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A matter of land | Strata maintenance fees not being paid: what can I do?

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMCraig Francis
Craig Francis
A strata property in western Jamaica.
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Good day, readers. Today I will respond to a question from a reader and it has to do with collection of maintenance in a strata complex. Below is the question and subsequent response.

 

Good day, Mr Francis

I just read your article in The Sunday Gleaner regarding maintenance fees. I live in a strata complex and the management committee is having great difficulties in collecting fees from apartment owners.

My fee is paid every mont; however, because of the lack of payment of fees by 85 per cent of the residents, the maintenance of the strata has decreased.

Is it legal for me to hire, say, a gardener to work and deduct the salary of the gardener from my maintenance fee for that month? I would collect a receipt, of course, and send this to the management committee. Would I be justified legally to do so, as paying strata owner?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards

S.B.

Good day, S.B. Let me first say thanks for taking the time to read A Matter of Land. I feel your pain and frustration as it emanates from each word of your question.

This situation is a most unfortunate one to find yourself in. However, what you have suggested to do, which is to withhold a portion of your maintenance fee, is not the best course of action.

First, what will you hire the gardener to do? Will it be to do work in all of the common area or just for your section? Either is not tenable as:

1) Your share of the common area is not really quantifiable despite being given a certain entitlement.

2) If it's to do the entire common area, what authority do you have to do so?

Your course of action should be as such, first, you need to have a meeting with your strata management committee to ask what the members are doing to collect from the delinquent owners.

Also, ask the committee to send demand letters for outstanding maintenance fees to be paid over by a specified time. If after doing this there is no improvement, the committee should take the matter to the Commission of Strata Corporation and seek its intervention in the matter for you.

The commission can come in and do dispute resolution in an effort to collect. However, if it is unable to collect through persuasion it has the legal framework to have the fees paid over by very stringent laws that have sufficient bite to allow for collection. The legal framework allows the selling of the units of the delinquent owners to recover the maintenance fees.

So instead of withholding a portion of your maintenance - which I am told will only make you a delinquent as well, despite your altruistic motives - pay up and use all the legal avenues available to you.

If you are satisfied that you have already spoken to our Strata Management Committee enough already, you may go directly to the Commission of Strata to have the matter dealt with.

I hope you will be able to be rid of this frustration that you are experiencing soon.

Keep sending our questions and comments and let's continue to explore A Matter of Land. Until next time, traverse well.

• Craig Francis is a commissioned land surveyor and managing director of Precision Surveying Services Ltd. He can be contacted for questions or queries at craig_r_francis@yahoo.com or Precision Surveying Services