We cover a lot of ground in this week’s podcast, from local pandemic panics to global warming and the potential “scary” effect of political inaction on your mortgages.
First up we look into pro and anti-vaccine passions and the desire in some strata schemes to prevent unvaccinated residents from accessing communal facilities.
As this story also discusses, is it fair, legal or even desirable to keep the unvaccinated out of gyms, pools, saunas, spas, communal areas and video theatres?
Or, looking at it another way, is it responsible, legally justifiable and safe not to do so?
Also we discuss the new leadership in NSW and whether it will make any difference to our lives with two of the three top Liberals in state parliament having been Fair Trading (or Better Regulation) Ministers.
We look at warnings, as outlined in this story that, if we become global pariahs in terms of climate change, that could have a profound effect on interest rates and mortgages.
And we delve into the dark and grey areas of property ownership where one owner is claiming common property as their personal parking spot, and another owners corporation wants the return of common property that the owner though was part of their lot.
All that and much more in this week’s podcast.
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TRANSCRIPT IN FULL
A few little changes, to the Flat Chat website, coming through. Because I had an SEO (search engine optimization), expert do a little analysis of the website for me. I’ve always been very suspicious of SEO people, because they’re one of the spam things you get bombarded with. This guy’s really, really good and so, it’s going to be all about making it easier to find stuff (other than my witty headlines). You’ll actually be able to go “oh, here’s the thing about parking. This is how we’ll find out about parking.”
Okay. It makes it much more user-friendly, I suppose.
I think that’s the idea. It’s more user-friendly, rather than Jimmy-friendly, I think. So this morning, we’re going to be talking about whether or not you can limit or restrict your facilities to vaccinated people only. We’re going to be talking about the new leadership in New South Wales and what that means (if anything), to people in strata. We’re going to be talking about how our position on global warming could affect your interest rates. And, we’re going to be talking about people grabbing bits of property; common property, for their own personal use. That’s a lot, isn’t it?
It is. We better get on with it!
Better get on with it. I’m Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.
And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain.
And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
Sue, we’ve touched on the issue of restricting common property facilities to people with double vaccination. Is it even possible? Can it be done?
Well, there are a lot of strata committees at the moment, discussing exactly that and they’re kind of drafting bylaws now as well, to see if it can be done. I guess the proof is in the pudding, really. They’re going to draft bylaws and then maybe, the antivaxxers might challenge that in court or NCAT and then they will actually finally get a definitive answer. I did a story about this, this week and I talked to barrister Richard Gration and he was saying (remember the Jo Cooper decision in the Court of Appeal about dogs)?
How can we forget?
He was saying that might affect owner’s ability to pass those kinds of bylaws, because that case confirmed the limits to Owners Corporations’ powers and it may well be that they might not be able to, but he basically feels that there is a chance and it’s going to have to be decided probably in court, at the end of the day.
But I thought that case established that those limits (in both directions); it said that the Owners Corporations are limited in what they can tell people to do in their own homes, but, they have a power to decide what happens on common property.
No, he believes it could mitigate against what they can decide about common property as well, because that’s jointly owned by everyone. So really, it’s not just what people want to do in their own homes, but it’s what people want to do in their own homes, which includes some of that common property as well. So, we don’t know, because we’ve never had a precedent on that law, but it’s interesting at the moment in court, we’ve got anti vaxxers (or vaccine-hesitant people), challenging the government’s ability to mandate that certain professions should only be staffed by people with double vaccinations. I guess, it depends on that verdict, as well. I mean, that maybe will set the scene for everything else to follow.
It just strikes me immediately that, even if you have this bylaw, how do you police it?
That’s the hard thing and it’s okay in buildings (maybe with with resident building managers, or building managers on the scene all the time, or with concierge, or with high-tech CCTV cameras everywhere and swipe, so you can disable swipes if people aren’t double vaccinated), but also, how do you find out who’s vaccinated and who’s not? I mean, there are so many different levels of difficulty.
And privacy comes into it. What is often cited as a reason for not giving out information (which is, generally speaking, bullshit), but it’s a concern for people. I can’t imagine a situation where concierge is or building managers (given the fact that they’re not there all the time, in most buildings), would be turning up in the gym and saying “excuse me, we haven’t seen your double vaccination certificate; get out the gym.” That’s not going to happen. The cops will never get involved in that, either.
No, I guess it might be down to the government to mandate it, really.
Well, they’re not going to even bother.
I don’t think they will. I mean, they’ve mandated certain professions like health workers, but they probably won’t dare to step into strata buildings, I wouldn’t have thought.
They’re very keen to stay out of strata buildings; even in the things they should be doing, they take the view that these are people’s homes, and therefore we shouldn’t interfere, which creates a problem in itself. But I do think there’s a possibility that a building that wanted to enforce that rule, could jump on the first breach and not just send out a notice to comply, you know, ‘you used the gym; you’re not double vaccinated,’ or ‘you declined to give us evidence that you’re double vaccinated. If you do it again, we’ll take you to NCAT and get you fined,’ and then make that very public. Like, put a thing out, saying ‘we have issued a notice to comply against these people for this.’ It’s all about the message, isn’t it?
Sure. But then, it’s really difficult, because maybe that person who’s banned from the gym might say “well, I shouldn’t be paying such high strata levies, because I can’t use all the facilities that I’m paying for.” Or, if they were a tenant, they might say “well, I pay a high rent, because of all the facilities in this building. I should pay a lesser rent, because I don’t have access to them.”
Or, you could get tenants going back to their landlord’s saying “I’m being kept out of the facilities that I’m paying for, you’ve got to charge me…”
“Fight on my behalf, or charge me less.” And then, it might be that unvaccinated people have a less chance of getting tenancies.
Well, that’s possible.
But then, discrimination law comes into it. I spoke to Jane Hearn from the Owners Corporation Network and she said discrimination doesn’t come into it. Discrimination law allows you to talk about vaccinated and non-vaccinated, as well. I don’t know. I mean, it’s just a whole unknown issue. I mean, I can understand; we’re having a dinner party in a couple of weeks and we asked everybody if they were double vaccinated. So I think it’s perfectly understandable that people who are double vaccinated, might not want to be around unvaccinated people in intimate circumstances really. Inside their own homes, that kind of thing. But it’s really, really difficult. Maybe the answer is just to make everybody get vaccinated, which is never going to happen, obviously.
No. But you know, there’s other parts of strata law, that say that you are not allowed to go on common property and endanger other people, but I’m sure somebody could interpret that law to say, if you are unvaccinated and going on common property (and maybe you’re even not wearing a mask, and you’re in the gym), you’re actually endangering other people in the community and you’re not allowed to do that. It may be that bylaws will be passed and maybe people will be breached, possibly. I think if there’s a bylaw passed that says ‘you may not use common property, if you’re not double vaccinated,’ a lot of the people who are not vaccinated will say “oh, that’s a shame,” and just not use common property facilities. Obviously, they have to use the common areas, but there will always be one or two (and I’m not necessarily talking about the crazies who gather in their 1000s to protest against mask wearing or whatever)… There will be people who will take this as an affront to their civil liberties.
And there are some that have legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated. If they are immune-compromised in a certain way, then they have a genuine reason for not getting vaccinated, or the vaccination might not work on them, because of the immune -depressant drugs that they’re taking. There has to be some leeway and some level of understanding, as well. It’s a really tricky issue.
I think a lot of people will be quite happy when we’re told that the world is open for business again, if that ever happens. You know, we’re heading into a period where (we were just discussing this yesterday), that they say when you get 80% of the population double-vaxxed, then all restrictions will come off. That means that in any group of five people, one of them will not be double-vaccinated, or even, vaccinated at all. That’s a really high number.
It is and it’s sad, because the hospitals will have difficulty containing the outbreaks, I guess. Presumably, we’ll all end up getting sick at some point, but hopefully, some of us won’t get very sick.
Well, that’s the issue, is the hospitals getting filled up with people who should not really be there, if they’d been vaccinated. We have a friend in the UK who was told he needed an urgent heart operation and when he asked them “when can I schedule this,” (and this was like a month ago), they said “oh, the end of October.” You’ve got to wait two months for your urgent heart operation and that’s provided there’s not another surge in infections in the UK. So, he could have been still waiting and waiting and waiting and eventually, he had to go private, to get it done.
There was a terrible story at the weekend in the newspapers, about how in Melbourne, there were people who were unvaccinated in hospital, really seriously ill and they were just about to be put on life support and they were begging to be given the vaccination. The nurses were saying to them “look, I’m sorry; it’s too late. It can’t help you now.” You know, that’s just horrendous to hear and hopefully, the message will get out maybe to more people ‘please, just go and get a jab.’
It’s a bit like being in a car crash and you’re flying through the windscreen thinking “I might put my seatbelt on now.” When we come back, we are going to talk about New South Wales politics and what that might mean to people living in strata.
And, we’re back and as we sit here on Monday morning, recording this, the news is that the probable new Premier of New South Wales is going to be Dominic Perrottet, the Treasurer, who is from the right wing of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. His Deputy will be Stuart Ayres, currently Tourism and Jobs Minister and Minister for West Australia and the partner of Marise Payne.
Really? I didn’t know that.
Yeah, they’re a couple. There’s a power couple!
And, the other one, the Treasurer, is going to be Matt Kean, the current Environment Minister. Two things strike me here. In the second and third power position in the State, you’re going to have two former Fair Trading ministers. Stuart Ayres wasn’t there very long. Matt Kean was there, I think at least a year and did a reasonable job. Although, he did help to try to usher in the Airbnb legislation, which, remember, they literally had the microphones plugged in and ready to go. There was going to be an announcement about how Airbnb was going to be allowed free reign and a couple of regional MPs suddenly got the message (thanks to the Owners Corporation Network, it has to be said), that their bed and breakfast places were basically going to be put out of business by Airbnb being allowed free range in New South Wales and they literally canceled the press conference. So, that was not Matt Kean’s finest hour, but what a firebrand as an Environment Minister he’s been.
He’s been great, hasn’t he? A real surprise.
Which is interesting, because Dominic Perrottet has gone on the record, saying that concern about global warming (and I’m not quoting him here), but generally speaking, concern about global warming is a waste of time and money.
Wow! The New South Wales Government, generally, has been pretty good on the environment.
It was under Gladys.
I don’t know if Matt Kean as Treasurer, will moderate that opinion, but we’ve got a guy who is very religious. He comes from a Catholic background. He voted against…
The decriminalization of abortion.
Yep. He said that we had a lot to learn from Donald Trump.
I didn’t know all this, Jimmy! Oh my god!
He basically said that Trump getting elected in America, was a good thing. Being proud of your country…
We have to leave and go to Melbourne!
Being proud of your country, and closing the borders, is not racist and being not in favour of same-sex marriage doesn’t mean you’re a homophobe. He also said that. He is very, very right wing, in terms of New South Wales politics.
See, I’ve only met him once and that was on an apartment building site. That was the unveiling of the build-to-rent; Mirvac’s build-to-rent place out in Sydney Olympic Park. He was talking about the importance of those kind of projects. I mean, I suppose to help the coffers of New South Wales; to keep construction going. You know, he’s a really kind of nice, polite…
He’s an intelligent man. You know, he’s very young, for a Premier, if he gets it. By the time people are listening to this, we’ll know. I would say the chances are, he’s going to become the next Premier. I think apart from anything else, all this stuff about his attitude to the environment and social issues, are going to make him a very easy target for the Labor Party. As long as Gladys was in power, Labor were never going to win an election, but this gentleman is cut from very different cloth.
But maybe, the fact that we have two former Fair Trading Ministers around, it might mean good news for strata, perhaps?
Well, you would think so, but what we really need in strata in New South Wales, is a Strata Commissioner. We need somebody like David Chandler in the building industry, to come in and look at strata law and the way it works and the way Owners Corporations work and go “this is stupid and wrong; fix it.” We know only too well, that there’s a lot of things that are stupid and wrong in strata. I think the chances of that happening with somebody who is not particularly socially liberal (with a small l), who is not particularly engaged with the strata sector; I think the chances are seriously diminished. I may be proved wrong. Having said that, neither Stuart Ayres nor Matt Kean were particularly keen to put a Strata Commissioner in there, so that’s not a voice that’s going to be heard in the upper echelons of the cabinet.
But David Chandler will survive though, won’t he?
Oh, yeah. He’s one of the huge success stories of the building industry. We have a Fair Trading Commissioner… I can’t even remember her name.
I have no idea, either.
There you go! There’s the difference.
Because they have very little to do with strata.
Well, they’re ultimately overseeing everything to do was to strata, but they’re not out there, making a noise the way David Chandler is and maybe that’s an appropriate way to deal with a portfolio that covers something like 55 different pieces of legislation. But yeah, strata needs some close attention and I don’t know if Dominic Perrottet and his merry band, are going to be the people to do that.
Should just say ‘merry men;’ no women in there.
That’s true. That’s very true. When we come back, we are going to talk about the environment and how our position in Australia might affect your interest rates, for your mortgages in the future. That’s after this.
Well, I don’t know if you can hear this, but in the distance, there’s a fire siren going off. Which brings us nicely into the environment and global warming and how Australia’s position on this could affect interest rates. Sue, explain this to me, because it’s too complicated for my feeble brain.
No, it’s actually quite simple and I think Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, started off talking about this a couple of weeks ago, when he was saying (whilst Scomo was out of the country), that we need to get a better position on our greenhouse gas emissions, because he was worried that that would affect interest rates. He was saying well, what is the link, really. Basically, it’s because Australia is part of the global capital market, so some of our banks get their funding internationally. Those international funders are increasingly more aware of the need to be green and to lend money to green enterprises and to green countries. Because Australia is dragging its heels so much on climate change, we’re suddenly getting a really bad reputation and they just don’t want to lend to us anymore. A lot of our banks have put in place lots of schemes to be much more carbon-conscious, but that’s not enough, because the country has got such a bad reputation internationally (or is getting such a bad name, internationally). People don’t want to lend to us, because as well, we’re at the front of climate change. I mean, we’re the people who are really suffering, more than many people. We’ve seen terrible bushfire seasons, we’ve seen terrible flooding, we saw a cyclone the other day (just hit nearby; just beyond the Blue Mountains, at Bathurst). We’re suffering from terrible weather changes, so therefore, that kind of compounds the reluctance to lend to us.
Because we’re too stupid to even help ourselves.
And we’re likely to get tariffs against us, from the EU, which isn’t going to help our economy, either. So as a result, we’re going to have to pay more for our money. We’re going to get secondary lenders, lending us the money, so our interest rates are going to go up. A couple of commentators have said that could be to quite scary levels in the future. We’re talking within the next decade, perhaps, so it may affect some of us with mortgages now, but it really will hit the next generation and it will hit our kids who are trying to get mortgages now for homes. With property prices rising, it’s quite hard and then, with interest rates going up, it’s going to be much harder.
Given the political sensitivity to things like house prices and interest rates and things like that, isn’t the government going to… Shouldn’t they be all over this already? Was Josh Frydenberg signaling that we might need to be changing our attitudes a bit?
Well, that’s right. But he was talking about getting to net-zero by 2050, which is something the government is generally struggling with. Whereas, lots of the rest of the world, are talking about net-zero by 2030, which is 20 years earlier, but, we still can’t do it by 2050. And, Scomo, is kind of casting doubt, on whether we’re going to be represented in Glasgow.
Well, by him; we’ll have somebody there.
Somebody to take a few notes and then go back and warn him.
Or at very least, a drunk Australian will wander in.
But it’s getting quite scary, really. Climate change is; well, it’s never been just a vague theory, because we can actually see it happening in Australia, before our very eyes. But the fact that it’s affecting us financially now and is likely to affect us quite dramatically into the future, it’s quite nerve racking. When I was writing the piece, I got quite anxious about it, really.
And of course, coming back to New South Wales and Matt Kean; his promotion of the hydrogen industry, has been quite dynamic, actually and his excoriating of other States who aren’t doing enough with the environment, has been… He’s really stepped out of the traditional Liberal mould. I wonder if his successor in the Environment portfolio, will be as aggressive in promoting those policies?
Let’s hope as Matt Kean moves up, he might be able to influence the New South Wales Government even more.
Or, the Premier who thinks it’s all hot air.
Or maybe, he can really lean on him; go running with him, or something.
Well, apparently, they’re personal friends, even though they come from different factions.
But it’s getting to the point where even the right wing can’t really deny climate change anymore. You know, they do look like they’re arguing for a flat earth policy.
Yeah, but you know, short-termism comes in and can I get elected at the next election? When you’ve got people in regional coal mining seats saying “hey, stop all this talk about shutting down coal mines, because I’m gonna lose the election if you do it, then it does become much more about self-interest and the short-term.
If the New South Wales Government (and if the Federal Government), really pursued a policy of aggressively implementing and helping new industries in those areas…
Yes and if those people can see real prospects of good, well-paid jobs; stable jobs in other industries, then that’s great, because they have choices then.
Okay. When we come back, we’re going to take things down to a very basic strata level, which is, people stealing bits of common property.
And we’re back. A couple of little things that have come up in the forum, just in the past week or so. One of them is a woman in Victoria; there’s a little space, outside her apartment block. It’s not an apartment, actually, it’s a house. It’s a community title with shared driveway and the person in the house next to her, uses the turning circle area to park their car, which means that people who are turning in that end of that block, go on to not just her driveway, but onto her garden, when they have to turn and she complained to the Owners Corporation (there’s four of them) and find out that the person who parks there had put up a proposal to make that a permanent visitor and resident parking spot. Now, you know exactly what’s going to happen there. Basically, he’s asked the Owners Corporation to give him that space as a permanent parking space, because no visitors will be able to use it, because there’s cars parked in there. The other two people are saying “yeah, fine,” because it doesn’t affect them. I had another thing come in about (I think it’s in Queensland), where somebody has had an area of their garden… They bought it on the understanding that that was their land and it turns out it’s common property and the the Owners Corporation wants it back. So, it’s a strange situation, because I think most of us go in; let’s say we’re buying an apartment. We just look at it, when the real estate agent says “okay, and this is all yours.” We go “alright, great, terrific…” What you really need to do is look at the strata plan and see where the big thick lines are, because you might be paying for something that is not ever going to be yours.
And can be taken away again. It must be something that’s happening more and more, then?
People get the idea that because they’ve been allowed to use something for a long time, then they should permanently be allowed to use it. People get the idea that common property, because the own a share of it, then they are entitled to use all of it. I mean, a typical example is somebody who fills their garage with junk, or uses it as a workshop and then permanently parks on visitor parking. Because they say “well, I kind of own this and the visitors don’t, so why should they have prior rights on this, over me?”
Some people just don’t understand the notion of common property. I remember years ago in our building, we took a piece of common property and turned it into the building manager’s office, because we didn’t have a building managers office and one of the owners of an apartment nearby said “well, I’m entitled to use that as my office, as well. I want a desk in there, too and I want to put my books in there on bookshelves, because I don’t have enough space in my apartment.” It was really hard. Well, we never actually managed to persuade him, about the notion of common property and about how the building manager should be able to use it, but he couldn’t. I mean, obviously, we didn’t let him use it, but he never really understood.
And I remember, we sold off a piece of common property. It was an old plant room that hadn’t been used and it was on the penthouse floor level and the people on the penthouse floor wanted to use it as a wine storage. There was somebody at the meeting, who got really, really angry and said “oh, this is common property; I want to go and examine my common property, now! I want access to that floor,” because we have restricted access, floor-by-floor. The funny thing about that was, she was really angry because the previous building manager or concierge, had allowed her father to park permanently in visitor parking and then the new committee came in and said “why is this car here, all the time?” They said “no, you can’t; it’s visitor parking. You cannot permanently park there.” It was all perfectly legitimate. You know, like, they got estimates on how much it was worth and everybody agreed and the Owners Corporation got money. The old land grab is still a point of contention in a lot of strata and community schemes.
Maybe it’s in our DNA as Australians…
To grab land.
That’s right. We grabbed the land from Aboriginal people; maybe, it’s just continuing.
And there was somebody just the other week, got adverse possession of a house they’d been living in rent-free. There you go. I think we have covered global warming, we’ve covered local bits of land… We’ve covered the whole spectrum of strata living. Thank you, Sue, again, for your contribution.
And thank you all for listening. Bye.
Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe, and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.