Abandoned Goods on Common Property
When living or owning in a strata scheme, the complexities of people living in close proximity to each other and having shared spaces, is always a point of possible and pending conflict.
As from 1 July 2020, the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 has been amended and now effectively takes on the responsibility and regulation of abandoned goods on strata common property from the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. This means that the procedures that were covered under the SSMA are no longer available.
For the purposes of the Act, uncollected goods include goods that an owners corporation reasonably believes have been abandoned or left behind on common property of the strata scheme. Goods are divided into various categories and different rules apply for each category:
- Perishable goods and rubbish may be disposed of without restriction.
- Low value uncollected goods (with a value of less than $1,000) may be disposed of in “an appropriate manner”. This means that the owner of the goods is given written notice of the intention to dispose of the goods if they are not collected within at least 14 days. The strata may move or store low value uncollected goods in an appropriate manner.
- Medium value uncollected goods (with a value of at least $1,000 but less than $20,000) may be disposed of through public auction or private sale for a fair value. The party in possession of the goods (usually the strata manager managing the scheme) must give the owner written notice of the intention to sell the abandoned good and the owner must be given at least 28 days to collect the goods. The uncollected goods may be moved or stored during this period in an appropriate manner.
- High value uncollected goods (with a value of at least $20,000) may be disposed of in accordance with an order of the Tribunal. These abandoned good may be moved or stored in an appropriate manner whilst the Tribunal is making a decision. The Tribunal has been granted the power to make an order for disposal of the goods and various ancillary orders if required.
- Personal documents that have been abandoned are defined to include identity documents, records, photos and memorabilia. Personal documents may be disposed of after giving the owner written notice of the intention to do so and giving the owner at least 28 days to collect them. The party in possession of personal documents must dispose of them by secure destruction or returning them to the owner.
- Motor vehicles that have been abandoned are subject to an additional requirement – the party disposing of the vehicle must obtain a personal property securities register certificate confirming that the vehicle is not encumbered and a police certificate confirming that the vehicle is not stolen.
It is important to note that the legislation states that a person disposing of goods abandoned in common areas in a strata scheme, will have no liability if they dealt with the disposal of the goods in accordance with the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 or an order of the Tribunal.
In terms of keeping records in relation to the disposal of uncollected goods, the party responsible for disposing of the uncollected goods (usually the strata manager of the scheme) must maintain appropriate records for:
- at least 12 months in the case of low value uncollected goods and
- at least six years for all other abandoned goods