Aurora-gate exposes inadequate laws

Aurora-gate exposes inadequate laws
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

The battle for the owners’ corporation at Aurora Melbourne Central has underlined the woeful inadequacies of Victoria’s strata laws and VCAT tribunal system.

The Aurora building, with a staggering 1000 apartments over 85 storeys, has been the centre of allegations of abusive, threatening behaviour, harsh rules and unlawful fines. The internet has been deluged with video evidence of ugly physical arguments in the corridors and lobby.

At the core of the dispute is the issue of proxies. In an extraordinary turnout, 200 owners logged onto a special general meeting to challenge the incumbent chair – only to be stymied by an astounding volume of proxies.

Residents have complained to Consumer Affairs Victoria and state politicians, only to be fobbed off and told it is a civil matter.

We have grave concerns that the Aurora-gate debacle may become the paradigm for apartments across Melbourne. Our contacts in the industry tell us that many unscrupulous committees are exploiting the legal vacuum to breach strata laws and regulations with impunity.

If the Aurora mess had been in NSW or Queensland, those states’ VCAT equivalents would have stepped in and appointed a manager. Why can’t this happen in Victoria? Perhaps because the Victorian Government seems to be committed to inertial indolence when it comes to legislative reform.

Last year the government introduced oddly timid laws that limit proxy holdings to five per cent. A chairperson would only need three supporters to subvert that intention if 20 per cent of the owners turn up to a meeting.

We Live Here can help apartment residents and owners build awareness about the problems exacerbated or caused by government inaction. If your building has a stacked committee or you are concerned about mismanagement or malfeasance, please contact We Live Here privately – details are below.

A public review of the Owners Corporation Act, first promised by the state government for 2021, was never conducted. The review is now vaguely slated for “sometime between 2023 and 2027”. Victorians deserve better.

Green pressure Labor on short stays

“Short stay accommodation is almost entirely unregulated in Victoria, and it’s making the rental crisis worse.”

With this opening salvo, Greens spokesperson for renters’ rights Gabrielle de Vietri MP announced a new campaign pressuring the Victorian Labor Government to introduce short-stay regulations.

Ms de Vietri went on to say, “We need to introduce strong short-stay regulations to ensure affordable housing is available to families and workers experiencing housing stress. Cities around the world like New York, London, and Berlin regulate their short-stay market, it’s time for us to do the same.”

The Greens propose:

A 90-day cap on how many nights a year you can rent out an entire property as a short-stay.

Allowing owners’ corporations to regulate short-stays for properties of absentee owners.

A new mandatory public register of short-stay operators.

We Live Here applauds the wider socioeconomic view being taken by the Greens. •

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