Fourth layer of government – Grant Mifsud

Plans by the Queensland Government to reform residential tenancy laws seem well-meaning but could be futile.  If successful they could have a big impact nationally.  Body Corporate expert Grant Mifsud outlines the changes and talks about the difficulty in getting them passed.
Kevin:   Well, my next story is really based on Queensland. It’s Queensland-centric. It will, as you’ll probably see, have, it could have ramifications right around the country. Because plans by Queensland government to reform residential tenancy laws seem fairly well meaning, but could be futile because most rental properties are in community title schemes that are governed by bodies corporate. I’m talking now to Grant Mifsud. Grant is from Archer’s the strata professionals. They are based in Brisbane, so they have a really good knowledge of what’s happening with the Palaszczuk government in Queensland. Grant, thank you very much for your time.
Grant:   Thanks, Kevin.
Kevin:   How do you think this is going to fare because the State Minister Mick de Brenni is driving for some fairly sweeping changes. Wants to actually take control of the rules within a body corporate. How successful do you think this can be?
Grant:   I think it can be, but there needs to be that connection between the legislation that he’s looking to reform and also the body corporate communication management act which applies to Queensland and the current reforms that are under way with that legislation as well. I think that connection needs to be in the form of education. So there’s no point saying within your rental agreement, these are now your rights, and the person tries to exercise those rights but then in strata properties, they’ve got no education behind what rule’s been applied within a strata property which is that fourth layer of government, so to speak.
Kevin:   Interesting you call it that. It obviously is because I think in your release also you talk about the major sources of complaints are around pets, parking, parties and passive smoking. All the Ps. How much control can a body corporate have? There have been instances where people have tried to buy a unit as an example because they’ve got a pet. They settle on the unit. They go to move in. They find that pets aren’t allowed. This does actually cause some disputes.
Grant:   Yeah, absolutely. There is that dispute resolution process for when a decision is made that does not seem reasonable for what people ordinarily do in their home. Having a pet is one of those ordinary things. Consideration needs to be given to not only that person wanting to do that normal thing, but also the suitability of the pet and the building. So making sure the situation is matched and is not going to, particularly in a strata building, where you’re living in close proximity of your neighbours and there’s shared areas to get in and out, etc. You want to make sure that that impact isn’t going to have an adverse affect on everybody else.
Kevin:   This could be a key issue for anyone buying a unit too because each of the body corporates could have different rules, couldn’t they?
Grant:   That’s exactly right. Usually there’s some sort of rule that has, it might be a 10KG limit rule for a lot of the high rise buildings. So pets under a certain size. But there’s always exceptions to those rules and as I mentioned you can dispute that current rule that’s in place if you believe that your pet is suitable. Particularly we’re now getting… there is exclusions for when you’ve got seeing eye dogs and things like that. There’s also the pets for medical reasons as well which we’re seeing a lot more of forming cases.
Kevin:   You mentioned here those common sources disputes: pets, parking, parties, passive smoking, also hanging unsightly laundry from a balcony. What sort of power does a body corporate have if as an example, a tenant moves in, they want to put clothes out on their balcony to dry them. How much power have they got to take action against the tenant?
Grant:   Well there is a process to go through. It’s that same dispute resolution process for when, if you’re an owner or tenant and you don’t agree with a decision that’s being made. It’s just simply in reverse where the body corporate’s making that dispute application and seeking an order through what’s called the adjudicator’s office of body corporate community management. That order, if it is made, is enforceable within a magistrate’s court and further as applicable.
Kevin:   As strata professionals, do you become involved with any of these disputes as a management company?
Grant:   Yeah, we facilitate that process for our clients because the clients are essentially the owners within a body corporate. Then you’ve got specific committee members elected at an AGM that then make the majority of the day to day running decisions of the body corporate. Those owners and committee members, they’re not specifically trained in how to manage a body corporate where we are, that’s our role. We give guidance and information so they can make informed decisions. Our involvement will then be providing them the information about what they’re options are and then facilitating the decision making depending on what level that is and then implementing that decision. That may involve a lawyer depending on how complex the matter is.
Kevin:   Do you find generally that any disputes that arise are predominantly from tenants or is it fairly evenly split between owner occupiers and tenants?
Grant:   It’s fairly evenly split. Although the escalation is usually when it’s with an owner particularly when they’re not accepting that decision. They want to dispute it. I think it’s that cost benefit analysis that it comes back to. So for an owner they’ve got a bit more at stake where a tenant they may say, “Okay this isn’t working out. I’m not going to engage a lawyer to fight this. I’ll just find somewhere else that it’s not going to be so difficult.”
Kevin:   Okay, anyone who has got a dispute or a bit of a difficulty, is there a dispute process or website they can go to?
Grant:   We have a weekly newsletter through our brand. So that’s just general education for all stakeholders within the strata industry so we also educate our peers with a lot of different cases that come up from time to time which are a bit left of centre. We also have Chris Irons who’s the commissioner for body corporate community management. He regularly contributes articles on an education basis to our platform as well. What we find, that’s the best place for people to go. They can just search the word depending on whatever issue it is and find an article that is written in plain English rather than trying to go through, at times, complex legislation to work out what the answers are.
Kevin:   Okay Grant. My guest is from Archer’s, the strata professionals. Grant thank you very much for your time.
Grant:   Thanks for having me Kevin.

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