Dust continues to settle on the Owners’ Corporation Act (2019) reforms


By Tom Bacon - Principal, Strata Title Lawyers Hurrah! We are able to leave our apartments at last, and go out and have some fun. But seriously, Consumer Affairs Victoria, you all should perhaps stay inside and complete your work. It is truly astounding that the Owners’ Corporation Amendment Bill (2019) still has not been enacted. It sailed through the Lower House Legislative Assembly, and got as far as the Second Reading speech in the Upper House Legislative Council on February 20, 2020 via Adem Somyurek, and there it has been stuck in limbo ever since. Remember, some of these reforms were ready to be enacted as far back as 2014, and the Bill was substantially complete at the end of 2016. With the number of persons living in strata in Melbourne now over the one-million mark, and with the value of strata buildings in Australia worth in the trillions of dollars, there is a great need for robust, up-to-date legislation that takes account of the complexities and frustrations of living and working in a strata titled building. However, the Consumer Affairs Victoria web page (updated on May 22, 2020) still says that “the Bill should be introduced into Parliament later in 2019.” There are many key reforms that the owners’ corporation (OC) has desperately needed to be introduced within the last four years in particular. Countless harms are being transacted upon the community, while parliament and Consumer Affairs Victoria dithers. Reforms such as: introducing stricter regulatory reporting requirements for OCs with more than 50 lots, prohibiting a developer from selling lots in a building where the budget for the annual fees is obviously wrong, permitting an OC to bring legal proceedings against wrongdoers without needing to passing a special resolution, enshrining the “benefit” principle for extraordinary fees where only one or some lot owners will benefit from work that needs to be done to common property, prohibiting an OC manager from having a contract greater than three years, requiring a developer to disclose all relationships with any service providers that they appoint before they register an OC, a restriction on how many proxies a person may hold at a general meeting. The list goes on. These are important reforms. They will allow Victoria to “catch up” with the strata laws in other states and territories, as well as to keep up with community expectations. The longer the government continues to drag its feet, the more that the community will start to think that something more sinister is at play. Why delay reforms that will only benefit owners of apartments, unless there is money to be made by those that build those apartments? My request to the newly-minted Minister of Consumer Affairs? Nip down to Parliament’s next sitting with a memo to request this legislation gets passed pronto … •

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