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Finding out where to park the problem...

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DSCV’s top tips for effective communication:

  • Make sure you both have enough time to talk through the issues
  • Communicate your needs and concerns
  • Keep your emotions in check, stay relaxed
  • Attack the problem, not the person
  • Listen to the other side and acknowledge their needs and feelings
  • If this fails, agree to take a break and set a time to try again later

Max* knew that residents were not allowed to park on common property, but he always thought that common sense would prevail.  That was until the day he parked his caravan next to his unit the night before a weekend camping trip.  He received a rude letter from the owner’s corporation, advising him he was in breach of the owner’s corporation rules.

In fact Max often parked his caravan there the night before a big trip, but it was never there for more than 24 hours and it never blocked anyone else’s access.  The thing that made Max ‘see red’ was the fact that other residents did this as well, without any repercussions. He felt the Owners Corporation Manager had treated him unfairly compared to other residents.  

There were a number of elderly residence in the units and a few of them had visitors who parked in the main residents drive way without any punishment whatsoever. The Manager stated that the body corporate rules allowed this because it was considered 'standing', not ‘parking’

With nowhere else to complain, Max discovered that the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) was willing to help.  While the DSCV would not take sides, they did write to Alex, the Owner’s Corporation manager to see if she would meet with Max and hear his concerns. 

Alex was reluctant to meet with Max at first, because Max was often aggressive to the other residents at meetings, but she replied to the DSCV out of professional courtesy.  The Centre explained that a mediation might be a suitable way for Alex to hear Max’s concerns and look for solutions without emotions dominating.

At the mediation, Alex was able to explain to Max that one of the other residents was an elderly man who required nurses and other service to provide home care to him. Alex advised that often the nurses do park in the clients driveway for around 10 minutes so that the client does not have to walk out the drive way which would cause him significant difficulty given his age and limited mobility.

Max was not aware of the impact his verbal abuse had on the other residents and their carers which was the main reason why complaints had been made about his caravan.

So Alex made a concise and clear explanation of the AGM process.   Max agreed to make a formal request at the next AGM to discuss the issue of temporary parking and timelines.  Communication between residents and management continued as it had in the past, but now Max felt that he had been treated much more fairly.

*Not his real name.  Some facts and other details have been changed to maintain client confidentiality

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Disputes can arise in all aspects of strata living, whether it's a disagreement between:

-  residents (Eg use of common property, payment of fees, need for repairs),
 - members and tenants of members, (eg over following rules, behaviour etc), 
 - members and the manager, 
 - the whole owners corporation and a neighbouring property (eg over replacing fence or cutting back vegetation)

In owner’s corporations, where crucial decisions have to be made, and everyone relies on each other’s goodwill to get things happening, a little bit of conflict can have a major impact.

Fortunately, in Victoria, there is a free dispute resolution service funded by the Victorian Government called the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). The DSCV provides mediation services, as well as training and accreditation of mediators to national standards.  It is fast, free and easy to use.

DSCV can help you resolve common disputes within owners corporations, particularly where the problem relates to personal differences or challenges in relation to management of common areas. To use the service the start title has to located within Victoria, however similar services exist in other states.

Anyone involved in the conflict can contact the DSCV to obtain advice about whether the centre’s services would be suitable, be it the OC Manager, a resident or a neighbour.  Your discussions with us will be treated with absolute confidentiality.  Trained and experienced DSCV staff will assess whether the conflict would benefit from mediation, and contact the other people involved to see if they also wished to use the centre’s services. If everyone is agreeable, DSCV would arrange for a mediation to take place in a neutral venue.

Mediations are very successful in resolving disputes, with 85% of mediations at DSCV ending in agreements.  Mediators remain neutral and do not take sides. The mediator’s task is to:

  • create an environment where parties have a chance to be heard equally;

  • help keep emotions in check;

  • guide parties through discussions about the issues;

  • make sure all relevant issues are covered;

  • help parties explore a variety of options; and

  • help parties write down details of any agreement reached.

Mediation is a voluntary process and no one can be forced to attend.  Interpreters are supplied by the centre as required.

DSCV has offices throughout Victoria. For more information, visit  www.disputes.vic.gov.au

To contact your local office, call 1300 372 888.