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FLAT CHAT

Author: FLAT CHAT

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All about living in apartments (condos), from dealing with your committee to getting on with neighbours and - a dose of healthy skepticism about dubious developers.
49 Episodes
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In this week's Podcast, Jimmy Thomson and Sue Williams discuss why it is that we can get ratings and comparisons for just about everything we buy ... except the largest purchase most of us will ever make.  And they float the idea of people being given (and losing) a licence to live in strata.We have a friend called Royce who wouldn’t buy so much as a toothbrush without checking online to see if it was the best design (at the best price) for his specific dental needs. He is so notorious for his exhaustive product checking that our group of friends refers to the process as “Roycing”.For instance, you say you’re thinking of buying a particular brand of new TV and someone says “Oh, have you Royced it?”We were reminded about that this week, after my piece in last weekend’s Australian Financial Review about how to avoid buying an apartment with built-in problems, when we realised there is no independent ratings system for apartment blocks, builders or developers.So in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap, journalist and author Sue Williams and I ask why it is that you can go online and get people’s opinions of hotels and resorts on websites like Tripadvisor (and others), but you can’t get any unbiased, independent reviews of developers, builders and even apartment blocks.That segued into our chat about how a star rating might work.  We think you could start with everyone getting three stars, which they could lose by poor service and bad behaviour, and gain by just providing a decent service. We’re not talking about losing points for having a building with defects – it’s more about how they deal with the defects once they have been discovered.If a developer compels their apartment owners to take them to court, and then they lose the case, that’s a silver star gone immediately.On the other hand, if they have a good record of dealing with owners’ issues, in a timely and reasonable fashion, those silver stars turn gold.  Could it work? Yes, but, to be honest, we are more likely to have some half-cocked voluntary code of conduct foisted on us.But all that chat about bad actors on the developer and builder side, got us talking about a similar system for strata residents. We came up with the idea of a licence to live in strata, which everyone got for free as soon as they signed up to rent or buy, but then lost points – and eventually the ability to live in strata completely – if they turned out to be antisocial pains in the ass.Moving on, Sue told us about the giant loophole in strata law that means you can get orders issued by NCAT but then they don’t have the power to enforce them if the subject of the order just ignores themWe also talked about who pays the power bills when residents put their own washing machines and dryers in common property laundries.And we discussed residents who own more cars than parking spots, who permanently use visitor parking as atheir own. Should you crack down on them, even when there’s plenty of visitor parking to spare?Or is it, to use that phrase beloved of lawyers around the world, “a matter of principle”?That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap:https://episodes.castos.com/flatchatpod/Flat-Chat-32-Ratings.mp3And it’s also available on YouTube.OTHER LINKSJimmy Thomson’s websiteSue Williams website
In this week’s episode of the Flat Chat Wrap we look at the revelation that the Opal and Mascot towers “disasters” are just the tip of a very large apartment block defects  iceberg.Jimmy Thomson and Sue Williams have been writing about apartment block defects – and other, happier apartment-related issues – for more than 15 years.In this episode of the Flat Chat Wrap, Sue recalls the time more than a decade ago that a feature on defects almost cost her job, when a property writer with a close personal relationship with a developer, saw her expose on apartment block defects and called her friend.The developer called the editor and threatened to pull all their advertising if the story went ahead. The editor caved in.  Sue offered her resignation but it was turned down (although she is now a freelance working mostly for other publications).That’s just part of the reason that the whole grubby business of building defects, government lack of interest (to the point almost of collusion) and corporate cover-ups have led to the point we are at now where ordinary people don’t know for sure whether or not their apartment is going to have serious building problems at some point.This episode looks at two of the root causes of the problem – phoenixing and lack of “duty of care” and how they can, together, leave apartment owners with little or no consumer protection.Phoenixing is when a development company builds an apartment block and then goes into liquidation when the claims for defect rectification come in. However, a similar company with similar or identical directors can then rise from the ashes of the previous entity and do the same thing over and over again.“Duty of care” or the lack of it relates to a legal precedent established last year that said builders only have a responsibility to apartment block developers, not to the people who bought the apartments.One of the legal arguments was that they couldn’t have contract responsibility to the apartment owners through their owners’ corporation (body corporate) since that body didn’t exist when the contracts were signed.So you can see, remove the developer (who has gone into voluntary liquidation), and the apartment owner is left high and dry.NSW is planning to create the position of Building Commissioner to deal with these and other problems, including the certification of engineers and developers. We’ll be watching with interest to see how that pans out.On a happier note, Sue has also been looking at the winners of the NSW Architecture Awards and some of the innovative designs that caught the judges’ eyes.LINKS:SMH feature on defectsSue Williams on Architecture awardsFlat Chat WebsiteJimmy Thomson’s websiteSue Williams website Jimmy’s Australian Financial Review columns
Jimmy Thomson investigates four different kinds of insurance (including Airbnb) and why telling one little white lie about whether or not you were allowed to have short-term letting in your apartment could invalidate your cover.He's joined by Steve Tchepak, Acting Head of Underwriting at our sponsors CHU Insurance.
Confronted by images of residents of Mascot Tower evacuating the building, the NSW government has moved relatively swiftlly to plug the accommodation gap with a loan to the Owners Corporation to cover the cost of emergency billets for the owners and renters.As JimmyT and Sue Williams discuss in this week's podcast, the state government's loan may never have to be paid back, because they think they know what (and who) caused the structural damage and it's eminently possible it wasn't building defects.And even if it does turn out to be defects - and the block is well out of warranties - the loan may never have to be paid back "at the government's discretion."Meanwhile we ask, if you can find money to rehouse evacuees (quite rightly), what about all the people facing massive bills to remediate flammable cladding which is only on buildings, risking life and limb, because of the slack attitudes of a procession of governments in this state.You're happy to take our stamp duty - how about offering us some protections?  That's all in this week's podcast ... and more.
Residents of the 130-plus apartments in the Mascot Tower apartment block in Sydney's South were evacuated over the weekend when cracks in walls and supporting beams suddenly widened. JimmyT and Sue Williams discuss what this means for the residents of this block and all the others built in Sydney to the same standards around the same time. And they come up with a proposal to at least stem the waves of panic and confusion the next time this happens as, they say, it surely will ...
This week, JimmyT and Sue Williams discuss the brand new empty flats that investors are "warehousing" - keeping them locked up and unlived in -  until the property market improves.Then there's the new report about the massive costs facing owners in buildings with flammable cladding - and why our state governments need to do more to help owners..And finally a look at people who get elected to their strata committees for all the worst reasons.Please enjoy ... share ... like ... subscribe.
Jimmy Thomson and Sue Williams discuss apartment living in the new Russia and the email exchange that cost a Manly tenant $120,000 in a defamation case.
JimmyT and fitness trainer Shannon Cleary discuss what works and what doesn't in apartment block gyms ... and what to do if you don't have one.
JimmyT talks to Tim Sara, a senior  manager at one of Australia's biggest strata management companies - and reveals both the light and dark side of a challenging career.
Jimmy T and Sue Williams explore the latest developments in the strataverse ... and come up with some very odd stories indeed.
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