Commissioner Chris Irons: Abandonment in Strata Schemes

Image: Vive by Mosaic Property Group

Ever get a feeling of abandonment?

It might not seem like an obvious body corporate issue, but abandoned vehicles are – judging from enquiries my office receives – a topic of increasing interest for bodies corporate as well as other owners.

It’s easy to understand why: a car abandoned on common property for a prolonged period is taking up a car space, as well as likely causing an eyesore. There might also be safety concerns.

Under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997, there is no express provision about abandoned vehicles.

There are, of course, by-laws in relation to vehicles and parking and so as a first step, the body corporate should be assuring itself that the vehicle really is abandoned and not instead being parked in contravention of by-laws.

That might require the body corporate to make some basic enquiries, starting with checking with all occupiers to clarify they don’t in fact own or operate the vehicle, or that the vehicle isn’t associated with a visitor to the scheme who can be located.

If it turns out that the owner of the vehicle can be located, then the body corporate would need to enforce its by-laws in relation to vehicles and parking.

Assuming that the body corporate is satisfied the vehicle is abandoned, it then has some further considerations.

One of the most obvious inclinations at this point is to arrange to remove the vehicle from common property, perhaps by towing.

Deciding to tow a vehicle can have some significant liability implications for a body corporate and it needs to be remembered that even though the vehicle seems abandoned now, it might at some point be the case that its owner (or even the estate of the owner) returns to reclaim the vehicle.

This is why I always recommend to bodies corporate which are considering towing to seek legal advice about where they stand if the vehicle is towed.

Putting that aside, contact your local council to report an abandoned, unregistered vehicle and if there are concerns the vehicle has been parked in a hazardous way, contact the Queensland Police Service.

Different councils may approach the issue differently. From the perspective of the Brisbane City Council, an abandoned vehicle can be reported online and council has a process of about six weeks to follow thereafter. More information about Brisbane Miami Beach, QueenslandCity Council processes in relation to abandoned vehicles is available here: https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/traffic-and-transport/parking-in-brisbane/abandoned-vehicles

Please consult your relevant local council for the situation in other locations.

While the body corporate committee might decide to make this report to the relevant council, there wouldn’t necessarily be anything preventing an individual owner from doing this themselves.

Similar to an abandoned vehicle is the issue of abandoned goods. For a body corporate, an issue might be if an occupier leaves the scheme and abandons goods on common property.

I’d firstly direct bodies corporate to consider my advice above in relation to assuring themselves the goods really are abandoned. To be thorough about this, a body corporate might make enquiries with the relevant real estate agent, via any forwarding addresses or through other means such as a check of the electoral roll.

It’s understandable that when goods are seemingly abandoned on common property that there is an eagerness to get rid of them, whether it be because they are an eyesore, because they are causing an obstruction or even because it might be hazardous to leave them there.

Care should be taken about moving and relocating the goods into storage and the same considerations I noted above about towing vehicles might apply.

Beyond this, it should be kept in mind that there is not necessarily an automatic right to keep or dispose of abandoned goods. Legal Aid Queensland produces the following information about abandoned goods and the rights and obligations of those holding the abandoned goods:

http://www.legalaid.qld.gov.au/Find-legal-information/Neighbourhood-and-property/Abandoned-goods

The Residential Tenancies Authority also provides information about abandoned goods in relation to tenants:

https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Forms-and-publications/Fact-sheets/General-tenancy-fact-sheets/Goods-and-documents-left-behind-fact-sheet.

For further information please contact the Information and Community Engagement Unit of my office on 1800 060 119 or visit our website.

Author: Chris Irons, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management

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