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23 May 2016

Minister’s decision to introduce laws to stamp out bad behaviour in short-term stays will lead to more (not less) “ghettoes in the sky”

Illegal short term leases are turning many of Melbourne’s apartment buildings into quasi-hotels, and making life Increasingly difficult for long term residents.

Victoria let a golden opportunity slip to set an example to the rest of Australia and take a strong stance on short-term lets and Air BnBs that ruin the liveability and amenity of high-rise buildings.

Jane Garrett, the Minister for Consumer Affairs could have joined the likes of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Paris and other world cities by coming down hard on the short-term stay industry but instead chose to invite them in with open arms.

It is apparent that the decision by Minister Garrett to target enforcement matters for badly-behaved occupants of short-term stays effectively means that it is open slather for the industry to proliferate throughout Victoria. It will then be a matter of ‘catch me if you can’ as the proposed legislation only empowers Owners Corporations to bring proceedings in VCAT for penalties, and only after the bad behaviour events and parties have occurred. But why would an Owners Corporation spend thousands of dollars on lawyers trying to catch and fine guests (who have most likely left Melbourne or have skipped the Country) simply to chase penalties, when the proceeds of the penalties won’t be payable to the Owners Corporation – the state of Victoria collects the penalties. Furthermore, the proposed reforms actually attempt to ‘ring-fence’ and constrain common law rights of neighbours to restrain acts of nuisance, by capping damages that could be claimed by neighbours to the paltry sum of $2,000. This legislation supplants hundreds of years of common law rights, derived in England and applied consistently in the Courts of Australia since the early 1900s under the tort of nuisance.

Bad behaviour and parties are actually not the biggest issue for high-rise residents. If the Minister had consulted with the community, she would know that the biggest issues faced by residents are actually:

  • Diminution in value of the apartments;
  • Excessive wear and tear on the common property leading to higher quarterly levies;
  • Security and safety concerns by having strangers in the corridors;
  • Loss of Community and community engagement;
  • Excess lift usage, bags and suitcases in lobbies;
  • Breach of building fire protocols and safety standards;
  • Increases in strata insurance premiums;
  • Excessive use of utilities - water, gas and power;
  • Increased cleaning costs;
  • Increased security costs;
  • Brothels, drug dealing, drug taking in short-term stay apartments; and
  • Slamming of doors late at night, general use of the property in an inconsiderate manner.

Owners Corporations around Victoria should feel betrayed by the decision of the Minister. The decision to announce this legislation has come in the dead of night, while the Owners Corporation legislation is still under review by Consumer Affairs (legislation scheduled to be introduced in late 2017) and while Owners Corporations around Victoria are awaiting the decision of Supreme Court Justice Peter Riordan in the Watergate case (heard last week on 18 - 20 May in the Supreme Court) which will decide whether Owners Corporations can enforce rules to regulate short-term letting.

The amendments are to be introduced tomorrow (Tuesday 24 May) with no consultation from either We Live Here (the peak body for Owners Corporations in Victoria) nor any consultation with Strata Community Australia (SCA) which represent the strata industry and the businesses that operate within the sector.

“Residents in high-rise buildings are no better off under these changes. The Minister is taking us all for fools by presenting Owners Corporations with a Trojan horse”, says Marshall Delves, one of the We Live Here Directors. “On their own, these amendments do not change anything for residents in high-rise Melbourne. We are concerned for the future of high-rise Melbourne.”

We Live Here has launched a petition on Change.Org to protect residential community living in high-rise

Read the Petition 

Contrary to what the Minister has announced, the Short-Term Stays Panel that was convened to decide this issue was not independent. Paul Salter (a serviced apartment operator, and the respondent in the ongoing Watergate litigation over the last 4 years) was appointed as a Panel member, despite the conflict of interest.

“Lobbyists representing the short-stay industry should feel most satisfied with today’s announcements whereas Residents and owners in High-Rise apartments will be feeling quite disillusioned with the Andrews Government.” 


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About We Live Here


We Live Here is a recently launched advocacy and lobby movement focussing on generating legislative change to protect owners and long-term residents living in high-density areas. The movement aims to give a voice to and protect the rights of these owners and long term residents, and to tackle issues that are not being adequately addressed.

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