A legal tribunal has ruled that property managers aren’t automatically responsible for accidents that occur on their properties.
Earlier this month the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal dismissed a case against Philip Kouvelis Real Estate after a tree branch from one of its properties fell on a neighbour’s BMW.
The case was instigated by the next-door neighbour, Steven Waldrip, after his car was damaged in 2012.
Arguments then flew back and forth about who was responsible for the damage.
In the end, the tribunal found that Mr Waldrip’s landlord, Hung Nguyen, was guilty of breaching his duty of care, and ordered him to pay $3,755 compensation to Mr Waldrip.
Suzanne Luchetti, who acted as the property manager for Philip Kouvelis Real Estate, told the tribunal that inspections were carried out every six months and inspection reports were prepared.
“As part of the inspection the property manager would look inside and outside the property, including the trees around the perimeters and the gutters of the house,” the tribunal heard.
“If work was needed it would be noted; the owners’ approval to do the work would be sought and, on approval, [Philip Kouvelis Real Estate] would send out a work order to the relevant business.”
It was an unfortunate coincidence that Mr Waldrip’s car was on the street when the branch fell.
The BMW would normally have been parked in Mr Waldrip's carport. However, while he was overseas, his landlord moved the car onto the street so he could complete some renovations.
Mr Waldrip filed a civil dispute application against Philip Kouvelis Real Estate.
The agency responded in June 2014, “denying each and every allegation of nuisance and negligence set out in the application”, according to the tribunal.
The tribunal said Mr Waldrip later amended the application to include his landlord, Mr Nguyen, saying he breached his duty of care by “parking the car under the overhanging branches of a tree he knew had dropped a branch previously”.
Mr Nguyen filed a response in August 2014 to dispute the claim. However, the tribunal found him guilty and ordered him to compensate Mr Waldrip by 3 March 2015.