The recent storms in Sydney and across New South Wales created havoc amongst for many building owners, including owners corporations. While it is well understood that an owners corporation has an obligation to repair common property, these would be my six tips for owners and owners corporations for dealing with an emergency:
Prepare – Nothing beats preparedness to mitigate the damage that an emergency can do. Owners corporations must ensure that routine maintenance is being done: drains cleared, overhanging trees and scrub cleared, loose branches removed, dangerous chemicals stored, electrical systems periodically checked, essential fire services regularly checked and in working order etc.
Residents can use the SES’s online service to create their own Emergency Plan (www.seshomeemergencyplan.com.au)
Team – Ensure you and your strata manager know who to call in an emergency. Ensure you have a good team of reliable contractors that you can call upon. Do you have their after-hours contact details? Check that your strata manager has a service to deal with after-hours emergencies.
Insure – The law requires owners corporations to take out certain insurance – however, that typically only relates to the common property. Owners should consult their insurance broker to determine their own needs. Residents, including tenants, should consider contents insurance.
Communicate – Emotions are running high when emergencies occur. While the strata manager will be able to coordinate repairs to common property, damage to other property needs to be handled by lot owners. Coordination may be required if access to lots is limited. Clear and calm communication in both directions is key. Other stakeholders such as insurers, insurance assessors and contractors will also be involved.
Action – Liaison with emergency services, such as the State Emergency Services, Ambulance, Police or Fire Brigade may be required. Quick action by lot owners and strata managers to get assistance can make the difference. Don’t assume someone else will take action.
Patience – In times of a declared emergency, the resources of the emergency services, the strata manager and the owners corporation’s contractors will be stretched. Typically, only a patch job can be done at the time (contractors won’t repair roofs in the rain, for example) and permanent rectification jobs will need to be prioritised. The demand for specialist contractors – roofers, builders, plumbers – can be extraordinary in the wake of an emergency. Owners should have confidence in their strata manager to coordinate the necessary repairs, but need to bear in mind that there are limitations on their ability to get jobs done expeditiously and cost effectively.
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