and made me sick, Jimmy. Jimmy  02:33 Can we just get over it? Sue  02:35 Okay. So I went down to Wollongong. I went to the breaking ground ceremony and it was the start of a new fabulous luxury apartment building. But it was a very, very different apartment building.
Welcome to the second part of Lawyer In The Hot Seat, in which strata lawyer (and Flat Chat sponsor) David Bannerman invited us on to his webinar. This week, Jimmy asks and David answers your questions about the NSW strata information hub and whether it might deter people from taking office-bearer roles in strata committees. On short-term letting, David suggests that an over-crowding by-law may be the most effective way of dealing with abuses, especially with its much higher fines. We discuss strata committees wrongly using OC funds for political campaigns – even when they are strata-related (such as pro or anti-pets and EV charging). We also look at questions about the right to view CCTV after a theft from a car, who compensates a tenant when their parking is closed off, a two-lot strata scheme with no records, inadequate lighting on a dark pathway and what you can do when your upstairs neighbour exposes their floorboards and becomes a noise nuisance. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Hello, this is the second part of the coverage of our webinar, 'Lawyer in the Hot Seat,' with strata lawyer, David Bannerman. This week, we pick up on the question of the Strata Hub; the information repository, that some people think might be asking us to give too much information, such as personal phone numbers and email addresses. There's a whole heap of other stuff, including some questions that were sent in, as we were doing the webinar. So, sit back and enjoy. Once again, the sound quality isn't up to our usual standards, because we recorded it on Zoom, but it's okay. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review and this is the Flat Chat Wrap. Jimmy The hub; the famous Strata Hub, David... The question is, how will owners corporations entice strata committee members to become office bearers, when their private email addresses and phone numbers will be available to every resident of the building (and owner, who might not be a resident). Do you see that as an issue, coming up? David Bannerman  01:24 The Strata Hub is certainly a bone of contention at the moment, with the strata industry, particularly the strata managers. They're concerned, that they will lose some members who are willing to be office bearers, because the two office bearer's positions will be shared with all the owners. The secretary's position and the chairperson's position, and the way it's framed; even though the manager's delegated the functions, that won't suffice, by simply inserting the strata manager's details. It will need to be the individual committee person, who's appointed as a chairperson, and likewise, the secretary. That is a position there that will also be disclosed to various parties, being the emergency contact person, such as the police and emergency services. Now, the strata managing agent can be appointed to that position. I think that in small buildings, where people already know everybody, it won't have any impact on that position, but I think that in larger buildings, like 100-odd lots, where there could be a lot more emails than what a secretary or chairperson might wish to receive from random occupants or owners, that they may prefer not to take that position. So, it could have an impact on that larger scale. Jimmy  02:49 Yes, and I think the problem is that, as many people have said, it's hard enough to get people to do the job sometimes, because the kind of people that you want to be in the position of chair or secretary, are smart, intelligent, successful people, who might be already busy, being smart, intelligent and successful in their working life. They certainly don't want to be sitting there at work and get an email saying 'what about that barking dog in flat 17?' You know, it's that kind of thing; or the abusive ones, that occasionally come up. I remember years ago, somebody said to me that one resident out of ever...
Amid all the discussions on this website about strata law, regulations and by-laws, we spend a lot of time talking about the way things ought to be and the difference with how they really are. David Bannerman Every so often it helps to cut through all the wishful thinking and speculation to get some definitive answers and so we were delighted to be asked by David Bannerman of Bannermans Lawyers to participate in his monthly webinar. In fact, it’s worth pointing out that this was actually his show, not ours, but judging by the intro, I seem to have inadvertently hijacked the online event. But that’s all window-dressing. In this, the first half of a discussion in which David - one of Flat Chat's strata law sponsors - answers your questions, we got into issues like water-proofing, how design practitioners are delayingwork and inflating the costs, the whole pet by-laws issue, sacking managers and EV charging. At this point I have to say there are parts where David’s audio is less than perfect – the perils of using Zoom to record these events – and if you are really struggling with it, the transcript (below) will get the job done. Next week, we’ll run the second part of what turned out to be a very interesting chat with some truly curly questions from you, our readers. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Just over a week ago, I hosted a webinar online. We called it 'Lawyer in the Hot Seat,' and one of our sponsors, strata lawyer David Bannerman, came along to answer your questions, which had been sent in advance on a Zoom webinar. The webinar lasted an hour; we've cut it into two parts, that we are presenting this week and next. The sound quality isn't up to our usual standards, because we recorded it on Zoom. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review, and this is a special Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy We've got a lot of questions to get through. David Bannerman is the fastest lawyer in the east, so we'll probably get through quite a lot. I'm seeing lots of chat coming up and I hope somebody else is looking at them, because I am a bear of little brain, and I can only do so much at one time. Are you ready, David? David Bannerman  01:11 Thanks Jimmy, for joining us. For those of you who don't know, Jimmy (most of you should), but he's a well-known commentator in the strata space and was recently in the AFR, talking about Strata Hub, and is often in the frontline of lots of owner inquiries, regarding strata stuff. We thought it'd be good to see what sort of questions he's frequently encountering and seeing what we can do to help the strata community get a better footing on their position. Jimmy  01:40 All right, thank you for that. David. I'm going to kick off with a question that comes pretty much straight off the Flat Chat forum and it is; if an external hosepipe on say, a washing machine, bursts and floods the unit downstairs, passing through common property, who is responsible for the repairs; the upstairs owner, or their insurance (if they have it), strata insurance, or the downstairs owners' insurance (if they have it)? David Bannerman  02:10 It's a good question and it happens a lot, where there's a few rights that follow. One is, the person who might have suffered the damage below, could have an 'action in nuisance' against the person above, for allowing the water to escape from their property and cause the damage below. Now, it wouldn't normally be a failing in the common property, because concrete is porous, so it's supposed to allow water through, so there's probably no problem with the common property in that circumstance. As to insurance though, a strata insurance will typically cover burst pipes, and claims can be processed through that. Alternatively, a claim could be processed through the lot owner's insurance, in the event that it covered that sort of event. The payment of the excess and the increase in the premium that...
The first thing that happens after a new government is elected is that the Prime Minister and the party divvy up the ministries. The next thing after that is that they look at what they have promised during the election campaign and work out how much of it they can or want to implement. In this week’s podcast we ask if the new Labor government’s commitment to co-owning homes with first-time property buyers is going to take the heat out of the property market … or just make it worse. And will the government grasp the nettle of negative gearing and dial down the effect that one economist has described as rewarding people for making bad property investments? We meet a new strata owner who has, with the best intentions, managed to get most of his colleagues on his committee offside by asking awkward questions. We also look at a couple of points that came out of last week’s “Lawyer in the Hot Seat” webinar.    The first was a part of strata law that’s generally overlooked which is that if you win a tribunal case against your owners corp, they have to find a way of making sure you don’t pay any part of their legal expenses - and that means a special levy that excludes you. The other item that stood out was, if your owners corporation has been making donations to campaigns for or against even strata-related issues, such as pets or short-term letting, they have probably been breaking the law. All that and more in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Well, there's been an election, and we've got a new government, or we're getting one. Sue  00:03 Yes, sure thing! Jimmy  00:04 So we'll be talking a bit about what that means to the housing market. What else have we got on the agenda, Sue? Sue  00:11 Well, you took part in a webinar the other day, I think, didn't you? Jimmy  00:13 I did. Sue  00:14 With the strata lawyer, David Bannerman, and you said that a couple of really interesting things came up there. I think you also had a really interesting query on the Flat Chat forum, from a first-time strata owner? Jimmy  00:25 Yes, somebody who's got themselves on the committee and immediately started raising the alarm about things that they thought should have been done and hadn't been done. There's a lot to talk about. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I wrote the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:41 And I'm Sue Williams, and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:43 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. So we now have a government with the majority who are Labor Party, but crossbenchers... Sue  01:07 Playing a big role, as well. Jimmy  01:08 Yes and I mean, the Greens were talking about building millions of houses, or apartments. I don't remember the teal independents saying much about housing. They were very much focused on the environment and integrity. Sue  01:26 That's right. Jimmy  01:27 We're back to what the Labor Party was proposing, which was that they would be co-owners of houses and flats, for first time buyers. Sue  01:39 And it's interesting, because I think the Liberals staked a lot on their plan about housing affordability; on allowing people to use more of their super and it seemed really, as if that was quite a popular notion, but then maybe, a lot of the negatives about the Liberals, outweighed that positive. But I mean, lots of people were saying, well, you shouldn't be using your super; you should be keeping it for when you're older. And other people were saying, well, it's a great idea, because an investment in super, doesn't pay as much as an investment in property. Jimmy  02:12 That's true. Sue  02:12 So in some ways, there were lots of things in favour of that, but maybe it just wasn't quite popular enough. Jimmy  02:23 You know, it was all politics, really. I don't think the scare campaign about having Jim Chalmers sitting at the end of your kitch...
This week on the Flat Chat Wrap, as we approach the election, we are looking again at the various parties housing policies and wonder what they really mean. We recorded this before the announcement that young people will be able dip into their Super to help fund the purchase of a flat or house if the Coalition holds on to power, and the revelation on ABC radio that they couldn’t find a single economist who thought it was a good idea. I mean, do young people have much in the way of super anyway? Instead we focus on the previous offer to older Australians to downsize and put their profits into their super.  As we discuss, with the gap between median house and apartment prices being almost double, that could be a big chunk o’ money. Elsewhere on the pod, we are revisiting a couple of hot topics that have been covered in detail on the website.  There’s EV charging and some disturbing information about how the strata Hub will work, for a start. There another piece of bad news for the benighted owners of Mascot Towers and a revelation from the Forum about a 24-unit block that’s just been hit with a $2 million special levy for a balcony revamp that might not even be needed. All that and more in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 It's the last week before the election, and they're throwing out policies. When I say throwing out; they're spreading their wisdom. Sue  00:08 Absolutely. Jimmy  00:09 So, we're going to talk about some policies that are related to apartments. We're going to talk about electric vehicles, because I listened into that webinar the other day. What else have we got, Sue? Sue  00:22 We're also going to be talking about the latest development in Mascot Towers, which isn't so good, either. And, the case of an apartment building, which has just imposed a huge special levy on its residence. Jimmy  00:38 Alright. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:44 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:47 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy So it's Sunday, and we've retreated to our little office, to get away from the smell of barbecue smoke from downstairs. Sue  01:12 Because it's such a lovely day. It's a good BBQ day, really. Jimmy  01:15 Whatever they're doing; they're either burning charcoal, or burning whatever they're trying to cook and they shouldn't be doing it. And you know who you are and you'd better stop. All right? Now, the election; well, we've got this policy, which is unfortunately about superannuation and downsizing. I say 'unfortunately,' because I don't really understand superannuation, to be honest. Sue  01:43 Don't you? Jimmy  01:43 No. Sue  01:44 You better learn it quickly, now you're getting older! Jimmy  01:47 I should, but apparently, they're going to allow anyone who's over 65, who sells their house because they're downsizing... Sue  01:56 Anyone over 55, Jimmy. Jimmy  02:00 They can then put $300,000 of the money they get from selling their big house, into their superannuation when they move into a smaller property, which let's face it, often means apartments. Sue  02:16 Absolutely. And they will have much more time, when they won't be penalised on their pension, for having that extra money. Jimmy  02:27 See, that's the bit I don't understand, is the pension thing. But anyway, it must be good news for potential downsizers, or the government wouldn't be trumpeting it and the opposition wouldn't be saying "oh, yeah, we'll do that and we'll go better." Sue  02:45 Well, the opposition has kind of said it's a bit modest, really, and they say they don't really know what kind of effect it will have. They say if you're around 55, or just over; how many people who have families, would have kids out of home by then?
Imagine you are the chair or secretary of a strata scheme.  You can cope with fielding a reasonable number of messages via the strata manager or building manager. It’s a mixed bag, some of the messages are simple and straightforward, some are well-intentioned if occasionally ill-informed, and there’s the odd one that’s abusive and ignorant. It’s all part of the cut and thrust of strata living and one way or another it lets you know what people in the building are thinking. Then one day, you start getting angry phone calls on your personal phone and your private email inbox is swamped with abusive emails and spam. That’s when you might decide enough is enough.  Keeping your hands on the levers of power is not worth the hassle and personal abuse to which you are suddenly subjected. That’s the nightmare scenario dreaded by some strata professionals, and it’s one they fear will see competent and experienced strata office-bearers give up when NSW’s new strata Hub comes into being at the end of next month. From June 30, strata committee office-bearers’ email addresses and phone numbers will be available to all owners and residents, including renters, as well as rental agents. We kick that around on this week’s podcast. We also look at the challenges real estate agents face when they are trying to sell properties in blocks that have been allowed to go to seed, or apartments where the vendors are determinedly living in the past. And we pick up on a Forum question about whether or not strata owners are legally obliged to maintain a TV aerial on the roof of their building. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap podcast. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Have you heard of the strata hub? Sue  00:02 Oh, vaguely, but it was a while ago that I last heard about it. Jimmy  00:06 Right. So this is the thing that was set up; originally, it was Victor Dominello's idea to have a central repository for all the information about every strata scheme in New South Wales. It's all going to happen on June the 30th, so we're going to talk about that. We're going to talk about buying and selling and what you see when you go around, looking at apartments. We're going to talk about TV aerials, and strata lawyers (a lot, actually). Another day when we thought we had nothing and now, we discover that we've got too much. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:46 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:49 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. So, the strata hub; a new regulation. Interesting, reading it. For a start, it's confusing (of course), because it's Australian law, so it has to be confusing. This is information that strata schemes have to give to the secretary, with a capital S. Who would you assume the Secretary was? Sue  01:28 The person who was nominated to be the secretary, by the rest of the strata committee. Jimmy  01:33 No, it's not them. It's the Secretary in the Department of Services. Not Community Services; Services New South Wales. So, they've got a capital S for this Secretary, but of course, you're reading it and you're going, so if you're giving this to the Secretary, who's the Secretary? It's a different Secretary. Sue  02:01 Because my second guess, when you asked me that question, would have been the strata managing agent. It would never have occurred to me; the Department Secretary. Jimmy  02:09 No, there you go. I'm glad we've cleared that up, or caused more confusion. This is what your strata secretary has to provide to the government secretary; the strata plan number, the date of registration of the strata plan, whether or not it's part of a community scheme, whether or not it's part of a precinct scheme. The address, the total number of lots, the number of lots in the strata scheme used for residential, retirement village, commercial,
Sometimes the fur flies at weddings, and things can certainly get catty between landlords and tenants but, as we explore in this week's podcast, a woman has taken things to a whole new level in an effort to get round restrictions on pets. This story about the woman who married her cat started in Sidcup, just outside London, and has gone around the world and back again. But Jimmy did some digging and discovered that on just about every occasion, it has been misreported. It's not the cat-lady's fault - people just made assumptions (as they do). So, listen in for the truth behind reports that this was to avoid eviction for having a pet where one wasn’t allowed. There’s more to this than meets the (cat’s) eye, including the revelation that Debora Hodge isn't the first cat lover to marry her pet. Then there’s the certifier of the building next to Mascot Towers who was discovered to have been in China when he was supposedly approving the building works. We ask why Building Commissioner David Chandler didn’t want journalists at a developers’ seminar he addressed recently. We examine why councillors and council officials in a Sydney Local Government Area now have to register every meeting they have with developers. (We use the word “record” in the podcast but we mean make a written record, not an audio recording.) And we speculate on what interest rate rises and political posturing is likely to do to apartment prices and rental availability. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap … and here’s a video of the cat lady, as a little bonus. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Every week we sit down to do this podcast, and we start off thinking we don't have anything to talk about. By the time we are sat down, we're thinking "we don't have enough time, to talk about everything." This week, we have a woman who married her cat, so that she could stay in her rented accommodation. Although, there's more to that than it sounds. We've got the certifier... Sue  00:26 Did the cat own the apartment or something? Jimmy  00:28  No. Sue  00:29 Pets weren't allowed in the apartment; that's why she married her pet? Jimmy  00:32  Not even that. Sue  00:32 Oh, okay. I'll be interested to hear about that! Jimmy  00:35 And, there's a certifier who's been struck off, for life. We've got all sorts of other things with developers, including David Chandler... Big news about David Chandler; the Building Commissioner and what the various parties are promising to do about housing. The Greens have got some pretty exciting ideas. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Sue  01:21 So, what's this about the woman marrying her cat? Jimmy  01:23 Oh, this is a story that's bouncing around social media at the moment. Basically, the story is that Deborah Hodge from Sidcup in southeast London, has married her cat India, to avoid... Well, according to the stories, it's to avoid being evicted from her apartment and then you dig into the story and you discover that she is not in danger of being evicted because she has a cat, she's in danger of being evicted, because she hasn't paid her rent. Sue  01:54 Oh! So why has she married her cat? Jimmy  01:57 To make it clear to prospective landlords, that she and the cat come as a unit. Twice in the past she has "had to give up her beloved pets, because landlords didn't allow pets in the rented property." Okay, I know exactly what you're thinking; you're thinking well, find another property that does allow pets. Two Huskies were the first ones that she had to give up and another cat, which apparently broke her heart. So Deborah; poor Deborah, she's (dare I use the word 'failed'?), no longer employed as a 'life coach.' Sue  02:37
In this week’s podcast we dive into the exciting world of flat-sharing … something neither of us have done for at least 30 years. How different can it all be in the Third Millennium?  Well, for a start, we didn't have the internet, where you can advertise your flat or yourself, including pictures, to see if you may be a better match than just turning up at the door with a deposit. But there’s more than that.  There are now all sorts of useful apps to help you function as a group of like-minded residents rather than just a bunch of people who share the rent, as well as prctical advice on how to be a better flatmate and how to get rid of someone who turns out to be a pain in the butt. There are a lot of flat-sharing websites around but we focused on and, which is where we found lists of the most and least expensive flat shares in Australia. You'll find a guide to the apps here. Also in the podcast this week we look back at the effects of covid, materials shortages and terrible weather and wonder if any off-the-plan developments are nearing their sunset clause deadlines. And if so, who is more likely to tear up the contracts – the developers or the purchasers? We take a quick look at a report that says our worst-designed buildings and suburbs are driving residents out of their overheated homes and into the air-conditioned cool of shopping malls. And we ask why so many local government areas aren’t meeting their new housing targets.  That’s all in this week’s podcast. TRANSCRIPT IN FULLJimmy  00:00 Last week, we blithely advised listeners who are struggling even to find somewhere to rent, that they could houseshare. Sue  00:06 Sure. Jimmy  00:08 They need somewhere to live. So we're going to be looking at that whole house sharing thing in today's podcast. And, we're going to be talking about sunset clauses and how they can affect your decisions on buying (or not buying), off-the-plan. And, a couple of other things, that have come up in the news. I'm Jimmy Thomson; I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:32 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:35 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy So, having advised our listeners (who can't afford to buy, or rent a flat on their own), to maybe consider flat-sharing, I had a bit of a look at that this weekend, to see how you would do it. I mean, it's been so long, since we've shared houses with anyone and of course, since we last did it, the internet has been invented, and stuff like that. Sue  01:14 That's right. It always used to be notes on boards, if you were at college or word-of-mouth from friends and... Jimmy  01:21 'Room to rent.' Sue  01:23 Well, they still do stick them on lampposts sometimes, don't they? But that's probably not a very efficient way of doing it. Jimmy  01:29 Probably not, although it does get you people who are already living in the area. So anyway, I went online, and I found a few things; there's a thing called Gumtree Share, or Gumtree Rent. But the two big platforms seem to be and Flatmate Finders is another one. is owned by They bought it in 2016, for $25 million. Sue  02:07 Wow! Jimmy  02:08 It claims to be the most visited website; Flatmate Finder claims to have the most properties and potential renters on it. Some of the figures that they use, it's quite funny. says "we're twice as big as our nearest rivals," and then, they show you this graph, that shows that they have 90% of the market, which... So, it's different figures, but let's just say that there are two platforms that are big there. There are others, but these seem to be the biggest ones. The way they make their money is that you can list your property (or yourself, if you're looking for a flat share), for free,
This week, we delve into the dark arts employed by real estate agents and property stylists to persuade you that an absolute lemon is, in fact, your dream “forever home.” How come that beautiful tapestry is on the wall of this humble abode? Why are all the lights on and the windows closed? Why are there three real estate agents from the same firm at a viewing of one relatively humble unit? We have some answers that will amaze and appal you. Also in the podcast, we try once again to shed a light on electrical vehicle charging and, more to the point, why so many people are dead set against it. Jimmy posits an unprovable thesis that the same people who expect to be allowed to build an extension on their balcony on a nod and a wink, suddenly want by-laws, legally binding guarantees and acts of parliament before they’ll put a meter on an electrical socket. This discussion – which is still going on – was prompted by Sue’s story about the doctor who was forced to sell his electric car and followed up by lively exchanges on the Forum. The upshot? The laws are already in place to make this, theoretically, a slam-dunk for anyone who wants to charge their car.  But they are vague enough to give the climate denialists enough ammunition to stop it. To be fair there are schemes where the wiring that’s been in place since Day One defies the best efforts of pro-EV residents to move this forward. However the BS Brigade may have met its match in a webinar planned for next month – and the supporting literature already online – that presents the true facts of the matter.   We catch up with trends in property prices (softening) and rents (soaring) and what’s happening with flammable cladding when Jimmy does something he almost never does – he agrees with the government. That’s all in this week’s podcast. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 It's Easter Monday. Everybody else is on holiday, but not the Flat Chat podcast. Sue  00:05 No, we never holiday. Jimmy  00:06 We never close, like the old Windmill Theatre in London. Today we're going to talk about; I suppose you could call it controversy... There's a bit of discussion on the Flat Chat website, about electric vehicle charging. It was all started by your story, by the way. Sue  00:24 Oh, right. Jimmy  00:26 We're going to talk also, about the latest on cladding and you've got quite a lot of stuff about property prices, and rents. Sue  00:37 Yep, all about the market. Jimmy  00:38 All about the market. We'll be talking about that. I thought this might be a short podcast, but I've got a feeling that it's not going to be short. Anyway, I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:53 And I'm Sue Williams, I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:57 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy It's a bit quieter outside today. We don't have the usual...Well, now that I've said that, we'll probably get a procession of trucks and cars, driving up the road outside. Usually, we have to stop when things get a bit noisy outside and sometimes, we just keep going. It adds to the ambience, or not. Did I get into trouble this week, over electric vehicle charging? You wrote a story about the building that.. Sue  01:38 Refused to allow one of it's residents to use the power point in the garage. Jimmy  01:43 Yes, and then we had quite a long exchange with people on the Flat Chat forum and I completely misread the situation, because I thought it was the strata manager responsible (or his company had come back), which it turned out, was a completely different person; nothing to do with them. This is on the forum, if you want to catch up with this. It was interesting, because all these situations are different and some of them are unique. This person who wrote to us had, I think it was 36 garage openers, on one circuit. So,
It’s another bumper podcast this week with some topics revisited, some from the Forum and others that are fresh out of the Flat Chat hot cross bunfight oven. First up, we take a deeper dive into the case of the doctor who was denied the opportunity to charge up his electric car from common property power because … good question! You can read the dubious reasons given for sealing off the car park power socket (because that's what the committee did) HERE. You might think he could have made the effort to get his landlord to jump through all the various hoops required to get a by-law passed. But when you consider that a by-law probably wasn’t needed, and that it was easier to sell the car than do all that, you can sense the frustration rising like the power level on a fast-charge battery. Also we kick around the news that the state government has done a backflip on its plans to require sustainability measures to be built into new strata blocks, and for them to be kept away from flood and fire-prone areas. And we look at an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute which has some praise but quite a lot of criticism about the way various state governments, as well as the Feds, responded to the pandemic in terms of housing. We pose the question that’s been running hot in the Flat Chat forum about whether a tenant who’s been told she can’t use the car park because the driveway is being resurfaced is entitled to a rent rebate. We revisit the question about what happens to your ‘pay-as-you-go’ deposit for an off-the-plan apartment if you suddenly can’t make the payments. And Jimmy talks about how a run-in with a debt collection company made him suspicious of the recently announced push towards digital checks on potential tenants. If you want to know how a misplaced dot in an email address can get you close to being put on a credit blacklist, this is the podcast for you. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 Another packed agenda today, Sue Williams. Sue  00:03 Okay, Jimmy Thomson, I'm ready. Jimmy  00:05 Well, I hope so! We've got the doctor who wasn't allowed to charge the electric car. We've got the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report on the response to the pandemic, as far as housing is concerned. We've got something off the forum, about a tenant, who was told that she can't use the carpark for at least a week, because they're resurfacing the driveway, and that has sparked a huge debate on the Flat Chat forum. We've got a couple of updates about Third-i and their pay-as -you-go deposit scheme and an update on the thing we ran last week about tenant checks, by a company called Equifax. That is a lot! Sue  00:50 Okay, we better get started then! Jimmy  00:53 I am Jimmy Thomson, I wrote the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:57 And I'm Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  01:00 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Okay Sue, I think we mentioned this a couple of weeks ago; you ran a story in the Sydney Morning Herald (and online this week), and it got picked up by radio. You have received a lot of correspondence; some a little bit unsavoury, I believe. Sue  01:36 But others are very supportive and others are very constructive, as well. Jimmy  01:41 And it's about a doctor who was not allowed to charge his electric vehicle in his apartment block, for reasons that are beyond him and I have to say, beyond me. So, what's the story? Sue  01:56 Right, he's a tenant in his apartment building. He bought an EV and he was charging it up; there was a power point in the garage, so he was powering it up, on that power point. The owners corporation said no, you're not allowed to use that power point, because that's common property. He said well, I'm very happy to pay. It's going to cost about $10 a week in electricity, to charge my car; I'm very happy to pay you $10 a we...
A couple of weeks ago we received a press release from a company called Equifax who are a data analysis company that specialises in credit checks, among other things. Those “other things” include being asked by the NSW state government to establish its proposed ratings system for apartment developers which is, we probably all agree, a good thing. The main thrust of the press release was that Equifax’s National Tenancy Database (NTD) could do a lot of the tenant checks that rental agents currently do “manually” i.e. calling up your references, employers and previous landlords or agents. But it goes further than that. Their checks would include tenants’ credit ratings, criminal records, company directorships, bankruptcies and even, it seems at first glance, whether or not they have taken their landlords or their owners corporations to a state tribunal with any kind of claim. Since we recorded the podcast, Equifax have assured as that they only mentioned tenants rights and claims as an example of how the burden on rental agents has increased - something they claim would be reduced by using their database. They have no plans to include tenants' assertion of their rights on the National Tenancy Database reports. We have to take them at their word but the information on claims against landlords and owners' corporations is out there, on the record somewhere, so it's an area worth watching In any case, if you’re a property investor, you may think this is a good thing.  But we are pretty uneasy about how data mining could play out for tenants who, after all, make up half the residents of strata schemes in Australia. By the way, we’re still digging and this will be the topic of an upcoming column in the AFR. Elsewhere on the pod, we discuss why developers have been pushing hard to have some of the hard-won and well-thought-out environmentally responsible planning controls scrapped. As is always the way these days, no sooner had we talked about it than the government asked “how high?” when the developers said “jump!” We also look at why apartment purchasers are drifting back to lifestyle developments, rather than low-cost, no-frills blocks. And we discover a point of NSW strata law that seems to mean that if your owners corp loses a case against you at the tribunal, they can’t pay their expenses out of the admin fund but instead have to raise a special levy from all the other owners except you. That’s all in this week’s podcast. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 We've got a stack of stuff to get through today... A new process for assessing tenants, a thing about how your owners corporation can't charge you for what it costs them to take you to NCAT. You've got a couple of stories as well? Sue  00:14 Yes, about new proposed planning laws, and how developers are really arching up against those, and also, how apartments with lots of facilities are suddenly back in fashion again. Jimmy  00:36 Right. I'm Jimmy Thomson. I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:41 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:44 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Sue  00:59 So, what's this new scheme about landlords, trying to check up on tenants? Jimmy  01:03 Okay, so this arrives (as so many press releases do these days), as a survey of property managers. It's quite interesting. They say that property managers are being overworked, unnecessarily. Sue  01:17 What's a property manager, is that a strata manager or building manager? Jimmy  01:20 No, it's an agent, a rental agent. Sue  01:23 Oh, I see. Jimmy  01:25 So, property rental agents are being overworked, because of the pandemic, partly; because of tenant's loss of income and impacting their ability to make rental payments. A higher volume of tenancy applications, compared to properties available for rent. Sue  01:44 Yes,
This week’s podcast discovers a new way of buying property – or at least putting down a deposit. The problem for many prospective home buyers is that, all the time they are saving for the deposit on a new home, prices keep rising so the amount they need to save gets more and so the property is always just out of reach. But we've heard about a new proposal that's been introduced where you can put down a relatively small deposit on a new flat and that add to it every week so that by the time the unit is ready, you’ve got enough in the bank to go and get a mortgage. Now, as frequently happens on the pod, someone in government is clearly hacking into our conversations as we record them, and changing policy to suit. So while we were musing about how hard it would be to raise a 20 per cent deposit over two years, the government was renewing its policy of allowing first-time home buyers to only put down five per cent deposits. All of which makes the new CoPosit plan even more feasible. You can have your smashed avo and eat it, and hear all about it here. Back to the pod we discuss the best and worst strata managers and we take a look at a couple of stories fresh off the Flat Chat Forum, including what to do if one committee member drives everyone away and how to get more people to come along to meetings. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 A couple of interesting things have come up this week; we have a new way of buying an apartment. Sue  00:07 Oh yes? Jimmy  00:08 It doesn't involve Bitcoin. It's a new way of getting a deposit together, which sounds quite interesting. We are going to talk about strata managers, good and bad and we're going to dive into the forum again, to see what weird and wonderful stories have come out of the Flat Chat forum, on the Flat Chat website. We've got a lot to talk about. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:38 And I'm Sue Williams. I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:41 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Now, be honest Sue, have you ever heard of coposit before? Sue  01:01 Never. I can say that with a huge amount of confidence. So, it's a corruption of the word deposit, is it? Jimmy  01:08 Co-deposit. It's a portmanteau word, that's got two words in it. Sue  01:14 Oh, okay. Jimmy  01:15 Like J-Lo. Sue  01:17  Or Scomo. Jimmy  01:18 Yes. This is co-deposit. Sue  01:23 Coposit. Jimmy  01:23 They should have called it coposit, couldn't they? Sue  01:25 They did call it coposit. Jimmy  01:26 Did they? Sue  01:27 Yes. Jimmy  01:27 That's a good thing, then. Alright, so what is it? We've got a press release; we've never come across it before. Sounds...Well, on the one hand, it sounds incredibly mundane, because it's all about a project; an apartment project in Newcastle, called Dairy Farmers Towers? Wouldn't you just love to live there? Sue  01:52 I could grow fat, just thinking about it, really. Presumably, it's on the former site of a dairy or something? Jimmy  01:59 Yes, the big Dairy Farmers bottling plant in West Newcastle. They have come up with a way that they think will get new homebuyers (first-time homebuyers, especially), into the market. As we have constantly said, in this podcast and on the website, and in your stories; the difficulty for people trying to get into the market, is that they save for a deposit and as they're saving for the deposit, the price is going up and up and up and that deposit is getting further and further and further away. So, these people have come up with this idea of coposit, where you put up $10,000 (so you've got to have some money), but then you pay off the rest of the deposit, while the building is being built. Sue  02:49 Oh, that's interesting. So, in theory, you only need $10,000 deposit,
We’ve plundered the Flat Chat Forum for talking points this week, but first we discuss an issue that’s come to Sue from one of her Domain readers. Did you know that if you buy an apartment off the plan and the finished unit varies from the contract design by more than 5%, you can ask for a discount or possibly even rescind the contract? But how about if the plan for the whole scheme has changed considerably? For instance, if the building is much closer to other buildings than you were originally led to believe? What if there isn't as much green space as you were promised, or if the view that you were sold is about to be blocked by another building? It seems that not only do you have no recourse, the developer doesn’t even need to tell you that they have lodged an amended plan with the council. This week we pull that topic apart in the podcast and see what comes wriggling out from under those stones. Getting back to the Forum, we have a look at the whole question of what is and isn’t common property. And we discuss the plight of an owner – or perhaps her neighbours – who’s been issued with a notice to comply because of her late-night chats in her backyard of a townhouse complex. We also get into the area of strange noises from other apartments and wrap up various questions and answers raised about the whole business of fire safety inspections. That's all in this week's Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 It's forum week, on Flat Chat. Sue  00:02 Oh, what's that? Jimmy  00:03 I've just invented it. It's where we can talk about things that have come up on the forum. Sue  00:10 Oh, yes? Have you had lots of things come up? Jimmy  00:11 I get lots and lots of things come up. I get two or three things come up, but then lots of people respond; some of them making more sense than others, it has to be said. Sue  00:13 And more sense than you? Jimmy  00:25 Often this is the case. We've got a lot of material to get through. I am Jimmy Thomson, I wrote the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:36 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:39 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Well, having announced 'forum week,' our first story isn't about the forum, at all. One of the listeners to this podcast contacted you with a strange story... It's strange, because I'm surprised it hasn't ever come up before. Sue  01:12 Yes, I've never encountered anything like this before, either. Basically, this person bought an apartment off-the-plan in the inner west and then subsequently, the developer changed the plans. She made the point that unfortunately, she's bought the place, but she's surprised, because it's changed quite a lot. Jimmy  01:32 Now, is this the apartment that's changed? Sue  01:34 No, it's the area of the apartment complex. Her apartment was meant to look out onto greenery; a really lovely view. Now, it looks as if (from the amended plans), it's now going to be looking out onto other buildings. The buildings are much closer together than they were originally, in the original plans. She made the point (quite rightly), that it's interesting; when developers do change DA submissions...When they amend them, they obviously have to reapply to council and then the local council will let all the ratepayers within that area know about these these amended changes. Ratepayers are then able to have the opportunity to object, or to not do anything, but the people who have bought into the building, because they're not ratepayers (unless they live nearby anyway), they're not hearing about these changes, because the developer doesn't have to let them know. Jimmy  02:30 Wow! Do you think the developer should have to let them know? Sue  02:34 Yes, absolutely, because this lady made the point that the only time you're actually going to be told is; you can go on...
Entitled, arrogant, ignorant and occasionally abusive – those are some of the accusations that have been levelled at the latest band of baddies to emerge in strata: downsizing Baby Boomers. Obviously, this doesn't apply to all Boomers - because we are members of that ageing club too. But, as we discuss in this week’s podcast, making the adjustment from being kings and queens in their own McMansion castles is only half the story. Finding out that they don’t even own the external walls of their home can come as a shock to some (but not all) downsizers, not to mention the rules and regulations they are subject to. And all of this is a bit too much for some (not you, of course!) who are used to people listening to them and doing their bidding without question, and who take their frustrations out on strata managers, building managers, committee members and neighbours. Also in the podcast, a new report asks why so little has been done to remove and replace flammable cladding from our apartment blocks. And we ask how generous Airbnb is really being with their website that allows hosts to offer their holiday lets to people rendered homeless by recent floods. What they’re not doing, despite publicity to the contrary, is offering free housing to flood-affected families. What could and should they be doing? We give our rating.  TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Due to dubious quality of the original audio supplied to our transcribers, there may be some discrepancies between the following text and the podcast, which has been re-edited and now sounds as good as ever. A big thanks to our heroic transcribers. Jimmy  00:00 Last week, we spoke briefly about the floods in northern New South Wales and the impact that Airbnb, Stayz and the other holiday rentals could have on the homeless emergency up there. That's been picked up by a couple of MPs, so we'll be talking about that today. You've got some updates on the flammable cladding situation and we're going to talk about the looming problem in strata (according to some strata managers), which is Baby Boomers. That's all in this week's podcast. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:47 And I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:50 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy Last week, we mentioned the possibility of people who have Airbnb properties, helping out people who have been rendered homeless by the floods, especially up in northern New South Wales, which is Airbnb central, basically; apart from Sydney City. There's a lot of holiday rentals up there. Sue  01:28 And also in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. Jimmy  01:33 What happened after we recorded our podcast last week, is that two MPs, Tamara Smith and Jenny Leong... Tamara Smith is the MP for Ballina and a Greens MP and Jenny Leong is the Greens' spokesperson on housing. They've come out saying that there's a housing crisis already, and there was before the floods up in northern New South Wales (which was greatly exacerbated by holiday rentals). According to an article in The Guardian, there were more than 6260 Airbnbs operating in the area and there was a shortage of about 2300 homes, for long-term rental. Now, we don't know how many Airbnbs were affected by the floods; I'm sure there were some, but I think we can safely say that the situation has not been improved with the floods. Now, Tamara Smith... Sue  02:38 And Jenny Leong... Jimmy  02:39 They're saying "look, we need to get all these properties that would normally be long -term residential rents, we need to get them back into the residential rental market, just to alleviate a situation which was already bad, but is now horrendously worse." Sue  02:57 Because most of these people; their houses have been damaged so substantially, it's not like they can just clear up and move back in, is it? Jimmy  03:04 No, I mean,
One of the problems with preparing a fairly light-hearted podcast like the Flat Chat Wrap is that there are a lot of serious issues around that you just can’t ignore but you don’t want to trivialise. Right now the Eastern states are dealing with the immediate problem of devastating floods or their aftermath.  What does this have to do with apartment living? We hear about the smart thinking, fast-moving residents of one block who successfully prevented their two-storey underground car park becoming a watery grave for their cars. Then there’s the issue of what happens in multi-storey blocks when the power to the lifts is knocked out? And we ask the question, should we even be allowing people to build houses in flood plains and if not, where can they live?  Are apartments the answer? Lightening the tone, we have a chat about the by-laws we loath and those we wish we had. And we even have something nice to say about Airbnb, in the context of that other major story dominating the news, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL Jimmy  00:00 If there's two stories we can't avoid at the moment, it's the floods and... Sue  00:06 Shane Warne. Jimmy  00:07 The third story is Shane Warne, yes. I was just reading; he used to have a nightclub in his basement. Sue  00:15 Yes, I think his parties were quite legendary. Jimmy  00:18 Look, he lived life to the full. It's tragic that he's gone, but we're not going to be talking about him anymore, but we are going to be talking about floods; a tiny little story about Ukraine and we're going to be talking about bylaws, and the bylaws you wish you didn't have and you wish you did have. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:44 And I'm Sue Williams, I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:47 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy It looks like the whole of the eastern seaboard has been affected by floods in the past week. Absolutely horrendous, Biblical floods. While one is tempted to say "hey, do you believe in climate change now," the fact is that ordinary people are suffering a lot and businesses are being destroyed. Sue  01:27 Absolutely and many of them, have only just got over the floods of a few years ago and they're now having to clean up again, from floods now, which must be absolutely heartbreaking. Jimmy  01:36 There's a couple of aspects of this that interest me from a strata point of view and one of them is, what happens to strata buildings, when the floods knock out electricity? Sue  01:47 And also, in Brisbane (which is obviously, always badly affected by floods); did you hear about one apartment building in New Farm in Brisbane, where the residents all realised that the Brisbane River was about to break it's banks, so they rushed down to the basement and managed to erect these makeshift barriers, to hold the water back, which actually saved the basement of the building, because they had two levels of underground car parking, which would have both been underwater, had they not all rushed to help? They did it within 30 minutes... Isn't that clever? Jimmy  02:23 Well, somebody should employ them now, to develop something for all the other buildings that might be affected. You think about some of those buildings there... When the electricity goes, of course, the lifts go. Now, in our building, it would mean people on the 19th floor would either be stuck there, or they'd have to climb those stairs up and down, to get in and out. Is my memory tricking me, but did we once live in a building that had a big diesel electric generator in the basement, to supply electricity for the building and in an emergency? Sue  03:02 Yes, that rings a bell with me, as well. It was the backup generator. Jimmy  03:06 I don't think that this building has one. Sue  03:08 No, I don't think so. Jimmy  03:09
They say strata is a world of contradictions and never has that been so obvious as this week when one report reveals a shortage of housing, most of which will need to be filled by apartments, yet one of our biggest and most highly regarded apartment complex builders has gone into voluntary administration at a time when apartment prices are rising. Is it because materials have gone up but the availability of skilled workers has gone down, both due to the pandemic? Probably, to some extent. Or is it partly just bad timing? But could it be that the idea of building a 366-unit scheme plus transport hub, plus 10-cinema complex, in Brisbane was too many eggs in an already brimming basket? We have a look at the Probuild collapse and what it could mean for their purchasers and the industry as a whole. Maybe some of those apartments were (and still are) going to be second homes or holiday let investments for Sydneysiders.  Sue looks at people who have the best of both worlds with handy pads in the city and glorious getaways in the country. Apparently selling your big house in the burbs to buy a small flat in the city and a cottage in the country is called “right-sizing”, a term surely coming to sales brochure near you, soon. Also we celebrate our sponsors Lannock being selected to manage the NSW government’s interest-free loans for flammable cladding remediation. And we introduce a free training program for strata schemes to find out all they need to know about electric vehicle (EV) charging. That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap. TRANSCRIPT IN FULL  Jimmy  00:00 They say it never rains, but it pours and it's certainly been pouring... Sue  00:04 My gosh, has it ever! Jimmy  00:07 And it's true about stories as well, it seems. We've got a whole bunch of stuff to talk about today. What have we got, Sue? Sue  00:14 I think at first, we are going to be talking about the shortage of new apartment dwellings; new figures have come out, which are a bit shocking. Jimmy  00:21 And then there's the collapse of Probuild and news about loans for flammable cladding, Sue  00:27 Yes, remediation work, for flammable cladding. Jimmy  00:30 Well, we'd better get on with it. I'm Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review. Sue  00:36 I'm Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain. Jimmy  00:39 And this is the Flat Chat Wrap. [MUSIC] Jimmy According to a report presented to the Property Council conference last week, we have a huge housing shortage, in New South Wales. Sue  01:05 Yes, particularly of apartments... Jimmy  01:07 That's Sydney, I suppose, especially. They're saying that, because apartment completions have nearly halved, from their 2017-18 peak of 30,000 and free-standing houses have come back (in terms of builds), then that's left a huge gap for housing the numbers of people that we need to house. Michael Koziol has written about this for the Sydney Morning Herald. I know I tend to be a bit cynical, but one minute we're hearing there's going to be a glut of apartments and the next, we're hearing that there aren't enough; what's going on? Sue  01:45 Well, I think in the past, there have been gluts of apartments in different areas, where there's been a huge concentration of development (like maybe in Green Square in Sydney, and in Victoria, in the Docklands), but really, we should be getting a lot more apartments, all around transport hubs. That's really still not happening; we are getting a few, but mostly, there's a few houses being built around transport hubs, which provides nothing like the density we actually need, to accommodate a growing population. Jimmy  02:16 Do you remember a couple of years ago, there was this fantastic plan to build apartment blocks on top of railway lines? Sue  02:25 Yes, and it's happened in a couple of cases, but nowhere near enough.
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