OCs have “responsibility” to inform short-stay guests on cladding

By Barbara Francis & Rus Littleson

Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) is placing the onus jointly on owners’ corporations (OCs) and owners to inform transient short-stay guests about flammable cladding.

In our previous column we said that CSV had not provided any advice on how OCs can deal with transient guests who are more likely to be ignorant of fire safety. 

The CSV let us know that its site does in fact have a section dedicated to “owner(s) of short-stay accommodation”, and it contains this:

“If the building has been found to contain combustible cladding, and it is within Cladding Safety Victoria’s program, it is the responsibility of the owners’ corporation and the owner to inform guests.”

This might come as a shock to OCs of buildings where short-stay businesses operate.

The requirement by CSV for the OC to “inform a guest” about combustible cladding cannot be met. 

Without regulation, short-stay operators will not scruple to keep OCs in the dark about all aspects of their business operations including which apartments are being let and the occupancy. Building managers or OCs simply do not have contact details for the guests.

Really, the onus should be on the short-term operators not only to know and understand what the status of the building is but to obtain a signature from each guest to show that they also know and understand the situation. 

We will put more questions to CSV and update you in our next column.

Short-stay watch one: Police bashed

Before a month has passed in the new year, an all-night party at a short-stay has ended with a police officer hospitalised and four partygoers arrested.

Neighbours in the fiasco, which garnered prime-time news coverage, contacted We Live Here and said, “this out-of-control [short-stay] culminating in police assaults. Forty-plus people in attendance and a 15-hour ordeal where we were at real risk with inadequate police response to de-escalate and owner refusing to remove renters until 2.30pm the following day.”

So much for the so-called “Airbnb Party” legislation. Let’s hope the sympathies of a local councillor and a federal member can convert to pressure on the Victorian Government to step up and regulate this “out-of-control” industry. 

Short-stay watch two: Mail and parcels stolen

A Melbourne apartment building contacted us with a shocking report of mail theft:

“We had a short-stay guest rob our mailroom of all mail and parcels they could carry, then take them to their rented apartment. We had the whole thing on CCTV, but VicPol did not move immediately to apprehend the thief. None of the items have been recovered …”

Compromised security is inherent to short-stay operation in apartment buildings. We will continue to lobby for regulations requiring short-stay businesses to record guest details with the building manager.

Bills, Bills, Bills: Legislative confusion reigns

This month two OC Bills will return to state parliament and nobody seems to know what’s going on. 

The Bills are two parts of the same act!

Owners’ Corporation and other Acts Amendment Bill 2019 – part heard.

Owners’ Corporation Amendment (Short-Stay Accommodation Act) 2019 for review.

Given that we have had three Consumer Affairs ministers in the past four years, it’s no surprise even the government doesn’t understand the convolutions.

In 2015 the Victorian Government commenced a review of the Owners’ Corporations Act 2006 and received more than 150 submissions. The Owners’ Corporation and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2019 was introduced in December 2019 and had reached the Upper House for the third reading when COVID-19 closed parliament in February 2020.

The review included measures to regulate OC managers and developers and improve governance, e.g. restricting proxy farming; all long-overdue reforms. 

One glaring omission a review of Section 8 “Rules of the owners’ corporation” was explained like this:

“One issue that is beyond the scope of this paper is whether owners’ corporations should be able to make rules prohibiting a certain use of a lot, where that use is permitted under the applicable planning instrument … therefore, the question of whether a particular land use is appropriate is a matter to be addressed in the planning scheme and not through rules made by an owners’ corporation.”

Separately Consumer Affairs introduced the Owners’ Corporation Amendment (Short-Stay Accommodation Bill) 2016. 

This is the Bill We Live Here lobbied against and had referred to a bipartisan Parliamentary Inquiry, which determined the Bill was unfair. The findings were dismissed by the government and the Bill was enacted in February 2019.

Has anyone made a successful complaint under this so-called Airbnb Party Act? We have had zero cases reported to us.

Now, in response to widespread derision, Minister for Consumer Affairs at the time, Marlene Kairouz, effectively said don’t worry, we’ll review the Act in two years. Well, time’s up!

Rather than a confusing piecemeal approach, the government should review all aspects in concert: general improvements to the OC Act, specific provisions for short-stays and the hot potato – the role of planning regulations. 

We hope the new minister for Consumer Affairs Melissa Horne understands that there are many, many major problems related to short-stays beyond violent parties. 

We need a mature, open conversation between the government and stakeholders to address the short-stay issue in its entirety.

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