The case involved a legally-blind pensioner who owned a fourth floor unit. The woman subsequently developed mobility issues that left her reliant on a wheelchair and a mobility scooter. As a result, the Lot Owner could no longer open the heavy manual doors to get into the building.
The woman asked her Owners Corporation to modify several doors to allow her independent access and was told that any modifications would have to be done at her expense. The owner appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT) which found in her favour.
Senior VCAT Tribunal Member, Bernadette Steele, cited several decisions made in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. She said the Owners Corporation was providing a service to its owners and therefore had responsibilities under the Equal Opportunities Act.
The Owners Corporation appealed to the Supreme Court and has subsequently lost.
In addition to legal obligations under the Equal Opportunities Act, Australia also has an aging population. In 2017, 15% of Australians were aged over 65. That number is expected to increase to 23% over the next 50 years.
And a high proportion of people prefer to ‘age in place’ because they love the location they live in.
A forward-thinking community will take a look at their building with view to accessibility and examine what future modifications might be needed to cater for owners and residents with disabilities and for an aging population.
After taking appropriate advice, Owners Corporations and Bodies Corporate should consider what reasonable measures can be programmed into future works.
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