A recent court case may mean flat owners will have to pay for older buildings to become compliant with the current disability legislation.
Let me explain further…
Last year saw a ruling by the Supreme Court that blocks of flats now have to comply with standards set out by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission that all dwellings are accessible to those with disabilities.
The case came about because one owner had bought her fourth-story flat while she was in good health, then developed health complications, which left her unable to open the heavy doors of the building.
Initially it was decided that if she wanted the doors changed, she would have to pay for the change herself, but the Supreme Court has now ruled that this was unfair.
Of course, the result brings with it a number of potential impacts for Victorian apartment owners, especially considering the age of many buildings in Melbourne in particular.
What is interesting about the case is that legislation is not usually applied retrospectively.
What I mean is that when the building was first constructed it meet all relevant building codes, however, it didn’t under the current rules and regulations.
With an aging population, it is likely that owners corporations will be required to make more such changes to their buildings in the future to ensure residents can rightfully access their homes.
Of course, no one likes increased strata fees or one-off special levies for such repairs to be made.
However, it’s important to recognise that the cost will also improve the building, making it more attractive to renters and buyers in the years ahead.
Landlords, especially, need to keep in mind that long-term tenants are valuable, and that means ensuring they can age in place.
Strata fees cover myriad expenses such as building insurances, regular maintenance and repairs such as in this instance.
While it is too early to tell what impacts this case will have in the future, it is reasonable to presume that upgrading buildings for access issues may become a proactive repair.
Rather than waiting for a costly court case, it would make more financial sense for building managers to go on the front foot and identify any potential issues beforehand.
That way, they could budget for the repairs to be completed in a timely fashion, which could be included in the regular strata fees that owners pay every quarter rather than being stung with a special levy.
At the end of the day, apartment buildings do require updating over time because of obsolescence.
The smartest operators will ensure their complexes appeal to the widest group of potential renters and builders – including our most vulnerable members of society.