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What’s behind the lights?

Resident wins short-stay battle

05 Feb 2020

Resident wins short-stay battle Image

By Sean Car

Residents living in Southbank’s Platinum Tower at Clarke St continue to battle issues with short-stays in their building despite the recent landmark victory of one.

For the first time since the new Owners’ Corporation Amendment (Short-stay Accommodation) Act 2018 came into effect on February 1, 2019, a resident has won compensation in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for “loss of amenity”.

It came after the resident, who requested not to be named by Southbank News, lodged an application to VCAT in May last year against the owner of an apartment (located immediately above them) and its short-stay tenant Melbourne Serviced Apartments Pty Ltd.

The application was the result of a number of incidents, which included guests vomiting off the balcony and cigarette butts being thrown into the resident’s lot. The application to VCAT would be followed by an “out-of-control” party in July, which police attended and evicted guests.

The resident also listed several other incidents where sufficient evidence was unavailable, including drug use and bloodied towels, drinks and rubbish being thrown from the apartment.

Following a directions hearing in October, the owner of the apartment agreed to a range of preventative measures with the resident, which included vetting of guests, proactive communication and balcony doors and windows being locked. Once satisfied, the resident dropped the owner as a respondent to the case.

The building’s OC, which had also lodged a prohibition order claim in VCAT against the same respondents, would too drop its case against the owner on the condition they never engaged the services of Melbourne Serviced Apartments again. The company previously operated more than 50 apartments in the building, all of which have since been taken over by Experience Hotel Apartments – a company connected to the building’s developer Salvo.

Having allegedly made no attempt to resolve the case, Melbourne Serviced Apartments owner Luke Mellor was taken to a compulsory conference in December by the resident, who settled for a payment of $1000 under a consent order. Mr Mellor did not respond to Southbank News for comment.

While settling for only half of the maximum compensation provided for a breach under the Act, the resident said doing so under a “non-confidential” consent order was a deliberate tactic, and one that other residents could use.

“We need to start naming these people because the worst thing for them is publicity and nothing else seems to work,” the resident told Southbank News.

“We’ve got about 120 short-stays out of the 437 apartments in this building. They occupy nearly a third of the building, do 80 per cent of the damage and cause 90 per cent of the problems.”

“For $70 odd for a [VCAT] case, it’s very achievable. Providing you collect adequate evidence to prove those events occurred and don’t just rely on heard information it was actually a very easy process.”

“If our government will not deliver real change to protect residents then we need to continue to pursue cases like these to name and shame these unscrupulous operators.”

Despite the operator being removed from the building, residents say that issues surrounding short-stays continue. Less than one month after the VCAT ruling, an apartment rented out by Experience Hotel Apartments, was the scene of another party on January 11 that allegedly saw around 50 youths “take over the building”.

“They checked in at around 9pm and at some point, they flooded our building with 40 to 50 more youths. These individuals flooded the foyer, level 30 and various floors with loud, drunken and abusive behaviour. Our lifts were full of these youths attempting to gain access to floors without access fobs,” the resident said. “At approximately 2.30am a group of around 15 entered my supposedly secure level, screaming abuse and yelling.”

“At around the same time my son was returning home and was temporarily unable to enter the building due to not wanting to allow another large group from the same party to follow him through the doors. When he entered, he observed an individual exiting the building and dropping a number of letters, presumably stolen, from our mail room.” 

“The lifts were littered with alcohol containers and people were making out in the mail area like we were in a nightclub. Used condoms were found in the stairwells.”

After being evicted by building security and police at around 3:30am that morning, it is alleged that the same group managed to re-enter the building in an attempt to gain access to the apartment.

Experience Hotel Apartments general manager Cameron Jeffrey said that incident was “regrettable” and that management had met with the OC to identify additional security measures.

“Our onsite staff attended to the guests with a security officer and police. They were evicted within 30 minutes of us being notified. Access to the building was removed and they were not permitted to re-enter,” he said.

“The guest (two individuals) checked in at 2.30pm in the afternoon, had valid ID and no prior history with us.”

“We met with the OC chairman and the OC manager that week to discuss this event, and they were satisfied with the action taken by Experience Hotel Apartments to have the situation under control and the guest removed from the site.”

“Unlike AirBnB, Experience Hotels is run by staff who are onsite 24 hours a day to handle any issues that may arise in the three [Southbank] properties” •

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