Building Relationships

Melbourne Body Corporate Management

Across Australia, many worthwhile organisations are created out of need, and Melbourne Body Corporate Management is no exception.

As the first franchisee, General Manager Elly Foster has seen MBCM grow over the years into a leader assisting builders, developers, property owners and clients across Victoria. Focused on providing superior levels of service, MBCM remains the industry-leading Owners Corporation Management group, and is committed to not only supporting property owners and clients, but building and fostering relationships.

When he founded MBCM in 1989, Andrew Burford saw the need for professional body corporate management in Victoria. Bringing considerable experience in insurance valuations and real estate to the organisation, Mr Burford realised after a few years that the need for his services was so great that he either had to centralise and employ staff, or decentralise and franchise. “Melbourne Body Corporate Management was the first company in the industry ever to be franchised,” says Ms Foster of the organisation, which has since grown to over 40 successful franchises.

“When I began, the Yellow Pages hardly had any entries for owners corporations; today, there are pages and pages,” says Ms Foster. “It is seen as an industry that is excellent. It offers a lot of people a good earning capacity, and it offers a very secure business.” Signing up as the first franchisee in 1992, Ms Foster – with years of experience in administrative and operations management roles in the travel and insurance industries – felt working in the field of owners corporations would strike an ideal balance between her family and career.

Complete Range of Services

Committed to providing superior service to assist members of Owners Corporations (OCs) meet their statutory obligations, MBCM works with a diverse range of highly experienced professionals to assist others with a range of services, including insurance, accounting, maintenance, arranging meetings, secretarial and more. With an established and extensive resource of local trades, specialist contractors, property consultants and allied professionals, MBCM’s dozens of owner / managers operate from strategically located offices, all of them in close proximity to properties under management. Passionate about the industry, managers like Greg Honeyman take great pride in working with others.

“I’ve developed expertise helping developers set up their Owners Corporations,” says Mr Honeyman, who established the latest MBCM franchise in May of this year. Working at the University of Melbourne’s Law School as Manager of Marketing, Communications and Recruitment – and having held positions as Manager of Marketing and Public Affairs at the State Library in Victoria and the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Mr Honeyman was working as a marketing consultant when MBCM became a client. Together, they spent several months working on branding the organisation and developing a marketing plan. Mentioning that he and his wife were interested in moving to Ballarat, the fastest-growing regional city in Victoria, the decision was made to establish a MBCM franchise in the city.

“A big part of what I’m doing is helping developers set up their Owners Corporations, and get them done properly,” says Mr Honeyman. “Fourteen per cent of Ballarat-area developments are Owners Corporations.” With accelerated local development, Mr Honeyman is working with developers and others in the nation’s building and construction industry, and recently penned an informative document, 10 Top Tips to Help Developers Avoid Problems with their Owners Corporation.

What is an Owners Corporation?

In his 10 Top Tips, Mr Honeyman outlines the necessity of Owners Corporations. Although every state in Australia may refer to them by different names, such as Strata, Strata title, community units, and bodies corporate, the Victorian Owners Corporation Act was passed in 2006. According to Mr Honeyman, an Owners Corporation is automatically created when a Plan of Subdivision containing Common Property is registered at Land Victoria; in short, wherever there is common property, an Owners Corporation exists, which must also be set up or activated. Since they are legal entities, Owners Corporations can be sued, and great care and diligence must be taken when rules regarding Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), Australian Business Numbers, tax file numbers, and other issues are set.

Requiring sound documentation such as records and correspondence, lot entitlement, lot liability, insurance, budgets and fees and more, Owners Corporations require the specialists at MBCM to take care of any and all issues. Owners Corporations are also held responsible for managing any common property, and this includes the legal responsibility for appropriate Public Liability insurance.

Typically, a number of common property issues will regularly arise, and rules and laws must be respected and obeyed. These include seemingly simple issues, such as a tenant who wishes to mount a hanging plant on the wall outside his or her unit, which requires permission from the Owners Corporation. Other areas where both owners and tenants must follow rules include parking, excessive noise, and pets. Whilst there is the standard set of model rules, special rules can also be prepared and lodged, which might relate to heritage or other important issues, which for instance, may stipulate that outdoor painting must be done in heritage colours, dictate the location of central air conditioning units, and other considerations that impact the visual appeal of a structure.

In some cases, more than one Owners Corporation exists for mixed use buildings, with one responsible for restaurants or shops downstairs in a complex, another OC handling apartments upstairs, and yet another OC governing residents only having access to gym and pool areas. “It can be quite complex,” says Mr Honeyman, who handles the Ballarat MBCM franchise with his wife. “I went through comprehensive training, and even people who have been in this industry for 20 years say that they learn something new every day.”

How MBCM Helps

“We’ve grown organically, simply through the provision of good service,” says Ms Foster, “and MBCM has a good reputation for service delivery at the optimum level. The importance is on creating and maintaining good relationships with our clients, and we’ve successfully been able to do that, so that certainly has been a major part of our amazing growth over the years.”

With over 40 locations throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria, Melbourne Body Corporate Management is able to service all clients, who are assured all aspects of managing their Owners Corporation will be handled with the utmost professionalism and attention to detail.

Among MBCM’s many services are secretarial, which is essential for correspondence, records, registers, meetings, agendas, and minutes. Financial services include accounting, financial reports, budgeting, payment of accounts, collection of fees (using the convenient Macquarie Bank DEFT payment system), and debt recovery.

Legal matters are of vital importance to every OC, and Melbourne Body Corporate Management can help with plan of subdivision, land title documents, taxation, Owners Corporation Certificates, dispute resolution, Occupational Health and Safety compliance, and Essential Safety Measures compliance. Insurance issues – such as arranging insurance, obtaining quotes, processing claims, and arranging valuations – can be expertly handled, and MBCM is experienced with maintenance of the common property, from arranging repairs and maintenance, to cleaning, gardening, 24/7 emergency service, and addressing building defects. Committed to helping clients, MBCM offers a full suite of Owners Corporation management services.

Building Relationships

Providing expertise in insurance, accounting, maintenance, arranging meetings, and other services is crucial to an Owners Corporation. All MBCM franchises are members of Strata Community Australia, the peak body for the industry, which requires stringent ethical codes, performance codes, and ongoing annual training. As important as these skills are, forging long-lasting relationships is key to the success of all OC managers. Some clients are experienced, while others are new to living in an Owners Corporation and require guidance.

Working with a range of clients, MBCM is involved with conveyancers, solicitors, lawyers, real estate agents, financiers, builders, developers, and others in the industry. “An important part of what I do is build relationships with developers, so as part of the deal you help them set the OC up and you do all the legal documentation and the administration, and then they sign the contract for the ongoing management rights for you for when they then sell the units to their first new owners,” explains Mr Honeyman. Becoming the manager of the OC going forward, Mr Honeyman will send out fee notices and retain subcontractors, ensuring they are qualified, insured for professional indemnity, and covered under the nation’s stringent health and safety regulations.

In some cases, Mr Honeyman says developers are focused only on building, and leave the establishment of an Owners Corporation to the last minute which, if unaddressed, can cause real issues. “In Australia, builders have their own builders insurance when they are actually putting the construction up, but as soon as they get their Certificate of Occupancy from the local council or the local authorising body, their building insurance ceases at that moment, so they need to have strata insurance in place prior to that happening,” says Mr Honeyman. “I work with them very early on to ensure everything is seamless, so when they are ready to start selling, everything is in place so they don’t have the difficulty with property settlement, which often happens.” With strict laws in place in Victoria, no one can settle on an OC property unless there is an OC certificate in place. “They can only get that OC certificate if the OC has been set up properly in the first instance, and is carrying on its life as a legal entity in a legal way, and that it has full accounting records, an audit trail, and so on.”

MBCM will guide clients through the entire process including certification, fees, insurance costs, and any outstanding legal issues, creating peace of mind.

With attendance at regular franchisee meetings, listening to guest presenters speak about insurance, late payers, marketing and other issues, and attending an annual conference with key suppliers, lawyers, industry specialists and other experts, the MBCM community is thriving. “We all work together to ensure that we are on top of the latest issues, from legal matters to insurance,” says Mr Honeyman.

As the latest member of Melbourne Body Corporate Management, Greg Honeyman’s sentiments are echoed by the organisation’s first franchisee, Elly Foster, who says the key to her success over the past two decades has been a keen attention to detail, remaining calm and logical, and being good at building relationships.

“We have vast expertise within our group, and we have a lot of enthusiastic people who are keen to see the company and their business grow,” she says. “We have a very strong Board working for the good of the company, and I see a very exciting future for Melbourne Body Corporate Management.”

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January 18, 2021, 9:14 PM AEDT