Will short-stay infections force us into lockdown again?

Will short-stay infections force us into lockdown again?
Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

With retail industry still shuttered, it beggars belief that short-stay operators are allowed to endanger residential buildings with potential COVID carriers.

We found one of the most iconic buildings in Melbourne is not immune to the short-stay problem. Even before restrictions were eased, an apartment in the building was listed on Airbnb.

The multinational short-stay behemoth should be fined heavily for such a blatant breach of Victoria’s COVID restrictions.

The tower’s furious manager emailed us in frustration: “The Vic Government can enforce its restrictions on other commercial activity, but not for this. What an absolute joke.”

We need a properly considered, COVID-factored response from the government – before selfish short-stays send us into lockdown again.

COVID short-stay partygoers isolate with 1000 residents

On a recent weekend, two apartments on contiguous levels in the inner-city Platinum Tower hosted short-stay, out-of-control parties.

The usual chaos ensued with the police arriving late at night, instructing some guests to leave. The ejected guests waited until the coast was clear and were buzzed back into the building, without masks and moving freely between floors.

The organiser of one party was a guest at the other and had undergone a COVID test earlier in the day. The test result came back positive after the party.

This party guest knowingly attended illegal gatherings after being tested and without isolating while waiting for the result.

More drama was to follow with the Department of Health instructing the positive case to isolate in one of the party apartments.

A second party guest staying there also tested positive later and was given the same instruction.

The owners’ corporation (OC) challenged the department’s edicts to no avail – the department insisted that the positive cases had to stay.

The committee was incensed: “As in most high-rise buildings, air moves freely between apartments on the same floor and between floors via stairwells. There are 437 apartments in this building, and it is completely unsuitable to house a COVID-positive case who does not normally reside here and who clearly has no regard for doing the right thing.”

When will the government understand the difficulties faced by residential apartment buildings dealing with COVID?

In this instance, 1000 innocent residents ended up paying the price in anxiety and elevated risks. And it’s all because of a reckless party organiser who should have been isolating, not conducting an illegal COVID-fest.

The residents are understandably angry and frightened.

Cladding update

We have an update from Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV). Cladding rectification has been completed on 60 buildings in Victoria, funded by CSV.

Another 140 CSV funded projects are underway, while a further 53 buildings have funding agreements in place.

CSV chief executive Dan O’Brien said, “We will continue to work with owners of the highest risk buildings because that is the best way to reduce risk for Victorians overall.”

The CSV report said, “Buildings with the highest level of combustible cladding risk are referred to CSV by the Victorian Building Authority or local councils.

CSV then carries out its own assessment to prioritise buildings for funding. CSV also offers advice and guidance to owners of buildings that are not eligible for funding but need to take action to reduce risk.”

The total size of the funding pool remains undisclosed and we still trying to find out how much is left in the kitty.

If your building has flammable cladding, let us know how your remediation is going.

Committee-stacking scandal continues

Nerrida Blashki Pohl has provided us with an update on her stoush with pleonastic property developers and an incredibly clumsy council …

“Shockingly, the resident furniture moving lift has been locked to residents for 10 years. All furniture removal goes through the front lobby and out the door to the street.”

“I have had three major robberies and my insurer refuses to cover me. I had purchased a property with secure, undercover loading on the plans. Because my OC managers denied me the right to use that access, I was in breach of my contract with the insurer.”

“It was revealed at the Tribunal that the car parking indents in the footpath, previously controlled by the council, now belong to my OC. That transfer happened because the council was unable to find the appropriate documents. The super fund can try again to show that unloading property on the street to my lobby – a single glass door – can be achieved safely.”

“In early 2020 I initiated an FOI request for council planning documents. After two unsatisfactory, redacted releases, FOI has allowed me to apply to VCAT for disclosure.”

“I want to know why the Minister of Planning in 2011 took over management of the Planning Permit and allowed the developer to strike out the word 'resident' in so many places. The council verbally blames the minister."

“Sadly, the council had to sign off on whatever was returned to them by the minister for lodging the plan of subdivision.”

“The committee here is controlled by a real estate agency that trades and leases apartments on my property while knowing, and failing to disclose, that the residential goods lift has actually been leased to a third party for 300 years.”

Nerrida has told us that the group in control illegally limits the committee to five members.

This is the type of chicanery that should be easily defeated without having to mount a massive legal challenge.

Proxy farming crackdown

One comfort for Nerrida and other disaffected residents is that the OC Amendment legislation will proscribe proxy farming and make it harder for vested interests to stack the committee.

Under the Owners’ Corporation and Other Acts Amendments Act (2021), a person must not vote as a proxy for more than 5 per cent of the lot owners in large apartment buildings.

The Victorian Government says the restriction is intended to prevent the practice whereby an individual gathers as many proxies as possible and “wields an unfair and disproportionate influence.”

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