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Property Disputes

Property is one of the cornerstone investments of Australians, and property development is a key driver of our economy.  With so much at stake, disputes are both common and hard-fought.

 

We are highly experienced in property disputes, acting for both owners and developers.  We understand the issues involved in property disputes. Our specialist lawyers will strongly advocate and present your claims in respect of:

  • Claims in relation to the ownership of property, such as the contribution to the purchase price
  • Caveats and mortgages
  • Lease disputes for commercial, industrial, retail or office properties
  • Sale or purchase of property
  • Subdivisions and boundaries
  • Owners Corporation rights and obligations.
  • Property contamination

The legislation governing property disputes is complex and generally requires the intervention of lawyers.  Once we are engaged, we will work with you to understand the background of the dispute and determine if it requires urgent attention.

In some instances, property transactions or settlements need to be stopped urgently.  This can require either a caveat or an application to the Supreme Court or VCAT to prevent the sale from proceeding.  We are available to bring these proceedings on extremely short notice.

If you are involved in a property dispute, we recommend the following course of action:

  1. Contact a lawyer immediately. In general, once we have been given a background to the matter, the critical information required to commence proceedings is available from the Titles Office.
  2. Gather together the relevant documents, such as the contract of sale, lease or other
    agreements. These are likely to be critical to resolving the dispute.  We will be able to tell you the various types of documents that we require.
  3. We will then work with you to determine the most effective way of resolving the dispute, whether through litigation or negotiation.

Owners Corporation Disputes

The internal workings of an owners corporation or strata community often leads to conflict. The presence of jointly used areas such as easements is regularly a source of animosity and litigation. Some cases are frivolous, while others require serious attention to correct harm or injustice.

We seek to take a strategic approach to all the disputes we handle. After considering the potential impact of the dispute on the organisation or people involved, we will work with you on resolving the matter expediently.  Sometimes this requires unrelenting litigation.  In other situations, it requires a more pragmatic or subtle approach.

Disputes that may arise include:

      • Disputes over common areas, such as easements or lobbies.
      • Disputes between lot owners and the owners corporation, such as disputes regarding contributions to the owners corporation.
      • Disputes between owners and owners corporations.
      • Disputes between owners and developers.

Defective Balconies

Defective balconies are a notorious problem in multi-unit developments.  Issues can arise due to poor architectural design or through poor workmanship on the part of builders. Often this is caused by defective construction or the omission of waterproofing on balcony floors, resulting in complaints from occupants located directly beneath the balcony.

We have substantial experience in acting in disputes involving defective balconies. There is no substitute for expert evidence in this type of situation, as the owner of the leaky property will be reluctant to undertake any work without proof that the leak is originating from their premises, and details of who was responsible.

If negotiations with the owner of the leaky property are unsuccessful, there are any number , by issuing proceedings, such as:

      • a claim against the architect to compensate for the defective design
      • a claim against the Builder for poor workmanship
      • an application for an order for rectification of the defective balcony from the VCAT
      • an Application to the VCAT where a manager or committee of an owner’s corporation has breached their duty to repair and maintain common property, despite receiving the required notice

For example, in the decision of Guney & Ors v CFM Property Group Pty Ltd [2013] VCAT 514, a balcony, because it had several leaks that affected the owner’s enjoyment of the property. The builder did not correct the defects in the time allowed in the agreement and the owner initiated proceedings. The Tribunal rejected the builder’s claim that he was unable to complete the work due to poor weather and awarded the owner damages to cover the costs of having the balcony fixed by another builder.

WE CAN HELP

In the event that an owners corporation does become dysfunctional, it may be important to reaffirm the legal limitations that apply to the respective roles of the parties to the dispute. The powers of a lot owner differ from those of a manager or secretary, and the blurring of these roles can create animosity and confusion. We are experienced in restoring the status quo and helping the parties in an owners corporation better understand the legal boundaries of their roles.

Our solicitors are experienced at finding the source of liability and acting in the best interests of our clients to achieve positive outcomes. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have a query or problem that needs to be addressed to get your owners corporation back on solid ground.

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