From Left to right: Paula Beaton, Thomas Gibbons, Denise Evans, Clinton Baker,
Julie McLean, Denise Marsden, Tim Graham, Joanna Pidgeon, Wendy Baker,
Liza Fry-Irvine, Kayleanne Mercer

By Thomas Gibbons

The way we live, at least in our bigger cities, is increasingly intensified – and intense.

Hence the strong interest in the annual ADLS/SCA (NZ) Unit Titles/Bodies Corporate Half-Day Conference event, which this year focused on the law and practice of unit title ownership and the governance structures overseeing it.

The format deliberately combines legal and manager input, reflecting the symbiotic role each plays, along with the joint input of ADLS and Strata Community Association (NZ).

First up was a team session on dealing with ‘rogue’ owners, with Clinton Baker covering legal approaches, Paula Beaton the manager’s perspective and Denise Evans providing dispute resolution insights into how even the phrase ‘rogue owner’ may be the wrong place to start.

Lawyer Joanna Pidgeon and manager Wendy Baker then considered the role of the manager. Relationship issues, liability issues, and the overlay between lawyers and managers were all discussed.

Tim Graham, partner HWL Ebsworth Lawyers (Australian presenter)

The conference then turned trans-Tasman, with Australian College of Strata Lawyers’ President Tim Graham and Australian manager Julie McLean giving their take on issues across the ditch, including equal opportunity, defamation and other issues we might not think of as being strictly unit title-based.

My contribution was a case law update, outlining how recent cases such as Otway and Gu have emphasised the importance of considering a building as a whole when repair and remediation issues arise, and the balance between the interests of the many and the few or the one.

Conveyancing issues are at the heart of much legal practice and Denise Marsden presented a valuable session on disclosure, due diligence and vendor warranties. Even (or perhaps especially) experienced practitioners can get tripped up on changes to the ADLS-REINZ form including, for example, warranties on air conditioning and other building services.

Thomas Gibbons, conference chair, director McCaw Lewis

Beyond advisory work and transactions, there are title matters, and lawyer Liza Fry-Irvine and manager Kayleanne Mercer spoke on the life and times of a unit plan, particularly how and when building works can lead to a new plan being required.

The conference continued with a panel discussion on ethical issues for managers and lawyers, including whether a lawyer should act as a proxy, how managers may need to protect themselves and their staff from stress, and to whom managers and lawyers ultimately owe their duties.

Thomas Gibbons was conference chairman and is a director at McCaw Lewis