Disconnect between council and residential strata

Disconnect between council and residential strata
Dr Janette Corcoran

In recent years, the landscape of Victoria, especially in Docklands, has been reshaped by the rise of strata-titled properties. Yet, despite their prevalence, there is a glaring lack of understanding within local council about how residential strata operates.

This deficiency is evident in the design of the City of Melbourne’s Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grants.

Initially, owners’ corporations (OCs) – the legal decision-making entities responsible for these multi-million-dollar residential apartment buildings – were not eligible to apply for these grants.

However, after the Docklands Representative Group (DRG) raised this issue, OCs became eligible to apply. But the saga doesn’t end there.

The council now requests a copy of a strata scheme’s “constitution”, but OCs do not have constitutions.

Again, the grant eligibility criteria were amended to include “or rules”.

OCs do have rules for the control, management, use or enjoyment of common property and lots, and these rules aim to guide day-to-day decisions around issues such as parking, pets and noise.

It was puzzling why the council wanted to know how OCs were dealing with pets and parking. When queried, the response was that the council wanted to ensure that the organisations being considered for funding are legitimate organisations who have legal structures.

Accordingly, the council asks for a “constitution” or “rules” with the management company’s name on them so it can be checked through Consumer Affairs OC Managers register.

The issue here is that the name of the management company will not appear on this document, meaning that this document will not provide a name that can be searched on the register.

This is just one example of the lack of understanding of residential strata within the council that negatively impacts on the ability of OCs to undertake initiatives for the betterment of residents.

The crux of the issue lies in the council’s failure to grasp the nature of strata governance.

To rectify this situation, local councils must proactively engage with knowledgeable strata bodies and adapt their policies and services accordingly. This means fostering greater understanding and empathy towards the complexities of strata governance and recognising the value of OC-led initiatives.

By incorporating the voices of OCs into decision-making processes and enhancing transparency and accountability, councils can foster stronger, more inclusive strata communities. Bridging the gap between local councils and OCs is essential for fostering equitable and sustainable development.

Only by recognising and addressing the challenges faced by OCs can councils truly serve the needs of its community. •

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