“He said – She said” – Handling Complaints and Disputes

Occasionally the fragile harmony of community living is ruptured by the anti-social behaviour of a resident. When this happens, the owners corporation body that manages the building relies on an established process to deal with complaints and handle disputes.

But how does a resident know if they are doing the right thing or the wrong?

All buildings have rules that encompass standards of shared living and set behaviour expectations. These standards provide a basis and benchmark for residents so that everyone is aware of what then can and can’t do. Tenants, Owners in Residence, Guests and Invitees are all required to abide by what would be considered some simple guidelines for sharing the bliss of living in an owners corporation environment. Rules make it easy to find your way with building protocols and policies that are clear, concise and effective.

What if a dispute arises?

Communication is often the best way to prevent disputes and your owners corporation should encourage neighbours to talk about their concerns to resolve disputes. Simply talking to your neighbour about the problem may often lead to a solution. If this does not prove beneficial, residents should notify their owners corporation manager to seek a more formal solution.

The Three Step Process

The Owners Corporations Act 2006 sets out a process to deal with Owners Corporation disputes. This is called the Grievance Procedure. This process has three steps:

  • internal dispute resolution
  • conciliation through Consumer Affairs Victoria
  • applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Internal dispute resolution

Your owners corporation must have procedures to help its members and people living in the property deal with grievances without resorting to legal action. At MICM Property we have provided your owners corporation with a Dispute Resolution Procedure that is quick and easy to follow and is successful in determining and resolving most complaints. It sets out:

  • information about who to contact if there is an issue or concern
  • rules detailing the grievance procedure
  • directions about where to get information
  • how to record the issue or the breach of rules
  • how to notify your owners corporation manager of a problem
  • forms necessary to lodge a formal complaint

How are most disputes handled?

For the most part, people do live in harmony. When a dispute arises and is brought to the attention of your owners corporation, the Manager is the first port of call in dealing with the problem. The Manager may wish to meet with the parties and see if a change of behaviour or compromise can be reached. If this is not satisfactory, residents can appeal to the owners corporation Grievance Committee – usually made up of the Manager and Committee Members – for a more formal review of the matter. A meeting would be convened and give people affected an opportunity comment and have the matter mediated.

Keeping records

Complaints to the owners corporation relating to an alleged breach of the Owners Corporation Act 2006, the Regulations or rules by a lot owner, an occupier or a manager must be made in writing and are acted upon in a timely manner. The owners corporation will ask for a written record of facts when it receives a formal complaint.A written record is also required if the complaint goes to Consumer Affairs Victoria or VCAT.Any complaints and any action taken must be reported to the owners corporation’s annual general meeting.

If the problem is not resolved

A formal Breach Notice must be rectified within 28 days.If the problem is not resolved within 28 days, the owners corporation may issue a Breach Notice that formally sets an expected time for remedy. Your owners corporation must first try to resolve the matter through an internal grievance procedure before applying to VCAT.