One woman’s stand gets results

One brave apartment owner has taken on the developer and the management company appointed to administer the common property for the owners’ corporation (OC) and won back residents’ rights that had been eroded in her apartment building.

In the June edition of this column we reported that the owner of the Stonnington apartment had embarked on a lone fight to expose some serious irregularities between the plans provided to purchasers in 2008 when the building permit was obtained and 2012 when settlement of the apartments took place, including:

Allocation of residents' and visitors' car parks being vastly different to what was expected in the original plans;

Access to the loading bay and goods lift denied to residents who were forced to carry out move-ins via dangerous kerbside parking near a busy intersection, with goods being taken through the glass front door; and
A parcel of common property in the entrance foyer that had been set aside for residents handed over to an estate agent to conduct a commercial business.

Between them, the developer and the OC (which was under the control of the management company) had blatantly ignored the rights of owners who were virtually powerless to do anything about it.
With very little support, the owner took the only option available to her and lodged an application with VCAT.
The City of Stonnington, perhaps embarrassed by the VCAT action taken by the owner, stepped in and investigated the appalling breaches of residents’ rights.

It didn’t take too much digging to find out that an earlier VCAT determination was being flouted by the OC allegedly at the behest of the developer, including claims that the developer disposed of common property car parks for its own benefit; and that building plans had been falsified to support the alienation of common property.
The city’s senior planning investigator has now notified the OC that it has been breaching a VCAT determination that underpins the building permit, that it is illegal to try to overturn a VCAT determination, where a building permit was issued.

Consequent to the council’s recent action, the owner has deferred her VCAT action, with a right of reinstatement pending satisfactory resolution of the non-compliance issues.

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 to the manager about breaches of the model rules which have been ignored, the intrepid owner had taken the manager to VCAT to obtain a ruling that residents can use what is legally theirs!
This owner’s win benefits all 500 owners – despite having done it all on her own with the only assistance being provided by Consumer Affairs and freedom of information. Bravo!

New service for monitoring short-term letting in strata buildings
In a We Live Here newsletter in February 2018 we reported on BnbGuard, believed to be an Australian-first monitoring service for residential property owners, building and strata managers wanting to find out the extent of short-term letting in their building.

We have now received further information from BnbGuard that five of its first 10 customers came as a result of the mention given to the service in our newsletter, and that it is now working with hundreds of customers across Australia helping them monitor and track short-stay lets in their buildings.

It is also working with several local governments across Australia – helping them track short-stays in their area and providing consultation and technology to implement local regulations.

For more information about the service check out its website at Also check out its blog at where it is starting to create a library of articles around the short-stay issue including;
The recent changes in NSW;
Analysis of best practice overseas; and
Comments on the effects of short-stays on housing affordability.
Developer bans short stays
Finally, some good news in the recent announcement by property developer, Capital Alliance, that it will write enforceable safeguards into the sale contracts of its new developments, including a $250 million project in Docklands.
Although there are a number of buildings that already have caveats on title restricting short-term leasing this is the first instance we know of where a written guarantee has to be provided by the owner, before they can complete the purchase.
This is music to the ears of owners who bought into residential buildings believing it be their home then finding that it was being severely eroded by the impact of the rampant unregulated short-stay industry.
Let us hope that many more developers follow this lead.

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