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Owners join apartments case

28 Aug 2012

Owners join apartments case Image

Watergate Owners Corporation (OC) has joined the legal battle against serviced apartments in Docklands.

A Building Appeals Board hearing on August 6 confirmed the OC would join the City of Melbourne in its case against serviced apartment operators in Watergate.

The City of Melbourne is attempting to outlaw the practice of short-term rentals in residential buildings and last year served building orders on 26 owners.

The council is mounting a test-case using the building code and the owners are resisting the move and are contesting the case in the Building Appeals Board.

At the latest hearing on August 6, legal counsel for the owners did not object to the OC joining the proceedings.

The OC’s lawyer Tom Bacon said: “Watergate owners and residents are tired of putting up with short-stay operators bringing in undesirable and sometimes abusive persons into the building, that reduce the level of amenity in the building and cause increased cleaning, security and maintenance costs to all owners.”

Mr Bacon said the Watergate OC would assist and support the council in arguing the use of the building by short-stay operators had breached the building’s residential classification.

Further developments in the council’s case were also heard at the hearing.

Tim Margetts, representing the City of Melbourne, reported that the council had commissioned a Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) review of the Watergate building.

Mr Margetts said an inspection of the common areas of the building and a sample of apartments would take place in August.

“The MFB will set out in their report the additional requirements that a Class 2 building would need to be used for Class 3 purposes,” Mr Margetts said.

Mr Margetts said the fire safety review was necessary when looking at the building notice, which had led to the building order, as it related to the validity of the building order itself.

However, Building Appeals Board chairman Leslie Schwarz questioned this as the appellants were not questioning the validity of the building order.

Mr Schwarz said the MFB report would only be relevant to a new building order or a new building notice.

“The intention was to obtain a determination in terms of classification,” Mr Schwarz said. “I’m reluctant to go outside what we have been asked to do by the appellants.”

Rebecca Brezzi, representing Docklands Executive Apartments and Toby Cogley, representing Grand Harbour Accommodation agreed with Mr Schwarz.

Ms Brezzi said the case was simply about an issue of building classification.

Likewise, Mr Cogley said the review of the Watergate building was a separate matter.

“While the Melbourne Fire Brigade report may be interesting for other reasons, it is not germane to the issue at hand,” he said.

Despite this, a City of Melbourne spokesperson said that the review of the Watergate building would still go ahead.

“The planned inspection of the Municipal Building Surveyor and the MFB will proceed. Matters identified through this process may assist in informing the Building Appeals Board in relation to this appeal or clarify if any other action is required by council,” the spokesperson said.

The case is set to re-convene on November 5.

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