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VCAT Owners Corporation Self representing Tips
Topic: VCAT Owners Corporation Self representing Tips
Posted: 15/August/2015 at 00:29
Tips for self representing at VCAT’s Owners Corporation List for owners against dodgy managers, owners corporations, and VCAT members.
The VCAT Owners Corporation list is fully funded by the Victorian Property Fund, which in turn is funded by Real Estate Agents and Owners Corporation Managers. Consequently a ‘conflict of interest’ exists. VCAT is certainly perceived as having a bias towards managers. VCAT not only refuses to rule against managers and OC’s, but it protects them by coming down hard on any owner who dares to complain. The linked article from The Age below, is a small sample of the bias.
However, if you decide to represent yourself against an Owners Corporation or manager, how can you ensure you get a fair go – well the fact is you can’t. But the following tips may help.
1. Agreeing to solicitor representing the OC: The members have the power to allow solicitor to represent managers. However, they will ask if you mind if the OC being represented. If you say you don’t mind you are agreeing to the solicitor representing against you, because you agreed this makes it easier for the member to order you to pay costs. (Yes, solicitors are not supposed to represent in cases under $10,000, and Members are not supposed to order such legal costs against owners – but remember the laws are only a guide at VCAT)
2. Financials: If you have previously voted to accept the financials at ann AGM etc, members will claim you you can’t now complain. A simple fact is that it’s not illegal to change your mind. If circumstances now show the financials do not add up, say that to the Member.
3. Voting, abstain from voting: Because of the above it’s best if you always abstain from any OC voting. Including financials and other issues.
4. Documents - how to get them: Owners Corporation Managers are notorious for not providing OC document inspections as required by the OC Act. Members are just as notorious for not ordering Managers to do so. This denies the owner viewing documents. To get documents quote the Corporation Act, “Section 144 etc”.
5. Documents costs: don’t let member charge you ridiculous fees to view/copy documents. By the Act you are allowed to inspect the documents at no charge. Take your own scanner or camera to copy documents. Take a witness to inspect documents, otherwise the manager may claim he refused to show you documents because you became aggressive, or that he showed you all documents when he in fact refused. If you have these types of issues sigh an affidavit stating exactly what happened.
6. Confirm with the member what you should do if you don’t get documents as ordered. This way when you go back to VCAT complaining that the manager refused to show you documents, if the member abuses you for wasting time, you can say you are only following VCAT's previous direction.
7. Don’t be fooled into believing you’re guilty: Members may intimidate you, to make you feel guilty. Once you start to doubt yourself you’re as good as done. Don’t be intimidated by Members ignoring or denying your claims, or gesturing and yelling at you. Stand up for due process.
8. Take a witness to sit in the hearings gallery. This makes it harder for member to unfairly rule against you. But a warning, members will try and discredit you in the eyes of the witness, and once that's done, he will whitewash against you. You need a witness who is legal savvy. Someone who knows how VCAT works.
9. Don’t stay silent when the member makes significant claims against you, because this means you are effectively agreeing, which makes them legal. If you disagree (Say for the record) with false rulings by member they are easier to appeal.
10. OC & manager solicitors may open with a list of insignificant and false claims, including details such as dates to upset the owner, The Member may play the game and stare the owner down at the same time. This is an attempt to intimidate and upset the owner. Take notes, and answer each claim in turn. This will make the solicitor look foolish, and show the members that you are not his fool.
11. Member questioning Owners Corporation or its solicitor: To make it appear that no bias exists, Members will only ask the OC representative questions they know they can answer. For example the member may demand copies of the VCAT application form, knowing full well that if the OC does not have a copy, that he has a copy in his file (The member will first look through his file and act surprised that they find it).
12. Have the orders written properly. The member writes the orders in an obscured way then denies the ‘intended’ orders at a latter hearing. For example he leaves off significant dates, detail, etc. Don’t trust members with orders – insist that they are written as stated.
13. Audio: Don’t think that if the member is blatantly ignoring law that you can get audio and appeal. Members audit hearing audio. This includes their own silly claims, abusive comments, manager & solicitors comments that indicate guilt.
14. The Act and its laws only applies against owners. In a serious case, if an owner tries to put claims against a manager, the member will dismiss or view them as trivial. If this upsets owner bonus – because this gives the member an excuse to whitewash against the owner.
15. Don't claim fraud or make serious allegations without getting documents/proof first.: VCAT members despise anyone who effectively claims fraud against a manager. Never claim fraud unless you already have the documents, because there is no way Members will give you access to documents if they think you may use them to claim fraud.
16. State the legal codes when being treated unfairly. "Due process", when the member refuses you documents etc. "Natural Justice", when the member is being blatantly unfair. "I do not agree", when the member is making outrageous and case deciding decisions.
17. Remember, VCAT members only use the law 'as a guide', especially when it involves a claim against a manager or OC.
Edited by mikemike - 15/August/2015 at 22:49
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