More large-scale proxy farming

In our April column we reported on two apartment buildings where owners were suffering after proxy farmers stitched up lucrative contracts.

Another story has come to the notice of We Live Here of one strata owner’s lone fight to take on the might of developer and the management company appointed to administer the common property for the owners’ corporation (OC). Between them they have blatantly ignored the rights of owners who are virtually powerless to do anything about it.

The mixed-use development in the City of Stonnington includes 505 residential apartments above a shopping mall. The apartment complex comes with a tennis court and a swimming pool and on first glance looks like luxury-living on a grand scale. However look a little further and another picture emerges.

In the ground floor entrance foyer, an area designated on the original plans as common property for the use of residents and their guests as a recreation area, has been leased (or sold) to a real estate agency. This real estate agency holds hundreds of proxies for the apartments it manages in the complex.

The single glass front door opening into the glamorous foyer is also the sole means of access for residents moving goods into and out of the building; whilst a short distance down the street a huge loading-bay connecting the residents’ car park to the floors where their storage cages are located, via a very large goods lift, is off-limits to residents.

In 2008 when the building permit was issued the loading zone was approved for both residential and retail use. However by 2012 when settlement took place residents were informed by the management company that the loading bay was now for retail use only and their security swipes were programmed to prevent use of the goods lift!

An average of more than one furniture delivery arrives each day for people moving in and out; delivery vans are required to illegally double-park and unload their goods in the street just metres from a major thoroughfare; the glass front door is jammed open and beds, fridges and entire households are wheeled through the foyer.

Drivers are booked, residents are shamed and the property becomes less desirable, not to say reduced in value when the onsite building manager tells everyone who enters the building that there is no loading zone.

There also appears to be other irregularities, e.g. in the allocation of residents’ and visitors’ car parks between what was approved in the original building permit and what was provided at settlement.

After hundreds of hours of research, being denied a position on the OC committee by three of the current five members who between them hold proxies for hundreds of absentee owners – a blatant case of proxy farming – issuing complaints about breaches of the model rules which have been ignored, the intrepid owner is taking the management company to VCAT to obtain a ruling that residents can use what is legally theirs.

If she succeeds she will be benefitting all 505 owners despite having to do it all on her own with the only assistance available being provided by Consumer Affairs and Freedom of Information. Legal Aid doesn’t handle such matters and one needs $6000 before even getting to talk to a lawyer.

With the weight of the developer and management against her it is going to be tough going and we hope other owners will come out and give her the support she deserves. We wish her well.

The by-election for lord mayor

Voting for the new lord mayor ended on May 11 and the result should be announced by the time this column is printed.

During the campaign period We Live Here attended three “meet the candidates” sessions and met with a number of them. Although it won’t be an easy time for the successful candidate to take over an incumbent council, we are confident that residents will have a greater voice than in previous councils.

Already we note that plans for the renovation of the Queen Victoria Market, heavily promoted by the previous lord mayor, may have to go back to the drawing board because of Heritage Victoria’s refusal of a key element of the proposal. This will hopefully open the door to a radical rethink that will preserve the precinct as the premier tourist attraction in Melbourne.

Campaign donations

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We welcome your comments and feedback, and invite suggestions for topics you would like us to address in this column.

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