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Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and other owners’ corporation issues

You’ve all heard of illegal parties, the use of short-term accommodation for paid escort services, or prostitution, and there have been numerous reported cases of short-term accommodation being used as drug labs.

These are just a few of the potential issues, happily they are not the majority of cases. However, in addition, apart from the AirBnb and other short-term rental issues, there are issues of noisy neighbours, leaking balconies, animals, and other annoying features experienced by owners’ corporations (OC), almost too numerous to mention. We know that they exist, the issue is what can be done about them.

If you are buying off the plan and it’s a future prospect, you really have no idea what will happen in the future. You may have control of your apartment, but you certainly don’t control three or four hundred of your nearest and dearest neighbours. A good start is to choose a development that has a 24-hour concierge, and at least you then have a fighting chance. However, if you are buying into an existing strata-titled building, then it certainly pays to do your homework. Not by listening to the agent, but by making enquiries with other owners or occupiers in the building.

Recently, there was a case where well-meaning parents provided an apartment in the city for their son, who was unfortunately a drug addict. He then began bringing undesirable people into the building, and while on a drug-fuelled binge, managed to light a fire in the foyer. Not really the sort of tenant, or even owner-occupier who assists in maintaining the value of the building, to put it mildly.

New laws under the Owners Corporation Act were introduced in December 2021. Some relevant parts to note are as follows:

OCs will be able to develop a model rule that regulates or prohibits the drifting of tobacco smoke from a lot to the common property, or any other lot in multi-level buildings.

OCs will be able to develop a model rule that requires advice to be given to occupiers about fire safety and emergency preparedness plans.

OCs will be able to make rules about lot owners paying fees by instalments if they are in financial difficulty.

If a guest of the lot occupier breaches the rules, both the occupier of the lot and the guest are jointly and severally liable for any penalty or compensation payable as a result.

If VCAT determines that a person has failed to comply with an OC rule that imposes an obligation that is binding on the person, VCAT may make an order imposing a civil penalty not exceeding $1100 to be paid to the OC.

Rules are to be of no effect if the rule is oppressive to, unfairly prejudicial to or unfairly discriminates against, a lot owner or an occupier of a lot •

*The contents of this article are of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. However, if you need legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact any one of our lawyers.

For further information and assistance, contact: [email protected]

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