High-rise truck saga

Our inner-city champion whom we have lauded in this column has written in with a poignant precis of her tribulations. 

The outcome was ultimately a resident’s victory over a cohort of developers, managers and local government officials. It is a story of corporate inequity, and regulatory incompetence.

This saga highlights the enormous challenges facing Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne with the dysfunctional owners’ corporation legislation and strata governance landscape.

We hope this resolute resident’s testimony, quoted here in full, reaches the Minister’s desk …

“All I have ever asked for since moving into my new home in 2012 was safe passage onto my street through my single lobby door, without obstruction from removalists.”

“There is an onsite loading dock with a common property goods lift that residents must use, but in 2016 a superannuation fund paid the developer $92 million for the retail plaza downstairs from the 500-apartment tower where I live. The sale included a 300-year lease of the onsite loading dock in favour of the retail plaza. My residential goods lift is embedded in that loading dock.”

“Onsite loading was a special condition of the planning permit. How could I be locked out from enjoying that amenity?”

“Last month this newspaper reported how that superannuation fund, backed by the developer, asked [a] VCAT Planning Tribunal to annexe that loading dock on behalf of the retail plaza, thereby overturning the original planning permit of 2008. Fortunately, the Tribunal agreed that residents must be allowed to use the onsite loading facility the way it was originally designed for us. I was the instigator of the case in which the council defended my right to enjoy the onsite loading facility, a right that was included with my property purchase.” 

“As a result of this Tribunal decision, the matter of enforcement has progressed from the planning department to the compliance department. It took me more than four years to get the council to act to enforce its own planning permits. Righting this problem is slow going for the council. There is no clear path yet for all residents to enjoy their loading dock facilities.”

“In this loading dock, trucks and huge semi-trailers who service the plaza shops and the huge supermarket chain are driving and parking in a system known only to themselves. They ignore the traffic management drawings approved by the council. The loading dock lift is still locked to residents.” 

“Since this story was published, I have been asked why it was up to me, as just one of 500 apartment owners above a shopping plaza in this mixed-use development, to get the council to force my strata managers to comply with the planning permit. After all, I do pay my strata managers to look after my common property interests and there is an elected committee to advise them. The other apartment owners have no idea what I have done to try to get unimpeded access to my common property goods lift and to get any illegal contracts overturned.”

“Sadly, big apartment developments have very few owner-occupiers and the majority of owners are investors, who either don’t know or don’t care what laws are broken.”

“The strata manager appointed by the developer in 2011 is still in charge, and the committee has not changed since the strata manager approved their original candidacy.” 

“I have nominated for the committee, but they keep it to five people. Three of these five hold developer’s proxy votes and have majority control.”

“There are so many questionable service contracts. The group in control have appropriated the residential lounge to operate their business and their companies have been awarded the embedded wi-fi and cleaning contracts. The behaviour of the strata manager is consistent with loyalty to the developer, not the residents and certainly contravenes the planning permit.”

“If the council stays on the case, then retail tenants will have to comply with the council’s approved traffic management plans despite what their tenancy contracts say. All unapproved onsite traffic obstacles, such as spare cold stores must be removed.” 

“It must be safe for residential loading. Once that is done, I hope to see no more furniture removalists obstructing the pedestrian lobby. Only then will my street at my front door be safe.”

Nerrida Blashki Pohl

If you wish to contact Nerrida, please let us know via the We Live Here website.

Cladding update

We will provide an update in our November column on the slowly evolving cladding landscape.

Strata managers group makes a mess of COVID cleaning rules 

The Victorian chapter of a strata managers industry group, the Strata Community Australia (SCA), had to mop up a flood of confusion following its mass email propagating a supposed government COVID diktat banning cleaning of apartment buildings.

Imagine the shock suffered by building managers, perhaps contemplating a lovely spring clean!

The SCA inbox must have been overflowing with acerbic advice from its own members because, the next morning, SCA rushed out a missive to “address any confusion arising from our COVID-19 update … as a result of information made available to SCA (Vic) by members responding to yesterday’s email, we have updated our COVID-19 advice”.

To be fair to the SCA, the information from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website was, unsurprisingly, a trifle abstruse. 

Apartment residents, rest assured; your building is not obliged to wallow in microbiological filth during lockdown.

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