Harvesting proxies in the limelight
Shanghai resident Louis Yu is proud of his four investment properties in Melbourne and found them easy to manage from China — until one of his apartments became a "headache".
That apartment is part of Aurora Melbourne Central, one of the tallest residential buildings in Melbourne with more than 1,000 dwellings.
"We thought [Australian real estate] was a mature market and it was supposed to be well regulated," Mr Yu said.
Mr Yu was approached, on the Chinese messaging app WeChat, by a woman asking him for his Aurora apartment "vote".
Mr Yu said Hung-Jing Tiong, known to residents as Jing, provided a form in English which he signed without fully understanding what it said or meant.
His experience is one of several similar stories other overseas investors — with apartments in the same building — have told the ABC.
Some apartment owners appeared to be unaware of the implications of signing a proxy vote form, and the power they were handing to Ms Tiong, who allegedly managed to collect more than 350 proxy votes.
After securing those votes, Ms Tiong became chairperson of multiple owners corporations at Aurora.
Since then, a litany of disputes have erupted at the building, with complaints to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), Consumer Affairs Victoria and police.
Two separate companies have also begun legal action against Aurora owners corporations in the Victorian Supreme Court.
In one case, facility management services company FFM International (FFMI) alleges the owners corporations "failed or refused to pay invoices to FFMI" totalling more than $2.4 million, court documents show.
Owners corporations under Ms Tiong's leadership are also accused of overseeing a host of other controversial rules, like banning food deliveries and large parcels from being left in the foyer, and switching off fob keys.
In March, Ms Tiong was filmed allegedly biting a worker during an altercation.
A complaint was made to police who investigated the incident but said no charges would be laid.
Ms Tiong denies all of the above allegations.
She said she only holds 5 per cent of owners proxy votes and most people "are happy with Aurora as everything [has] improved".
Mr Yu said issues at the building could have been prevented if overseas owners had access to information about the strata scheme in Chinese, or languages other than English, so they understood the importance of proxy voting rules.
"I believe most of us never thought [we would] get into such a complicated situation," he said.
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