Complaint handling and resolving disputes in an owners corporation

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An owners corporation usually involves many people, living close to each other and sharing common property. In this setting, people often have different views and disputes can arise.

Communication is often the best way to prevent disputes, so your owners corporation should encourage those involved to talk about their concerns.

Disputes can occur if an owners corporation makes a decision about a complaint that those involved in the complaint do not agree with. Your owners corporation must either:

If your owners corporation makes its own rules for disputes, these rules must be recorded at Land Use Victoria to be enforceable. For more information, view How to make owners corporation rules.

It is good practice for an owners corporation to make a policy about day-to-day communication between lot owners and the owners corporation. For more information, view Communication about owners corporation rules.

The Owners Corporations Act 2006 sets out a process to help owners corporations (formerly body corporates) deal with complaints.

This process has 3 steps - click on steps 1-3 below to see the details of each step:

Your owners corporation must have an internal complaints process to help its members and people living in the property deal with complaints without resorting to legal action.

We suggest following this process before you ask the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) to undertake dispute resolution, or before you apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a hearing on the matter, as you may get a quicker resolution through your owners corporation.

The process should set out:

  • who to contact if there is a problem or complaint
  • rules detailing the complaints process
  • directions about where to get information
  • how to record the problem or the breach of rules
  • how to notify your owners corporation committee or manager of a problem or complaint
  • how to raise an issue at an owners corporation or committee meeting
  • formal complaint procedures
  • how to nominate a third party to help resolve a dispute.

Making a complaint

A lot owner, tenant or manager can make a complaint in writing to the owners corporation using the approved Owners corporation complaint form (Word, 59KB).

Complaints to the owners corporation may relate to an alleged breach of the:

  • Owners Corporations Act 2006
  • Owners Corporations Regulations 2018
  • owners corporation’s rules.

If the owners corporation decides to take no action, it must provide the complainant with written reasons.

If the owners corporation decides to take action, it must:

If the problem is not resolved

If the problem is not resolved within 28 days – that is, the person who the complaint is against does not rectify the breach - the owners corporation can choose to extend the deadline by issuing the person with a final notice in writing using the approved Final notice to rectify breach - owners corporations (Word, 59KB).

The final notice should state that:

  • the person has 28 days from the date of the notice to comply
  • if the breach is not rectified within 28 days, the owners corporation may take the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

If the complaint is by the owners corporation against a lot owner, tenant or manager, the next step is to apply for a hearing at VCAT. For more information, see Application to the Owners Corporation List - VCAT website.

If the complaint is by a lot owner, tenant or manager, the next step is to contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). For more information, view Step 2 below.

Keeping records

The owners corporation will ask for a written record of facts when it receives a formal complaint. You can use the Issue log sheet - owners corporations (Word, 60KB) to provide this.

A written record is also required if the complaint goes to DSCV or VCAT.

Any complaints and any action taken must be reported to the owners corporation’s annual general meeting. Use the following forms:

The owners corporation must keep records of the complaint for seven years.

If you are a lot owner, tenant or manager and your complaint cannot be resolved using your owners corporation’s internal complaints process, you can:

  • contact us for information and advice
  • seek advice on dispute resolution assistance from DSCV.

It is not compulsory to seek DSCV’s assistance before applying to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). However, DSCV may be able to help resolve the issue more quickly and at a lower cost.

DSCV can only try to resolve a dispute if all parties agree to take part in this process.

Visit the DSCV website

The owners corporation must follow its internal complaints process before making an application to VCAT.

VCAT accepts complaints from:

  • a manager or former manager
  • a lot owner or former lot owner
  • the owners corporation
  • the occupier or former occupier of a lot
  • a mortgagee of a lot
  • an insurer under a policy taken out by the owners corporation
  • the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Estimated timeframes to VCAT

VCAT prioritises cases that the renting laws say must be heard within a certain time, and those considered urgent.

What can VCAT do?

The tribunal can impose penalties for breaches of rules and make a wide range of other orders, such as:

  • ordering someone to do something
  • imposing a penalty for breaches of rules
  • requiring the payment of money owed, as damages or restitution
  • varying or ordering a term of a contract void
  • appointing or removing a manager
  • appointing or removing a chairperson or secretary
  • appointing an administrator.