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Small business in unit, weird visitors constantly
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PopCorn
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05/02/2018 - 9:09 pm
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A year or so back we had a new owner move into our small 4 townhouse complex which has a battle axe driveway. From day 1 there’s been nothing but angst, screaming children 24/7, broken rules left right and centre, some dodgy renovations, constant yelling in front of our windows down mobile phones while the children run and scooter around, and now there’s proof they’re running a small business selling home cooked food, advertised on Facebook.

We’ve had some very suspicious looking visitors in big scary black cars going into the property all day and night (no kidding 1145pm!) and driving in and out of our narrow bendy driveway, parking right in the middle blocking the 4 garages.

I’m honestly scared for the kids who shouldn’t be in the driveway but always are. I’m hating the stream of strangers going by my front door which faces the driveway and is at the street front of the properties. 

We’ve been monitoring the activity for a while, and tonight my neighbour found a small business ad on Facebook with our street address on it, proof it is a business.

Obviously this will affect our insurance. These people are very scary and have threatened/intimidated us before, and our Strata manager has had run ins galore, usually with the excuse that they don’t speak English (their English is as good as mine).

What’s the best way of approaching this from the start? Through strata? The council/food authority? Eventually NCAT if necessary?

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JimmyT
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06/02/2018 - 2:09 pm
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This is not just a strata issue and whatever you do, there’s going to be a backlash, so be prepared for that. 

However, the most important thing is to get a message to them that if they want to continue behaving in this way, they are in the wrong kind of accommodation.

How do you do this? I would prepare the ground for a full-on battle but hope that it never occurs. 

I would talk to the police about their intimidatory behaviour and I would get the strata manager to prepare a list of possible strata breaches that you can hit them with.

You might also talk to your insurer about raising the premiums specifically to deal with the change of use – because the difference can be charged directly back to them. And I would certainly talk to your local council about the illegal food service. 

You might even consider putting a gate on the entrance to the property (with electronic access) and fitting some security cameras and floodlights that would deter the dodgier characters and worst behaviour.

Even better, if you can get a letter from your insurer saying that all these things are a requirement for them continuing to insure you, you might be able to claim the cost against the the neighbours.

Best case scenario, if you can convince them (or get an interpreter to do so) that it’s going to cost them – and only them – a lot of money and hassle if they carry on like this, they might just pack up and move to somewhere that their behaviour doesn’t impact on others.  

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PopCorn
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06/02/2018 - 11:29 pm
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Hmmm there’s a lot to think about for sure, and thank you for your response! My neighbour and I have briefly discussed what we’ll do and I think first up we’ll go to the council about the food business/residential zoning and then get strata involved. I’m honestly happy to pay for lawyers if that is what it takes, I just want our property back to be the lovely happy place it was before the previous owner moved out and the Nightmares from Elm street moved in.

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Flame Tree
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07/02/2018 - 10:20 am
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Hi, yep, bummer! I’d suggest engage other folks like council and insurance and other neighbours where they can engage the owner directly so it can’t be pointed directly back at you being the only complainant and any focus of their wrath. Communicate via the body corporate not individually, that way you get your message delivered but can still be pleasant to them knowing action is underway and you are more free to go your own way. Decisions obviously made with them in mind that you can say affect all owners can also deflect focus from you even allowing you to say you also feel hassled by ‘the body corporate’. I’d be conscious that playing a game with your insurer might bring unintended consequences to you so just be wary of how that might play out. Anyways, all the best – what a pain.

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bluehouse
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07/02/2018 - 1:11 pm
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Before you go to council about the zoning issue, try and collect as much evidence as you can that this business is going on to show them. The inspector will most likely visit their place once (and quite likely in the daytime during the inspectors regular work hours) and if there is nothing for them to see at that time they cant take the matter further. (especially in the case of a home cooked meals business – if your neighbours can just say they are cooking a lot, rather than it being a business.) 

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PopCorn
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17/02/2018 - 5:38 pm
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Well my neighbour called the council who is going to send them a cease & desist letter and ask them to apply to them to run a business from the home, WITH PROOF OF APPROVAL FROM STRATA. Well, I can confirm 3 out of the 4 owners won’t let that happen! In the meantime we have proof of the business from the internet and also other evidence that I won’t go into here. The traffic in the driveway has increased significantly in the past week with visitors even using it as a drive-thru tooting their horn to get the owner to bring the food to the car! Essentially these people have no regard to us neighbours at all or for the safety of the driveway or noise their children make playing in it. We’ll see how the council goes though!

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Shred
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18/02/2018 - 4:32 pm
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Make sure that the Council environmental health department is aware of the activities of the business.  There are strict requirements for premises used to prepare food for sale to the public and harsh penalties for failing to comply.  It is extremely unlikely that the neighbours have a commercial kitchen in their unit.

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PopCorn
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21/03/2018 - 9:32 pm
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Despite the warning from council, they continue! Back to the council we go. They’ve just added an unauthorized animal into the equation (I’m ok about the animal, but they should apply like the rest of us!) so we have our work cut out for us. Thanks for your help and advice. 🙂

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