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August 09 Edition Cover

BAB to rehear short-stay case

11 Feb 2014

BAB to rehear short-stay case Image

After two Supreme Court appeals, the Watergate short-stay case is set to return to the Building Appeals Board (BAB).

Following a hearing on December 2, Justice Geoffrey Nettle and Justice Robert Osborn returned their decision on December 12, affirming the earlier decision of the Supreme Court to return the case to the BAB.

A new BAB panel will hear the case, but a date for the hearings has not yet been set.

The short-stay saga began in 2011, when the City of Melbourne issued owners of short-term apartments in the Watergate with building orders.

The Watergate is classified as a Class 2 building and the orders required owners to comply with building regulations applicable to a Class 3 building, akin to a hotel or boarding house, or to cease trading.

Docklands Executive Apartments operator Paul Salter appealed the orders at the BAB, but in March last year the board released a decision upholding council’s orders.

Mr Salter then successfully appealed the BAB’s decision at the Supreme Court in May, with the case ordered back to the BAB.

However, before it could return to the BAB, the council appealed the Supreme Court decision.

But, as the December 12 decision revealed, this ultimately led to the same result, with the presiding justices upholding the initial Supreme Court decision and sending the case back to the BAB.

According to Mr Salter, the Court of Appeals decision was “a victory for common sense and equity”.

“If people purchase an investment property, they should be entitled to offer those properties as fully self-contained residences. It shouldn’t matter whether the occupants stay for a week or a year,” Mr Salter said.

Mr Salter is a committee member of the Victorian Accommodation Services Association (VICASA), which is preparing a submission for the Victorian Government.

“We are confident the information and solutions offered by the association will help resolve any concerns the Government might have regarding the accommodation services that members provide,” Mr Salter said.

In July last year, Planning Minister Matthew Guy said he would increase the power of owners corporations to regulate short-stay apartments.

In December he told Docklands News the Government was working with Consumer Affairs in order to support the actions the council had taken.

He said legislation empowering owners corporations could be enacted by early in 2014.

The Watergate OC was legally represented at the original BAB hearings but Watergate OC chair Barbara Francis said it would not be joining the rehearing of the case.

However, she said: “We will be fully supporting the City of Melbourne in the rehearing before the BAB.”

Ms Francis said Watergate owners had recently re-elected the committee who had “worked tirelessly to eliminate the short-stay problem at Watergate apartments.”

Of the 12 owners elected to the OC committee just one was a new representative.

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