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Multi-owned properties: tackling the issues

With apartment living on the rise across Australia, Deakin Business School (DSB) hosts an international research forum to explore our changing living environments.

A leading international forum organised by DBS researcher Dr Nicole Johnston has brought together Australasian and global researchers to share their expertise on issues affecting multi-owned properties.

In 2020, more Australians than ever are living in multi-owned properties which include apartments, units, private housing estates and condominiums.

It’s a shift that has not only changed living environments and the way we live, but raised a host of social, environmental, economic and legal issues.

Now in its sixth year, the International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties, which was held at Deakin Downtown in Melbourne, presented international expertise on topics such as architecture, planning, economics, environmental science, sociology, management, property, tourism, law and policy.

Dr Johnston is a socio-legal researcher who specialises in research around the structure of apartments, townhouses and units.

Her presentation at the forum, Strata Law Reform – Trends and Implications, highlighted the historical changes in strata law reform and identified the trends and implications in recent reforms.

‘One key issue raised by apartment owners in the reform process related to smoke drift from neighbours,’ she says.

When bad behaviour prevents homeownership

On the theme of ‘Homeowner Exclusion as a Result of Bad Behaviour’, Professor Sergio Nasarre Aznar (University of Rovira i Virgili, Spain) presented on the success of Spanish condominiums and their challenges in post-crisis millennial time.

Highlighting the changing nature of this property form in Spain, he spoke about ownership exclusion for behavioural rules breaches (owners are excluded from living in their homes due to poor behaviour), regulated squatters rights, and how differently millennials occupy space from previous generations.

‘This includes minimal or no kitchens as they like to eat on the street,’ says Dr Johnston.

‘He also spoke about the poor economic conditions pushing millennials into collaborative housing as well as the new sharing economy known as the ‘hoffice’ which combines home and office.’

Professor Cornelius Van Der Merwe (University of Stellenbosch) followed the same theme by comparing how the laws in different jurisdictions deal with obnoxious and problematic owners and proposed a similar exclusionary law be implemented in South Africa.

Design and liveability

Researching the lifespan of apartment buildings, Paul Matthew (University of Queensland) estimates that Australia’s current older residential building stock has an average lifespan of 175 years. 

Because buildings constructed in the early 1970’s are not yet halfway through their lifespan, he recommended that owners need to be more proactive in cataloguing and understanding issues within buildings, better planning and scheduling of maintenance and repairs and improve financial planning

Speaking on the theme of liveability, Dr Sian Thompson (UNSW) demonstrated the need for better designed and managed apartments to support community connections. She said this includes well-integrated, purposeful spaces to allow for more resident encounters that can lead to an enhanced sense of community.

Consumer disclosure

Presenting findings from his research project on consumer disclosure, DBS student Michael Teys spoke about the gatekeeping behaviour by governments, managers and sellers that leads to reduced information disclosure and limited purchaser due-diligence investigations.

This is further complicated by the fact that prescribed information certificates in many states do not address significant risks including building defect information.

2021 forum to be held Canada

Regarded as one of the world’s leading academic conferences for researchers in the area of multi-owned properties, the forum will next year be co-hosted by DBS and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Dr Johnston says that although multi-owned properties is still a relatively specialised field, it will soon be the dominant form of housing in urban areas.

‘The legal complexities and social issues that impact this property type provides a rich environment for academic research. Research on the property type is often used by government in law reform and making other policy decisions. Next up is Vancouver and we’ve also had requests to co-host this forum in the coming years in Israel and Spain.’


The 2021 International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties will be co-hosted by DBS at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada on 18th and 19th Feb. For more information please contact Dr Nicole Johnston