In 2015, Anne Black, the owner of a property on the fourth floor of a Melbourne apartment building, developed a disability that restricted her mobility.
She began to use a wheelchair and scooter to get around.
But Ms Black quickly found she couldn’t easily enter the front door of the building because she could not open the heavy, manual doors while on her scooter.
Similarly, she couldn’t safely use the ramp to the carpark.
She asked the owners corporation to make modifications to the common property of the building to improve her access.
But the owners corporation didn’t make the changes, and Ms Black took the matter to court, alleging “indirect discrimination”.
Ms Black sought an order that the owners corporation make the adjustments.
Owners Corporations must make “reasonable adjustments”
In June 2018, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that owners corporations provide a ‘service’ to owners according to the Equal Opportunity Act, and that being so, they must not discriminate against residents when delivering their services.
In effect, this means owners corporations must make “reasonable adjustments” to common property to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against.
The owners corporation took the view that its obligation was only to give consent to Ms Black to allow her to make the changes, but that she herself would then pay for them.
However, this case makes it clear that in Victoria, owners corporations are required to make reasonable adjustments to common property for both tenants and owners who have a disability.
Matters such as the cost of the changes, the impact on the person requiring the changes, and the financial capability of the owners corporation are among the factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not a request is “reasonable”.
The modifications to the common property may be paid with an extraordinary levy from the maintenance fund, or through a special levy.
The ruling has implications for commercial properties, as well as residential.