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Podcast: What a great year … for pets and renters

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This week’s podcast may be the first of 2021 but 2020 doesn’t get away that easily.

Last year will be remembered in global politics as the year of Brexit, Trump, the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the Trump-rump. Democracy in the USA is hanging by a thread but it will survive.

Talking about democracy, on a much more local level, we look back at the battle over “no-pets” by-laws and how it tore apart two apartment blocks, and made NCAT look pretty foolish too.

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Inevitably, we examine the entrails of holiday lets like Airbnb. In NSW, in particular, the slow drip feed of legislation to control the hitherto unfettered spread of holiday lets was a lesson in what happens when politicians make half-baked decisions that they neither fully support nor the consequences of which they fully appreciate.

Meanwhile, Airbnb’s flacks continue their policy of answering only the questions they wish you’d asked rather than those for which we require answers.

Sadly, it seems, Stayz aren’t much better these days, especially when it comes to manipulating statistics.  It makes you wonder how dumb our politicians have to be to fall for all this claptrap.

Collateral damage

It would be nice if someone just came out and said “we desperately need tourist dollars and apartment residents – especially renters – are just collateral damage in the ongoing battle for bucks.  Please go and live in a crappy area where no one wants to go and give us some peace.”

We also look at the effect of the pandemic across Australia and realise that it’s all intricately intertwined. Covid-19 lockdowns and lock-outs forced a lot of holiday letting hosts out of the market – which was great news for renters – but then compelled people to holiday nearer to home, which saw holiday lets come roaring back when locals who could travel replaced all the foreign visitors who were not allowed to come here.

Oh, and the lockdowns persuaded lots of apartment owners to get pets, which takes us back to the first item.

Defects

Then there was the continuing story of apartment block defects and the powers finally granted to Building Commissioner David Chandler to put the blowtorch to the belly of dodgy developers.  We won’t see the results of his handiwork for years, when apartment blocks stop falling over.

And we talk about changes to the legislations of various states plus build-to-rent, the new (old) way of renting. One landlord, no strata committee, great facilities, long leases and no bond.

See, something good did come out of 2020 after all.

Transcript in full

Jimmy  00:00

2020 was a pretty horrific year across Australia, and you’d think the only story in town was COVID-19, but we’re looking back at the whole year, purely through the prism of strata. There’s a lot to talk about. We’ll try and get it all into this episode. I’m Jimmy Thomson.

Sue 00:21

And I’m Sue Williams.

Jimmy 00:22

And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.

Jimmy

2020, Sue?

Sue  00:40

It was a huge year, wasn’t it, in lots of ways?

Jimmy 00:42

Glad to see the back of it.

Sue 00:43

Yes, absolutely. Let’s hope the next one is a good one.

Jimmy  00:47

COVID 19; it affected just about every aspect of Australian life, but there was other stuff going on, especially in strata. What was the big story that stuck out for you in 2020?

Sue  01:01

I think it must be pets. I mean, that’s COVID-related as well, because lots of people got pets because of COVID.

They were stuck in lockdown, so they wanted some company and we had that incredible decision by the Appeals Court, to uphold one owner’s claim that a blanket ban on pets was unconscionable. Therefore now, in essence, all apartment buildings in New South Wales have to allow pets. Nobody can impose a blanket ban,

Jimmy  01:30

They can impose restrictions on what they do in common property, but that was huge. I don’t know if it undermined or supported the whole Tribunal thing, because initially in 2019, the Tribunal had two cases ruled that blanket by-law bans were unconscionable, and then the Appeals Board of the Tribunal, (NCAT), overturned that decision and said the by-laws were okay. Then, this past year, the Court of Appeals said ‘no, the lower version of the Tribunal was correct.’  Has it caused much of an upheaval that you know of?

Sue  02:17

I think a lot of the people who were against pets being allowed into apartments (maybe in some of those buildings with blanket bans), were expecting a deluge of animals and pee all over their lobby floors, and lots and lots of barking, and it hasn’t really happened at all. I think they’ve hopefully been pleasantly surprised by how pets don’t really affect people’s lifestyles. The lifestyles of those who don’t have pets, they don’t affect them very much in well-run buildings. I think it’s come in with a bit of a whimper really, rather than a…

Jimmy  02:52

Very much so. What we’re discovering is that a lot of the buildings that had blanket bans on pets; a lot of the people who were living in there, were living there because they didn’t particularly want to live near pets, so there hasn’t been a huge influx of animals. We had an interesting post to the Flat Chat forum, where somebody said they’d gone to their committee and said, “now that this thing has come through the Court of Appeal, I’d quite like to have a small dog. Can you give me permission?” They said, “we don’t have anything in our bylaws that allows us to give you permission. “

Sue  03:29

Wow, but do they have anything in their bylaws that stopped them?

Jimmy  03:33

Yes, what the committee’s saying is they have a bylaw that says no pets. That bylaw has now been pretty much rescinded by the Appeals Court. Except, it hasn’t, because it’s still on the books.

Sue  03:52

Right, so what did you advise that want-to-be pet owner?

Jimmy  03:56

I said, “look, your committee is trying to play clever buggers here and say, ‘well, we don’t have a bylaw, that allows you to have pets, therefore, we cannot give you permission to have a pet.’”

I’m saying, get a pet and say to them, ‘you’ve got the opportunity now to pass bylaws, where you can restrict the way the pet lives in the building and goes through common property and all the rest of it. If you’re not prepared to bite that bullet, then I’ll just get a pet.’

Sue  04:28

That’s right, and they will have to take him to court or to NCAT, to stop it if they want to.

Jimmy  04:33

Then they’ll get booted out because the Court of Appeal creates precedent, that goes right through the whole system.

Sue  04:41

I think the debate now is focused much more on pets on common property; whether owners have to carry them, whether they have to not catch a lift when there are other people in the lift (if the other people object). How to stop barking dogs. How to stop wailing cats. We have a wailing cat.

Jimmy  05:00

We have a wailing cat, we discovered.

Sue  05:01

The focus now is much more on the bylaws, which is great. We’ve kind of moved on a bit, but in New South Wales the strata laws are just going under review at the moment. The New South Wales government could step in and change the legislation, couldn’t they?

Jimmy  05:16

Well, they kind of have to tidy it up, because while we’re focused on pets, what this basically was, was a ruling about bylaws. It said you cannot have bylaws that affect owners in what they do only in their apartment. What they’re saying is there are already aspects of strata law that if you have a noisy animal, you can be required to either train it to stop being noisy or take it out of the building. That law has been there for years. What the Court of Appeal said was if somebody does something in their home, and it doesn’t affect anyone else necessarily, then people can do what they want. For instance (and this is going to be the next big battle), is timber or hard floors.

Sue  06:06

But they can affect other people, if the noise reverberates down or up.

Jimmy  06:09

Yes, but you’ve got to prove that that’s happening. You can’t say; ‘no, you can’t have a timber floor, because that might happen.’ This is the thing; it’s what might happen. That’s the key. You cannot put bylaws in that say ‘we’re not going to let you do this because it might affect other people.’ What the Court of Appeal said is there’s already things in the legislation that say if people are affected, then you can have some form of redress.

Sue  06:35

That’s going to be hard, isn’t it? You had the apartment building where one unit was being used to make porn movies, but they were so noisy with all that kind of screaming stuff, that that really affected the neighbors. They managed to clamp down on that.

Jimmy  06:50

You couldn’t have a bylaw that said you may not make pornographic films.

Sue  06:58

Silent movies. Unless, you had a constant parade of people coming in and out across your lobby and they were using concierge services much more, or something like that. You could restrict it in that way, perhaps.

Jimmy  07:10

If you’re running a business that requires people to come into your property, rather than just working from home, that is a different thing again.

Sue 07:16

That’s commercial use.

Jimmy 07:18

It’s quite complicated. I’m just hearing on the radio this morning that people in Australia are boosting their income by making porn privately. This sort of cottage industry of pornography is growing up and not just in cottages, it seems.

Sue  07:42

And there’s likely to be more regulation coming in about that, because I think a lot of people are being promised, you know, $2,000 for a movie about themselves naked, and they’re only getting $120. It seems that the authorities are coming back to clamp down on that industry as well.

Jimmy  07:59

It’s very hard to do, because as we heard on the radio this morning, people are stealing other people’s stuff and repurposing it and then charging people money to see stuff that they’d never made in the first place. Who would have thought that the porn industry would have immoral people in it?

Sue  08:19

Going back to pets though, I think Victoria are also reviewing their strata laws at the moment, aren’t they? They’ll probably all be looking towards New South Wales to see what’s happening here with pets and looking at it as part of their review of strata laws.

Jimmy  08:34

As far as I know, in Victoria, they changed the law earlier this year, so that tenants could not be refused pets by their landlords.

Sue  08:47

Oh wow, we don’t have that in New South Wales.

Jimmy  08:49

We don’t have that. We’re actually more likely to go that way and follow them. I think in Victoria; they can have bylaws. They don’t seem so fussed about it there, they really don’t. There doesn’t seem to be that anger and paranoia about having pets that we’ve seen here in New South Wales.

They’re changing the law so that previously (and it’s still the case in New South Wales), your landlord can say ‘no pets.’ Now in Victoria, the landlord cannot say that, but the committee still can. They might change that, and we might change our residential letting laws to allow people, so it’s going to be another big year for pets. When we come back, we’re going to talk about the other big thing that happened in the past year, which was the Building Commissioner getting his powers. That’s after this. One of the other big things that happened in the past year was that New South Wales Building Commissioner, David Chandler, was given the power to do all the things he needs and wants to do.

Sue  10:07

That was a great advance, wasn’t it? I think it took us all a bit by surprise, because we were thinking this was going to be a bit mealy-mouthed and it wasn’t really going to do anything, but he seems very determined to revamp the building industry to make it much more responsible than it has been in the past.

Jimmy  10:24

Yeah, and the ‘past’ is a key word in this, because he’s basically saying, ‘I can’t change the past. Things that were happened before, there’s nothing I can do about them.’ His plan is to really crack down on dodgy developers, in a sophisticated way. His team will identify the projects that are most likely to be a problem and then they will go in at any stage in the development and say, ‘you need to do this, you need to do that, if you’re going to get certification.’ Ultimately, at the end of the process, they will put their inspectors in and say, quite possibly, ‘we are going to reject your Certificate of Occupancy.’ Without a Certificate of Occupancy, developers cannot sell apartments; they cannot legally sell them. Obviously, they’re targeting specific developments and developers. They are not doing this for every development. They’re also encouraging the good developers to get to a point where insurance companies will insure them

Sue  11:39

Great, because we haven’t had insurance for a long time.

Jimmy  11:43

Decades. Simply because the insurance companies were saying, ‘look, this is such high risk for us, because there are no controls on development; there are no effective controls. We are not going to insure buildings that we believe are probably going to fall down.’

Sue  11:58

And that was above three levels, was it?

Jimmy  11:59

Anything above three. What he’s saying (what David Chandler is saying), is “okay, let’s get to the point where insurance companies are going, ‘ooh, there’s a lucrative market here that we can get into, and the risk is manageable.’” You’ll have a kind of apartheid of, of development buildings, where you’ll have buildings that come with insurance and then a lot of buildings that have no insurance, because the builders don’t have a track record and the insurance companies don’t trust them. Or maybe, they do have a track record, and it’s a bad one. Then it becomes a consumer thing, where you or I go to buy an apartment off the plan, and they’ve got two buildings side-by-side that look similar. One of them has got building insurance, and the other one doesn’t, but it’s cheaper.

Sue  12:56

At least you know what you’re getting into. You might end up choosing the cheaper one; taking the risk, but at least you know that there is a risk there.

Jimmy  13:05

Well, you would think, but as we know, owners, and purchasers of apartments are often first-time buyers and it’s often the first time that they’ve been in apartments, and they don’t often realize how many risks there are, but at least it’s a step forward.

Sue  13:22

Absolutely and it’s interesting, because the overseas market has collapsed, really. We have very few buyers at the moment from China; from Asia. That’s not really propping up developers in the way that it used to, so they’re going to have to really push to have pre-sales, in order to start their buildings. They’re going to have to make a lot more promises and those promises are going to have to be backed up.

Jimmy  13:46

Well, absolutely and the government desperately needs these buildings to keep being built. Not that they’re particularly concerned about housing people. They’re more concerned about keeping the economy ticking over and nothing keeps the economy rolling quite like building apartment blocks. We’ve still got hanging over from 2019, the Mascot Tower fiasco. Those people aren’t getting back in anytime soon.

Sue  14:17

They’re in court at the moment, aren’t they?

Jimmy  14:19

With the developers of the adjacent building. They’re trying to prove that they’re the ones who caused the subsidence in their building. There’s another one popped up just towards the end of the year, which is the Otto apartments.

Sue  14:33

You’ve got Opal Tower. They’re addressing their defects, aren’t they? The builder, Icon Construction, which is connected to the builder of Opal Tower and is connected to a number of other buildings, including Otto around Sydney; they’ve gone into voluntary administration, I think, haven’t they?

Jimmy  14:52

Yes, so those defects might never be paid for. The Otto building (which is one of theirs), is claiming $20 million in defects. It’s not Phoenixing unless that company appears again, in the same offices with the same address and the same telephone numbers, with a slightly different name. The Phoenixing issue is going to be, I think, the hot issue of the next year, because it’s easy for developers to slip through the cracks, because planning, building, construction legislation is state-based, and company legislation is federal. When the New South Wales government is saying ‘we want to stop these companies, going into liquidation and then popping up again under another name, and leaving all the debts behind them’ (which is what Phoenixing is). They’re saying, ‘well, we cannot change company law, because that’s the federal government,’ and the federal government is dithering, because they don’t want to do anything that will prevent people from building apartment blocks or other buildings, because that’s a big part of the economy. When they’re sitting down having their big National Cabinet, it’s something they need to address, because it’s such a huge loophole.

Sue  16:14

Yes, and apparently, Scott Morrison has a huge new regard for Gladys Berejiklian, so maybe Gladys could take this issue to him and get some action on that.

Jimmy  16:23

It would be nice; let’s hope so. What have we got next, Sue?

Sue  16:29

The other big issue of the year was Airbnb.

Jimmy  16:32

Okay, let’s talk about that when we come back from this little break.

Sue  16:42

What happened in Airbnb this year, Jimmy?

Jimmy  16:44

We’ve barely mentioned COVID, but right at the beginning of the year; it all goes back again to 2019. The New South Wales Government was going to bring in laws that allowed apartment blocks to say, ‘we don’t want short-term holiday letting in our blocks.’ They were going to bring in a code of conduct, and they were going to bring in a blacklist, and then COVID hit. The first thing we saw was Airbnb hosts advertising ‘come and stay in this apartment, if you’re going to be self-isolating, and returned from overseas,’ and that caused a lot of anger, because there’s no legislation that allowed apartment blocks to say, ‘if you’re isolating, because you might have COVID-19, you’ve got to let us know, so we can put safety measures in place.’

We know that people were coming back from overseas, picking up an Airbnb, self-isolating, and not necessarily being responsible, in that they were going down, using the pool, using the gym (if they were still open at that point), and potentially turning apartment blocks into super-spreader hubs.

Sue  18:04

So, the other residents were pretty angry?

Jimmy  18:06

Yes, and again, it just goes to show that people who run Airbnb’s in apartment blocks, really often don’t give a shit about anybody else. It’s all about making money while you can. The next thing that happened was the bottom fell out of the Airbnb market, because there were no overseas tourists coming here.

Sue  18:29

And no interstate tourists, when the state borders closed.

Jimmy  18:31

When that happened a little bit later, yes. That hit the short-term letting market, and a lot of people who’d been taken in by these get-rich-quick seminars, where you go along and they say, ‘rent four properties; put your own stuff in, get somebody to manage them for you, or manage them yourselves, do the cleaning and change the linen (I was gonna say change the litter ), and do all that stuff. You can make X amount of profit, (if you choose the right property in the right area).’ A lot of people had committed to year-long leases and suddenly found they didn’t have anybody in those apartments. A lot of people who had turned their residential units into short-term letting holiday lets, realized that they had them full of furniture. Nobody really wants to rent fully-furnished. I say nobody; very few people. We saw piles of furniture and stuff appearing on streets, where the thoughtful people who run Airbnb ‘s in apartments thought ‘I’ll just dump this out in the street and somebody else can take care of it.’ That happened for a while and then the borders were closed, and we couldn’t leave; we couldn’t leave the country to go on holiday. There was a sudden upsurge in short-term holiday letting for people in New South Wales, traveling in New South Wales; people in Victoria traveling in Victoria. So, they got another upsurge of business and you know, fair enough, for the people who (especially the people in traditional holiday towns, where they’ve always had holiday lettings) …  All that things like Airbnb have done has meant that they don’t have to go through the local real estate agent to get the rentals; they can do it directly. That’s fine. In the meantime, just before Christmas, we were talking to people who were saying, ‘I want to go away. I want to take a break over Christmas…I can’t find anywhere.’

Sue  20:46

Yes, because there was such a shortage.

Jimmy  20:48

Everything’s booked out. It wasn’t a total disaster for the short-term letting industry.

What happened in New South Wales; they were supposed to bring in all the legislation that I talked about before, and then in June, they brought in allowing apartment blocks to pass bylaws, saying that there would be no empty flat, short-term letting, but they are allowed to (or owners are allowed to), have short-term letting if the apartment is their principal place of residence. What has come out since then, a lot of legal opinions are if you stay in your flat for four days a week, and then go off and stay with your romantic partner or your parents, or take a holiday yourself at the weekend, that’s still considered your principal place of residence, even though you are not there, while the Airbnb or Stayz person is in there. It kind of undermines the whole thing. The empty flat thing is still going to be happening, even in buildings that say, ‘we don’t want total strangers coming in here and wandering around, not knowing where they’re going or what they’re doing.’ That did come in. Then there was the Code of Conduct that came in with great fanfare at the beginning of December, where they were saying that if hosts, guests or apartments cause a nuisance twice, they can be blacklisted for up to five years, and everybody’s saying this is the end of the party flat. But of course, it wasn’t. Because, there is no blacklist, there is no register. Another thing they were going to bring in.

Sue  22:33

You really need a register for a blacklist to work.

Jimmy  22:35

And you need a blacklist, for a blacklist to work. They’re promising that by June next year, and the rest of the code of conduct. There was a big part of the proposed code of conduct that was supplied by the fire authorities. They said for a place to be run as an Airbnb or other short-term letting establishment, it needs to have smoke alarms in every room, heat sensors in the kitchen, special lighting to show exits, maps on the backs of doors (like you get in hotels), to show you how to get out. All of which are pretty reasonable things to put in, because if you’ve got a family of three or four who are in an apartment, and they don’t even know what the layout of the apartment is. They don’t know the layout of the lobbies. They don’t know where the fire exits are… You really don’t want people like that running around when there’s smoke pouring out into the lobbies or whatever. Of course, that would mean that probably 70%, 80% of current short-term letting places would just have to give up. They couldn’t possibly afford to put all those things in.

Sue  23:48

That would cost about $2,000?

Jimmy  23:51

More like five and don’t forget, that a lot of short-term letting properties are sublets, so somebody has rented the property specifically to let it out on short-term later.

Sue  24:06

They don’t have the authority to actually make those changes anyway.

Jimmy  24:09

It may well be that their landlords don’t even know that they’re using this, so it’s a big mess. Will it be resolved this year? Hard to tell.

Sue  24:19

We want to get David Chandler on to it, don’t we really? We want to clone that man!

Jimmy  24:22

We want somebody like him, coming in. I mean, we keep saying there should be a strata Commissioner and the government keeps saying, ‘no, we don’t agree.’ It’s really funny that Airbnb especially, will point to the legislation in Tasmania, and say ‘this is the blueprint for everybody; every other government in Australia.’ The legislation in Tasmania basically says ‘yeah, do what you want.’ They had a situation last year where it got so bad with the number of people who were turning residential properties into holiday lets, that they were paying them money to put them back on the residential market. People were sleeping in tents in the middle of Hobart because there were no residential rentals available. The government, every three months, has been doing a review of the state of holiday letting and they came out and said, ‘oh, look, the number of holiday lets has gone down. The number of residential rentals available has gone up.’ Basically, they just said that that’s what the figures show. Along comes Airbnb (and Stayz for that matter) and says, ‘this proves that short-term holiday letting doesn’t have any effect on the residential rental market, because the number of residential lights as has gone up in Tasmania.’ The fact is, quite clearly what they’ve ignored is that Tasmania has been closed for six months to visitors from the rest of Australia and from overseas. This actually proves that short-term holiday letting affects residential rents. There’s somebody I saw on TV; they were talking about spokespeople for short-term letting and they said, ‘what you have to remember is every time they say anything, they are lying,’ and it’s true. They will just make up; they’ll take any set of statistics and twist it around and try to prove that what we all can see is true, is not true. They will tell you that black is white and vice versa. This is going to be an interesting year in short-term letting. We hope international travel will open up again… We hope travel in Australia will open up again, but it remains to be seen how that affects the short-term letting industry, because it is an industry.

Sue  26:54

Sure. A final happy note was the emergence of the build-to-rent sector.

Jimmy  26:59

Let’s have a chat about that after this break. Sue, there’s a lot of confusion about build-to-rent and what it is and what it isn’t.

Sue  27:15

I think it always gets confused with affordable housing, which it isn’t. Affordable housing is housing which is provided by the state government, usually for essential workers like nurses, fire, police; those kinds of people who just don’t get paid enough money. Build-to-rent is a completely different sector. Its purpose-built apartments for people who want to rent as a lifestyle or for short periods of time. In New South Wales, we’ve just had our first build-to-rent place open to tenants at the end of last year. That was a place in Sydney Olympic Park. Queensland has had a new build-to-rent apartment building opened, that wasn’t purpose-built. It was built for residential and then it changed to build-to-rent because people realize that the residential market wasn’t as strong. It’s basically apartments which are built to a very high standard and have a great level of amenity.

They have lots of facilities like gyms, pools, libraries. Even working spaces- communal working spaces- and the one we saw at Sydney Olympic Park by Mirvac, also had a children’s play room and a playground, that kind of thing.They want to attract renters there, because they’re paying just above market rates. On the plus side, they have real security of tenure. The leases are about a year long, and you can choose to roll them over so you could, in theory, rent for the next 10 years, the same apartment building.

Jimmy 28:51

And there’s no bond?

Sue 28:52

There’s no bond, and often white goods are all supplied with the apartment as well.

Jimmy  28:57

And replaced when they go wonky.

Sue  28:59

Yep, that’s right. You’ve got onsite building management, who look after everything so there’s no maintenance really, and it’s a fantastic alternative for people who maybe are not interested in buying their own home or can’t afford to buy their own home.

Jimmy  29:13

You were talking to somebody just last week, I believe, about this and they were talking about an arms race.

Sue  29:19

There are so many build-to-rent projects now under construction or in the planning stages and they are all trying to find a better level of facilities to woo tenants over. If one has a nice pool, the next one has an even better pool, plus a spa, plus a sauna. Then the next one, they have a yoga studio as well as a gym. They were talking about the arms race of build-to-rent.

Jimmy  29:47

Right, which works for the consumer. What about pets?

Sue  29:52

Most of them allow pets, yes. They’re all pet friendly. In the one in Sydney Olympic Park, they’ve actually set up little pet walking groups as well. Just the tenants themselves. They kind of look after each other’s pets when they go away, and they’ve got all these kinds of informal little social groups operating. Because for tenants, sometimes in apartment buildings, they can be treated as second-class citizens. They’re not allowed (or very rarely), to go to strata committee meetings. They don’t have a say, but with these tenant blocks, they do actually have a say.

Jimmy  30:25

There’s no committee because there’s no strata.

Sue  30:27

No, that’s right, because the developer retains all the ownership of all the all the apartments, but they have meetings with tenants once a month, mostly. If there are issues, they will have them more regularly. You’ve got on-site management and they’re really keen to keep all the tenants happy, because they want them to keep coming.

Jimmy 30:48

They don’t want the churn.

Sue 30:49

No, that’s right. You know, for them, the perfect thing is 100%, tenancy, occupancy, and people moving only once a year. Some people just staying on and staying on. It’s all really customer-focused, which is really quite fantastic. It’s all tenants together, so they’re all equal. They all have an equal say, in the running of the building. We’ve always had a housing crisis and under-supply of housing, but hopefully this sector will emerge as a really strong sector for the sorts of people who don’t want to invest their life savings in property. Maybe they have a business that they want to start or a business they want to be putting finance into, or they may decide they want to go overseas for a while. They don’t really want to own a property that they have to maintain while they’re overseas, so it’s a great alternative.

Jimmy  31:44

And they’re building more. Is there a couple of projects in Melbourne?

Sue  31:45

Yes. There’s a lot of projects in Melbourne. There’s a lot of projects in Brisbane; lots of projects in Sydney, and lots of projects in Perth as well. We’re going to see a lot more buildings finished, completed, and advertising for tenants.

Jimmy  32:00

They even sound like they’d be a bit of a honeypot for Airbnb hosts.

Sue  32:06

Well, because they’re run really tightly by the developers who hold them (they have on-site building management), they are saying they’re not going to be allowing Airbnb; they’re not going to be allowing subletting in that way. They’re going to be able to keep a very close eye on them. They seem to have an active social life; all the tenants there. They’ll know exactly who’s coming and who’s going, so I don’t think it’s going to be open to Airbnb at all.

Jimmy  32:34

Otherwise, Airbnb would just take over because of all the fabulous facilities.

Sue  32:39

Well, that’s right.

Jimmy  32:41

Interesting. Now elsewhere in Australia (just to wrap up this session), we know that currently, New South Wales is inviting ideas, thoughts, opinions, about how we can improve strata law in New South Wales. That’s underway on the website. Victoria has got this kind of rolling review of their strata laws. Everybody’s been a bit distracted by the whole COVID thing, let’s be fair. West Australia, earlier this year, brought in a whole complete new set of strata laws.

Sue  33:17

Oh, is that going alright?

Jimmy  33:19

Well, they think it is. They think it’s so good that we’re getting commentators from West Australia saying ‘hey, you guys should have laws like ours.’  We have to say, ‘well, we kind of had those laws for the past five years.’

Sue 33:31

Your laws were modeled on ours.

Jimmy 33:33

But congratulations for having new laws anyway. Queensland, I don’t know; it’s such a mess there. It’s such an awful mess. Believe it or not, you can buy a 25-year management contract and the owners of the apartments in your building have no say in who the contract is sold to or what the terms of the contract are. It’s just obscene.

Sue  34:02

In New South Wales, we got rid of that 10 years ago, didn’t we?

Jimmy  34:06

Oh, more. Just about every state in Australia has a law saying you cannot pre-sell contracts. They have to be approved at the first AGM. I got a report recently that up in northern New South Wales (which is close to the border with Queensland), developers up there have gone ‘oh, we could sell a contract to somebody and just sneak it through at the first AGM.’

Sue  34:34

When people don’t really know what’s happening.

Jimmy  34:36

They don’t know what’s happening. Their neighbors have the same situation. They’re talking to people just across the border who go ‘yeah, we’ve got a building manager; an on-site caretaker.’

That is something to look out for. I’m trying to remember the name of the ministry that has now taken over running strata in Queensland. Up until the last election, I think it was the Attorney General’s office, but I think it’s moved into one of their strange tourism and wine and fisheries and horse racing. The government really doesn’t take it that seriously up there.

Sue  35:23

I guess in Northern Territory, there are far fewer apartments there. Darwin is probably the only city with a fair proportion of apartments. There’s nowhere else, really.

Jimmy  35:33

At one point it was the fastest growing and then you’ve got South Australia where if you’re in dispute with your neighbor, you have to go to a District Court. There’s no Tribunal or anything like that. So, you know, it’s different. It’d be great to have some sort of universal base-level strata law for the whole country, but that isn’t gonna happen in our lifetime.

Sue  35:54

No, I don’t think so.

Jimmy  35:56

When we come back, we will be doing our Hey Martha’s for this week. And we’re back. Sue, what is your Hey Martha; your first Hey Martha for 2021?

Sue  36:17

Well, on a happy note, we have finally (almost) finished our bathrooms. Sympathy out there to anybody considering any renovation projects in 2021. We just finished and Jimmy, your bathroom looks fabulous in green and black. It looks wonderful. Then you decided to paint the inside of your bathroom door, didn’t you?

Jimmy 36:41

Well, it’s a 20-year-old, grubby, white bathroom door.

Sue 36:45

So, you planed it down nicely and then painted it a beautiful, really luminous, vivid green.

Jimmy  36:54

It was much greener than I thought it looked on the color chart.

Sue  36:59

And the lights in bathrooms are just so deceptive as well. I thought it looked a nice pale green on the color card, as well and the tiler turned around to you and said, ‘oh my goodness, it’s like Shrek’s bathroom now.’ The project manager looked at it and said, ‘Jimmy, what were you thinking?’

Jimmy  37:21

See, one of our friends said, ‘don’t try to match the green because then it will look like you tried to match it and it won’t be the same.’ You can never get it, because the walls are plaster and the door has got a kind of sheen on it. So, I overdid the ‘not trying to match’ thing.

Sue  37:41

But that’s so sad, because you spent the whole of Christmas and the New Year…

Jimmy  37:45

Scraping.

Sue  37:47

Scraping the old paint off and putting paint stripper on it, then planing it down again and…

Jimmy  37:50

Sanding, a different thing. All the home renovators are out there going, ‘he wasn’t planing it.’

Sue  38:00

So, you’re very glad that you’ve finished that and now you’ve painted it a very pale green, and very nice it looks too.

Jimmy  38:10

What I didn’t think, was that our friend was right. You can never match, but that’s going to happen anyway. I went for something quite close to the green for the rest. Yeah, it doesn’t match, but it looks great, because green will always go with green.

Sue  38:24

Hallelujah. We’ve finished the bathrooms, almost. What’s your Hey, Martha?

Jimmy  38:29

Well, today is the day when we all have to wear masks in shops in New South Wales. I don’t think it applies to Victoria or anywhere else at the moment.

Sue  38:42

No, I think in Victoria they do still wear them indoors.

Jimmy  38:45

So, in shops, indoors, in cinemas, in public transport (on public transport). I haven’t seen anything that describes how you should wear the mask. I mean, the doctors will tell us (for very good reason), you’ve got to cover your nose and your mouth. I’m just waiting for the first person who gets arrested in a shop or in a train, wearing their blue paper mask like a surf lifesaver’s helmet. Somebody will. You’ll get some Karen’s somewhere going, ‘oh, I’ve got it on. I’m wearing the mask. The legislation doesn’t say how I have to wear it.’ I actually might go out and do that. You can video me and it can go viral.

Sue  39:35

I think not.

Jimmy  39:36

All right. We were wearing masks on public transport even when the government wasn’t threatening us with fines, so we are responsible citizens. Wear your mask properly; cover your nose and your mouth. If you’ve got sunglasses, put them on as well (if you don’t wear glasses), because apparently, you can get it through your eyes.

Sue  40:00

Hopefully, 2021 will be a good year.

Jimmy  40:04

It can’t be any worse.

Sue 40:05

A Happy New Year to all our listeners.

Jimmy 40:06

And thanks very much for listening. Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, www.flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcast, Google podcast, 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.

One Reply to “Podcast: What a great year … for pets and renters”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    If you want to start a discussion or ask a question about this, log into the Flat Chat Forum (using the link above). More people will read it there and you can more easily keep track of responses.

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