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Owners Corporation Law

08 May 2018

Why the delay Minister?

The 29th day of April 2018 marked the two-year anniversary of the closure of the public submissions period for Consumer Affairs Victoria’s review into the Owners Corporation Act reforms.

It has also been over four years now, since Consumer Affairs released draft legislation for the regulation of owners’ corporation managers, something that is long overdue in Melbourne.

Back in February 2018, Consumer Affairs staff provided a stakeholder representing owners’ corporation managers with a copy of the proposed newly-drafted legislation for feedback and further consultation.

Other stakeholders (including those representing owners’ corporations) were not provided the same opportunity to be given a copy of the legislation. No reasons were given by Consumer Affairs as to why certain stakeholders were excluded from this process.

In any event, by all accounts the draft legislation already appears to be out of date and out of lockstep with developments in the common law and in the owners’ corporation management industry. Without updated reforms, this “new” legislation is set to be woefully out of date and out of touch.

The state government has also not moved to put the ill-fated Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-Stay Accommodation) Bill back for reading to the Lower House.

Readers will remember that the 2017 Upper House inquiry into the Bill made more than a dozen recommendations to change the legislation. The Labor government spectacularly decided to seek to reintroduce the Bill without any amendment at all and simply asserted that a review could be implemented after a few years down the track.

Given the woefully inadequate policy response, advocacy groups representing owners’ corporations had to again ask the opposition politicians and cross-benchers to consider why they would support such ham-fisted legislation.

Now, the Bill has quietly disappeared from Parliament altogether, which could mean either, (1) there has been a major policy re-think (hallelujah), (2) there’s going to be a pre-election “stunt” later in the year, whereby Labor will seek to pass a whole host of legislation in one fell swoop and may seek to bundle this legislation in there in an effort to slip it past the goalkeeper, or (3) nothing will be done before the election, and if the current government survives then it will seek to reintroduce the legislation in amended form once back in power.

My sense from talking to committees all around Victoria is that there is great frustration with the elected officials in regards to these reforms.

Depending on who you listen to, they’ve either got it wrong altogether and need to start again, or they’ve got it right but they’ve waited too long and now the legislation is out of date. In other words, even when they’ve got it right, they’ve got it wrong.

The reality is that the whole situation is a total mess. No one has high hopes for the Owners Corporation Act reforms. It’s such a crucial piece of consumer legislation but it appears to be stuck. Even I’m starting to feel sorry for the politicians.

Tom Bacon - Principal, Strata Title Lawyers

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