June 15, 2020 at 8:31 pm #231226stratifyMember
Hi Amanda and YSP community,
We are in a small block in NSW. I’m the chair/secretary of our committee.
I have a question regarding a common area walkway light that is close to bedroom windows, and is affecting the sleep of 2x lots. One of those being affected is myself, plus my immediate neighbour.
We recently had our common area walkway lights fixed, and now a light that did not work for many years is back in operation, but it is casting light into my bedroom, and that of our neighbour, to the extent that this is affecting our sleep, despite us having thick curtains and putting pillows along the side of the curtains to try to stop light leaking through the sides…
We have found a solution to the issue – that is, for an electrician to supply and install a new light fitting that has an eyelid to stop the spread of light, and to possibly extend the cable and remount it lower down on the wall. This will cost about $380 at the very most.
However, at our committee meeting tonight, other committee members objected to paying for this, saying that this is an issue that is only affecting our two lots, and that this might create a slippery slope, if we change things to suit “our comfort” – i.e. that this might mean that we set a precedent that we change this just to suit the comfort of a few lots despite the light not being broken.
So they are suggesting that the two affected lots should pay for this, not the strata.
Obviously we need to have the light on, as safety is paramount.
But what is the statutory situation in terms of the effects of light pollution in such a scenario Amanda? What do you recommend that we do?
Thanks in advanceJune 16, 2020 at 9:21 am #231253stratifyMember
…and some clarifications, in case these have a bearing:
– the issue is affecting 2 out of 8 lots (25% of lots)
– the committee previously resolved to get this quote, but now people are questioning getting the work done, despite a seeming previous commitment to explore getting the work done as evidenced by a quote being approved to be sought. How do you suggest that we deal with the fact that previously the committee agreed for a quote to be sort for this, but now they are questioning the work being undertaken?
– the issue (i.e. that the committee approve the quote that had been sought) was not actually voted on last night at the meeting, just discussed. It is likely that we would come to a stalemate (3 yes, 3 no (we realise that having an even number on the committee is problematic in such instances but that’s our current situation). So presumably we can vote again about this issue at an upcoming meeting?
– The committee did decide that they are happy for the 2 lots being affected to pay for this work themselves. This obviously creates a grey area. For instance, how does this affect the ownership of the eyelid light fitting that would be fitted? Is that fixture “owned” by the owners corporation or the people who paid for it? I realise that common property probably can’t be owned by anyone other than the owners corporation, but I’m just keen to hear your thoughts on this.
– my other neighbour who this is affecting has found a cheaper solution (a little hood or hat to sit over the light) and has suggested that he can fit. I’ve made it clear that owners shouldn’t undertake work on the common property. But his solution could be a cheaper option that might work well… so my thought is that we get a quote for a tradesperson (used by our strata managing agent) to fit this, as it might be a cheaper option that either the committee or the owners can pay for (as long as this option is deemed to be safe).
– some other history on this is that all of the common area lights previously didn’t work at all so we obviously decided to get these fixed as a matter of urgency to ensure the safety of people walking on pathways and garage areas at night. But one thing to note is that as part of the process of the the committee getting the lights fixed, the committee committed to consulting with residents regarding any impacts reinstating the walkway lighting might be having on lots. It was agreed that we would see how it goes and then come back to see how we can deal with any impacts. If that was minuted in a previous committee meeting minutes, then can we hold the committee to that undertaking? (bearing in mind that I am the chair, so perhaps I’m in a tricky position with this, but to be fair, the decision was made by the committee and ratified / minuted)… thoughts?June 16, 2020 at 4:25 pm #231277SydneyChairMember
Hi stratify, what a generous bunch of neighbours you have!
As a chair myself, I don’t see your position as tricky. You just happen to be one of the individuals being detrimentally affected by the light. You don’t stand to gain any benefit, just to lose a nuisance, something you’re entitled to, for which you will contribute your fair share.
On the contrary, those opposing are seeking a benefit: of not having to pay their <$50 share. So they are the ones with the conflict of interest, not you.
Two points I would make to the committee: first, when you sit as a committee, you must act in the interest of the building as a whole and in the interests of all owners and tenants. You may not, as a committee member, vote or act in a way that puts your personal interests ahead of the building’s and other owners’. I would not be shy about asking a committee member to abstain on a vote if they are being swayed by their personal financial interests.
The second point is a simple, legal one (though note, I’m not a lawyer, so the specifics will vary state to state etc). Light shining into your home creates a nuisance and constitutes pollution. The lights belong to the owners corporation. So the owners corporation is responsible.
It might be enlightening [sorry!] for the rest of the committee if you and other affected neighbour report the nuisance to your local council or EPA – as residents. A letter from the council or a state government official to the owners corporation asking them to address the nuisance, to be tabled at the next meeting, might give them the picture.
Hope this is helpful!June 16, 2020 at 4:31 pm #231283SydneyChairMember
PS: I was a lighting designer earlier in my life. While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I’d suggest more low-wattage lights close to the walkway rather than one or two high-mounted, glaring floods. Put the light where people are putting their feet. It’s safer and doesn’t have the glare or shadow problems of high, bright lights.June 16, 2020 at 5:57 pm #231293stratifyMember
hi @SydneyChair – thank you so much for your responses. Very much appreciate this. Really helpful.
@Amanda – do you have any thoughts further to this, especially in terms of the legal aspects SydneyChair flags above?
Thanks again for your quick reply and suggestions SydneyChair… they were very enlightening :0 …June 16, 2020 at 7:07 pm #231297SydneyChairMember
Glad it’s helpful @stratify. Good luck!June 18, 2020 at 2:48 pm #231403stratifyMember
Hi @amanda – I am wondering if there’s any chance that you could add some thoughts on this? I’d be keen to get your input on how best to proceed re this.
ThanksJune 19, 2020 at 2:08 pm #231495stratifyMember
hi again YSP community –
Another thing that I thought I might flag up, further to the interesting and helpful advice above from @SydneyChair, is an apparent inequality that has been created.
That is, that one set of stairwell lights (for the northern stairwell) currently use (some would say ‘enjoy’) the existing push-button system, while the hallway lights for the southern stairwell (my stairwell) are no longer push-button, so need to be on all night.
This is because the recent works to fix the longstanding issue (of the whole complex’s common lighting being off all the time (with the exception of the two push-button systems in two stairwells)) undid the previous push-button system in the southern stairwell, due to the way that the wiring had previously been set up in the meter box.
Does this inequality between the two blocks factor in to things?June 22, 2020 at 9:52 pm #231591Amanda FarmerExpert
This is actually a tricky one, from a legal perspective.
I don’t think you’ll find anything in our NSW Act (and I assume, not in your by-laws) that will assist to directly resolve this one.
We do have a ‘nuisance’ provision in our legislation, but that relates only to other owners causing a nuisance, not the Owners Corporation itself!
One angle you could take is to say that part of the common property (ie: the light) is not functioning as intended and therefore requires maintenance or repair. That is: the light was supposed to light the stairwell, not your bedroom. It is doing both. That needs to be rectified and there is a viable solution on the table. Per section 106 of our NSW Act, the Owners Corporation has a strict duty to repair and maintain the common property. It must act. This is not about your ‘comfort’, it’s about the correct operation of a common property fixture.
You do also retain an action in what we lawyers call ‘common law nuisance’ (nuisance falling outside of the strata legislation). While you might get somewhere tossing the word around, it’s not a direction I’d send you in for a $380 light.
The inequality you mention in your latest post is not directly relevant, but does assist in explaining how the building came to be in this position: clearly the light was never intended to operate this way. It only does so because of a wiring stuff up. In my view, this gives further weight to my section 106 “repair and maintenance of common property” argument.
Give that one a whirl.
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