An end of year OCC health check-up

By Dan Ong – Residents 3000

It unfortunately doesn’t take many chats with other CBD owners before you realise the unique challenges of being on an owners’ corporation committee (OCC) in the city. A range of upcoming changes to the Owners Corporation Act 2006 (OC Act) have improved how OCCs will be able to operate. Yet what makes a good OCC isn’t just the law but the people in and around it. 

Owners’ corporations are an essential element to maintaining our city’s infrastructure. But they can be exclusive and difficult groups for some residents. Unless they operate fairly and inclusively, they can sometimes fail to achieve more than the bare legal minimums. 

What makes for a healthy OCC? Here are some questions to consider:

Are you inclusive and representative? 

Are the only members present at your meetings investor proxies and elected owner-occupiers? What other owners and tenants could be given a role to play? 

Getting into an OCC can be difficult, as proxy voting blocs sometimes dominate committees, particularly in larger buildings. Legislative changes are set to change proxy rules to make participation and voting fairer. But this won’t change the 12-person committee limit. And in a diverse suburb where most residents are young and renting, OCCs can involve more than the usual stakeholders. 

Sub-committees can be a way to spread the workload among unelected owners and bring other skillsets and experience to the committee. Meanwhile, you could set up an advisory board comprising engaged renters, as we have in our building. We can easily make assumptions about how willing people are to be involved. But by treating all tenants as stakeholders, you can pave the path for everyone to be more mindful of both private and common property.

Are you being safe and respectful? 

Does everyone feel welcome and safe to speak up and express their views? For some residents, the internal infighting and politics of their OCC is a turn-off. For others, abuse and bullying has led them to leave committees. No one should have to tolerate bad behaviour. The OC Act requires that OCC members act honestly, exercise duty of care and diligence, and not misuse their position. Dispute settlement and VCAT are options for higher level disagreements. But writing good committee rules and a code of conduct can help set and maintain behaviour standards early on.

Are you social? 

While by no means mandatory, having a social element to your building can establish a base for neighbourliness and more effective OCC operation. Many buildings have a regular coffee meet-ups to achieve this. WhatsApp groups and online document or survey sharing have allowed others to get feedback from more residents. By making food a central part of regular committee/community gatherings – from Diwali to the Melbourne Cup, there’s always an excuse – we’ve been able to make both friends and committee allies out of neighbours.  

Are you training and enabling? 

OCC members are volunteers who bring a variety of skills to your community. But facilitating engagement and meetings, and coordinating the use of these skills, all require development to unlock the potential of a building, not just that of a committee. There are providers of such training, but options are admittedly still too limited. Residents 3000 supports previous articles in CBD News that have already highlighted the need for the City of Melbourne to support residents by providing better access to information and training for OCCs.

Are you informed and connected? 

No OCC or resident needs to do this important work alone. Whether you’re an owner, renter or investor, if you or your OCC would like to connect with other committees and residents and be informed through briefings on matters of shared interest, get in touch. In 2022, Residents 3000 will be establishing a CBD owners’ corporation network to support locals in collaboration with like-minded residents’ associations and groups. Contact [email protected]

For more information about recent OC Act changes, go to the “Inform” page at the Residents 3000 website.

Final event for 2021

Residents 3000 would like to invite you to our final event for 2021 at the Kelvin Club (14-30 Melbourne Place off Russell St) on Thursday, December 2. This is your chance to meet with your neighbours and other city residents in person for a property market update from Donazzan Boutique Property, followed by a social evening to see in the festive season. We look forward to seeing you there! Registrations begin at 6pm for a 6:30pm commencement •

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