Settling Car Park Storage Wars
September 2, 2021
One of the most contentious issues we see dividing committees and owners relates to car park storage. Requests to install storage structures and enforcement of by-laws when items or structures put in place without approval requires careful consideration to maintain harmony.
In this article we delve into the common storage request types, terms of approval considered and factors to consider when either approving request or enforcing by-laws.
There are many different scenarios that can occur when it comes to storage in car parks and the war that often breaks out when someone doesn’t get their way. The most common scenario relates to common area exclusive use car park spaces often found in the basement of building format plan buildings, which is the focus of this article.
To deal with this scenario, we break the common issues down into a series of questions to guide through the process for approval and enforcement.
A resident is storing junk (their property) in their car park – What do I do?
Step 1 – Check the by-laws. Is the exclusive use area designated as a car park, storage or both?
Common outcome is that the car park is allocated as exclusive use for the purpose of parking a vehicle. This means that storage of items, particularly without approval is a breach of the by-laws. Otherwise there is a cage or similar within the area for storage which is OK, provided the items stored do not breach another by-law relating to storage of hazardous materials.
Alternatives – The occupant of the lot allocated the area may have the opinion that the items in the car space aren’t bothering anyone so why all the fuss? An effective way to communicate reasons for enforcement is that it is not only the by-law that is being breached, but also safety regulations putting the scheme at risk of liability for the items causing a potential injury hazard.
Providing a copy of the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) audit report is also an effective communication tool as it is likely to highlight items stored in an unsafe of hazardous manner. If you don’t have a WHS audit report to manage potential risks, you should arrange for this to occur at least annually and ensure the inspector is made aware of the issue.
A resident has put a cupboard/cage in their car park – What do I do?
Although this scenario is getting closer to an acceptable solution, terms of approval need to be carefully considered. Step 1 followed by 2 as described above can be an effective way to simply stop the placement of storage devices all together, if that’s what the majority owner view is.
Alternatives – if the exclusive use by-law allows for storage within the exclusive use area, a set of standards can be adopted to maintain a uniform approach for either the entire car park or for particular car park types.
By-laws that allow storage as well as car parking in the same space are usually allocated on the basis that there is sufficient room for both. If there isn’t enough room to park a standard vehicle and install the storage device proposed, declining the request for an improvement to the common property exclusive use area would be considered reasonable in most cases.
If there is sufficient room for vehicle parking and the proposed improvement for a storage device (which is determined by vehicle parking standards set by the local Council at the time of granting development approval), then a reasonable approach would be to consider approval of the improvement request subject to adherence to approval terms.
We want to set standards for storage in car parks – What should they be?
This is where it can be tricky to accommodate different car park types and need to be careful not to set conditions that are too rigid for potential changes to future needs, such as installing electric vehicle charging stations that may not fit within the criteria set!
For this reason, if the by-laws are to be updated to include storage installation terms, they should only include conditions that are unlikely to change or simply reference applications requires committee approval. Examples of some of the terms we see adopted that have settled the storage war include but not limited to:
- The storage device is to be over bonnet type with specification the same as or similar to the product called “The Storage Box”, no wider than the allocated car park
- The colour is to be cream unless an alternative is approved by the committee to match the surrounding building colour scheme
- The lot owner will be responsible for any council, building, fire safety or any other required certifications which must be obtained and provided prior to installation
- All items are to be stored within the approved device at all times and must be non-hazardous general household items only
- Any requirements to park vehicles outside of the car park to access the storage device is to be limited to 1 hour maximum per day within a visitor space if available
- The device shall not restrict access to any surrounding car parks
- Shall not obstruct any infrastructure
- Shall not cause any vehicle parked within the allocated car park to protrude beyond the car park boundary
- Only car parks with solid boundary walls are permitted to install a storage locker at the end of the car park space against the wall
- The device must be safely secured to the wall so that it cannot fall or be knocked over
- Any fixing points are to be reinstated to their original condition upon removal
- Should the locker need to be removed due to non-compliance with approval terms, removal is to be at the owners cost
As you can see from these scenarios and the subsequent answers, there are many considerations to making reasonable decisions which unfortunately not everyone is going to like.
In our experience, the most productive way to settle the storage war has been for the decision-making process to be flexible enough for individual needs and future circumstances with a consistent approach to by-law enforcement when the standards set for all are not met.
This article was contributed by Grant Mifsud, Partner – Archers the Strata Professionals