Common Property Letterboxes, CCTV Cameras and Letterbox Theft

The theft of mail from apartment buildings is on the rise given that they are an attractive target for thieves.  Some of the reasons an apartment building’s letterboxes are targeted include:

(a)   there are many letterboxes available in the one location;

(b)   given the majority of letterboxes are located near a public footpath,  these letterboxes are easily accessible from the street;

(c)    some letterboxes in apartment buildings can be opened with a master key or skeleton key;

(d)    letterboxes which are overflowing with junk mail sends a message that no-one is checking their mail frequently;

(e)    no CCTV cameras are overlooking the letterboxes; and

(f)     the apartment building’s lawns, trees and shrubs are not maintained which may assist thieves to hide.

Are Letterboxes Common Property?

We are frequently asked to advise on whether an owner’s letterbox is their property or common property.  To answer this question correctly, a fully copy of the registered strata plan for the apartment complex should be reviewed as it will show you the common property boundaries and lot property in the scheme.  For example, if the letterboxes are located within a brick wall which is located on the common property and clearly outside of a lot, then subject to the owners corporation’s by-laws, it is more likely than not that the letterboxes are common property and are the responsibility of the owners corporation to properly maintain and keep in a state of good and serviceable repair under section 62 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996.

Can I Request that the Owners Corporation Install CCTV Cameras Overlooking the Common Property Letterboxes?

Yes.  However, there is a process which must first be followed and approved by the owners corporation.   If the CCTV cameras are to be installed in common property areas overlooking the common property letterboxes, we take the view that the owners corporation must pass a special resolution in general meeting pursuant to section 65A of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 and also a Special By-Law pursuant to sections 65A and 52 of the same Act.   In addition, the Special By-Law should deal with the installation of signage.  The Special By-Law must also be registered to be legally enforceable.

Can I Install My Own CCTV Camera Overlooking the Common Property Letterboxes?

As stated above, if the CCTV camera is to be installed in a common property area overlooking the common property letterboxes, we take the view that you must obtain the owners corporation approval by special resolution in general meeting pursuant to section 65A of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 and also a Special By-Law pursuant to sections 65A and 52 of the same Act.  The Special By-Law must also be registered to be legally enforceable.

Can I Request that the Owners Corporation Maintain, Repair or Replace My Damaged Common Property Letterbox?

If your letterbox is a common property letterbox that has been damaged and needs repair or replacement, you can definitely request your owners corporation’s strata managing agent or executive committee to obtain a quote for its repair or replacement.   In our view, no general meeting of the owners corporation is required to effect minor repairs and replacement to common property letterboxes.  However, it is unlikely that your owners corporation will grant you approval to enhance or improve an already functional and undamaged common property letterbox without passing a section 65A of the above Act Special By-law at a general meeting at your own cost.

If your common property letterbox genuinely needs to be repaired or replaced and the owners corporation refuses to do so, what can I do?  The first step is to obtain a quote from a licensed locksmith to repair or replace it and send it to the owners corporation’s executive committee or strata managing agent with a request for its repair or replacement as per the quote.  If the executive committee and/or strata managing agent refuse your request, you may want to consider putting a motion to the owners corporation’s next general meeting to consider having your letterbox repaired or replaced (as the case may be) and seeking that any cost you pay be reimbursed by the owners corporation.   However, if your next general meeting is some time away and you are in urgent need of repair/replacement, you may need to consider:

1.    Letter of demand to the owners corporation to repair or replace the letterbox under section 62 of the above Act;

2.    Attempt mediation with the owners corporation; and 

3.    If all else fails, NCAT strata adjudication application against the owners corporation seeking orders that the owners corporation repair/replace your letterbox.

If you need any legal advice in relation to the above, please feel free to contact our strata lawyer Michael Pobi on (02) 8710 3430 or you can e-mail him at michael.pobi@pobilawyers.com

Please note that the information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon. You should obtain legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon the contents of this article.