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Broken high-rise lifts tear apart Aussie families in $35k strata 'disaster': 'Months of stairs'

A rise in high-density living means more of us are in strata-managed buildings, but do you know how disputes can impact your daily life and budget?

Residents forced to walk the fire-stairs of a nine-storey Sydney apartment have been in a six-month battle to get the lifts fixed. Some are threatening not to pay rent, while other more vulnerable members - like a man in a wheelchair or a newborn baby and her mother - have been torn away from their families and homes as they simply can’t get up and down the stairs.

There are more than 90 apartments in the “disaster” Bankstown high-rise and each of those are expected to pay more than $4,000 in strata fees. Even with the reported $3.6 million collected, the strata and owners' corporation have been locked in a dispute for months about fixing the 20-year-old lifts.

The owners were asked to pay another $35,000 levy to cover the major work, but it’s those who call the apartment block home who are truly paying.

"This [lift] has not been working for six months, [the other] one has been a month now since it's been working," resident Abid told A Current Affair.

Residents of a nine-storey apartment building will have to use the stairs for months more after a strata dispute when the lifts broke.
Residents of a nine-storey apartment building will have to use the stairs for months more after a strata dispute when the lifts broke. (A Current Affair/CoreLogic)

Have you had a real estate disaster? Contact yahoo.finance.au@yahooinc.com

"It's a disaster situation, it's a mess, a complete mess.”

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His elderly mother has been forced to move out of their ninth-floor apartment so she can get to her doctor’s appointments. They had to carry the 75-year-old down in a wheelchair, while another paraplegic resident had to be lowered down with ropes and hasn't been able to go home with his wife since.

Another 16 weeks wait for residents trapped after blame game

There are some Australians in the housing crisis desperate to find a place to to call home, but even those living in the Meredith Street building who want to move out, said wouldn’t be able to as the narrow stairs wouldn’t allow it.

The strata blamed the owners for voting down the repairs, while the head of the owner’s corporation said they ran out of money and pointed the finger back at the strata manager.

But on the day A Current Affair interviewed strata manager Peter Poulos, he claimed the owners had just “sourced the part” and residents were told the repairs would be completed… in a “shocking” 16 weeks.

More Australians are finding themselves living in high-density quarters as housing supply dwindles and the population continues to grow.

This means more of us will need to understand how strata-managed properties work, what the fees go to and the impacts body corporates can have on decisions made in places we live or own.

What do strata payments cover? Warning for apartment buyers

Body corporate fees must be paid by those who own a property in a larger building complex under a strata title, like a unit, apartment, townhouse, villa and sometimes duplexes.

Tenant Abid's elderly mother was forced to move out over the broken lifts, while other tenants are refusing to pay rent.
Tenant Abid's elderly mother was forced to move out over the broken lifts, while other tenants are refusing to pay rent. (A Current Affair)

As an owner in a strata scheme, you own a ‘lot’ and share ownership of common property.

The money collected funds the management and maintenance of the building’s common areas like driveways or stairwells, and in more expensive cases pools or lifts.

The owners will elect representatives and votes are undertaken to make decisions on how the money will be spent, along with building ‘by-laws’ for residents like no pets or no hanging your washing on the balcony.

The fees come under three main categories:

  • Administration levy for the day-to-day running like insurance for common areas or hiring a gardener

  • Sinking fund levy that’s generally kept in a separate kitty to accumulate for non-routine expenses like major repainting or fixing structural defects so owners aren’t hit with huge one-off expenses

  • Special purpose levies which are generally one-off fees for major works

These fees do not cover personal items inside your home, improvements to private property or council rates.

They can be as little as $30 a week, but the Strata Community Association reported “significant growth” of quarterly fees earlier this year, ranging from $1,000 for more modest units to $10,000 in higher-end buildings.

Those looking to buy in strata-managed properties should ask for a strata report to get an idea of insurance, building defects or planned works and the finances.

Strata fees should be considered on top of mortgage payment requirements.

More luxurious facilities will likely attract higher fees, along with older buildings that don’t have long-term maintenance plans which could need more special levies for costly repairs.

If you're a tenant, these costs have likely been factored into your rent.