Contact Us

*
*
*
*

Share on Social


Related articles

MY NEIGHBOURS ARE DETERMINED TO MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS ABOUT OUR STRATA COMMUNITY

Disputes within an Owners Corporation are far more common than many people realise. They can occur over major problems but also too frequently they arise over petty issues that should be able to be quickly resolved by mature adults. Disagreements occur for a wide number of reasons and it can be particularly difficult for everybody when one or more owners decide to unilaterally make decisions about ‘how things are done around here’. The result is that other owners don’t have an opportunity to voice their opinions and feel bullied and belittled.
Disputes frequently arise over repairs and maintenance. The question frequently arises over whether it is an individual owner’s responsibility or something the entire strata community should contribute to. If owners are unsure, they should seek the advice of a strata specialist.
Despite the occasional owner putting themselves forward as experts in understanding ‘the law’, disagreements frequently occur over misunderstanding or ignorance of the Owners Corporations Act (2006). This Act, together with a strong knowledge of the strata’s Plan of Subdivision, together with the strata specialist’s many years of practical experience, provide a framework for a full understanding of the issues and how to best resolve them.
The opportunity for such issues to be resolved is at the annual general meeting (or a specially convened owners’ meeting) at which these issues are discussed and decisions are made in a democratic process about how to resolve them. When these meetings fail, when disagreements remain unresolved and the strata community becomes divided it is time to call in a strata specialist to assist.
The strata specialist will point out that there is a three-step formal process to help Owners Corporations deal with grievances:

  • Internal dispute resolution
  • Conciliation through Consumer Affairs Victoria
  • Applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Resolving issues without resorting to the financial and time cost of taking the matter to VCAT is obviously preferable.

Read More

THE COMMITTEE WON’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT MY NEIGHBOURS CAR

Strata communities generally have either a formal committee, or at least a group of active residents who take on the task of resolving problems that invariably occur in their Owners Corporation. If the strata complex does not have an experienced strata specialist in place, problems can arise if the owners’ committee can not (or will not) agree to deal effectively with such problems.
Unfortunately it is a fact of life that complaints can occur, and managers and committees must have policies and procedures in place to manage and resolve such complaints and disputes.
Disputes within an Owners Corporation are far more common than many people realise. Complaints occur for a number of reasons, most generally involving vehicle parking and noise, however it is impossible to predict the issues that can arise and cause problems. And when nobody is prepared to act to resolve the problem… it generally escalates. This is where the experience and skills of a strata specialist can be invaluable in calming the situation and ensuring that the needs of all residents are heard and communicated .
A strata specialist will initially recommend that basic communication is common sense. Sometimes residents who fail to obey the rules sometimes simply do not know the rules. As a starting point, your committee should ensure that all lot owners and tenants are provided a copy of the Owners Corporation rules. As a follow-up, the committee should encourage neighbours to talk about their concerns to resolve disputes.
If this strategy fails, then the strata specialist will know how to take communication to the next step, which can be arranging for mediation or conciliation, made in good faith by all parties, or if all else fails, applying to VCAT to make a legally binding decision about how the dispute is to be settled.
 

Read More

VCAT Guidance - Benefit Principle when raising Special Levies


09 Jan 2023

VCAT Guidance in support of Benefit Principle term used under Section 49 of the Owners Corporation Act 2006 when raising Special Levies.    
 

There are two available methods of raising Special Levies under Section 24 of the Owners Corporation Act 2006. First is based on Lot liability and the second is based on the lot owner of the lot that benefits more pays more (‘the Benefit Principle”).  It is important for managers to refer Owners or the Committee representing the Owners Corporation to the detailed reasons in the VCAT decision made at VCAT Case Reference: Owners Corporation PS407621Y v Grundl (Owners Corporations) (2017) VCAT 1150 referred to as (“the Grundl Assessment”) at paragraph 16 which states:  

“[16] .. In my view, in the light of the Mashane decision on appeal and of s.24 as it now is, the law requires an owners corporation to act as follows when it sets special fees to cover extraordinary items of expenditure relating to repairs, maintenance or other works. 

  1. It must first turn its collective mind to the question of whether all lots benefit substantially from the works or whether some lots substantially benefit more than others. 

  1. If, acting in good faith and exercising due care and diligence, as s.5 of the Act obliges it to do, it decides that all lots substantially benefit, it must set fees in accordance with lot liability. There will be no legal error in the decision, and the Tribunal will not interfere with it on the application of an aggrieved lot owner, unless the decision was one which no members of an owners corporation, acting honestly and reasonably, could have made. 

  1. Failure to turn the collective mind to the question is a legal error. The error is unlikely to lead the Tribunal to interfere, on the application of an aggrieved lot owner, with a decision to set fees in accordance with lot liability if in reality all the lots benefit substantially from the works. Otherwise the legal error exposes the owners corporation to the risk that the Tribunal will declare the resolution invalid. 

  1. If the owners corporation decides that the works are substantially for the benefit of some, but not all, of the lots, it must set fees not in accordance with lot liability but in accordance with the benefit principle, so that the owner of the lot that benefits more pays more. 

  1. The owners corporation must decide the extent to which the various lots benefit and apportion the fees accordingly. In making the decision it must act in good faith and with due care and diligence. If it does, there will be no legal error in the decision, and the Tribunal will not interfere with it on the application of an aggrieved lot owner, unless the decision was outside the range of reasonableness so that it was one which no members of an owners corporation, acting honestly and reasonably, could have made, or unless there has been some other legal error. 

  1. However, if the lot owners cannot decide which principle to adopt or cannot decide upon the proper apportionment, and ask the Tribunal to decide, the Tribunal may do so. 

  1. Except in a case of urgency, there must be a special resolution for levying the amount of the extraordinary expenditure if it is more than twice the amount of the current annual fees.” 

(“the Grundl Assessment”) 
 

Managers are advised to adopt the above passage in Grundl’s case when establishing the process to be undertaken by an Owners Corporation to apply the benefit principle and to clarify the circumstances in which the Owners Corporation resolved such decision.