The name John Mahoney has been associated with property law and management rights since 1981, and it seems only fitting that the first of the esteemed ‘Person of Interest’ profiles in Resort News showcase the outstanding achievements and thoughts of this sector influencer.
Born in Dalby, and completing his studies at the University of Queensland, John holds a Bachelor of Laws and was admitted as a lawyer in Queensland in 1978 and in New South Wales in 1990.
John has a passion for property law and has developed a particular expertise in management rights and helping resident managers throughout Australia. With more than 35 years’ experience in most areas of property and business law, John is one of the founding partners of Mahoneys Lawyers and is now the firm’s chairman and the head of the property law team.
Over the years, John has handled an extensive range of property and business purchase/sale transactions ranging from vacant residential land to multimillion-dollar commercial properties, suburban homes to huge caravan parks, small hardware businesses to large multi-storey hotels and major management rights transactions.
John’s range of clients is as diverse as the specific areas of law in which he specialises. He acts for one of the state’s largest land developers, as well as other large developers and public companies and a number of smaller and medium-size developers. He is actively involved with many industry bodies, including ARAMA, and can oft be found in presentations and seminars advising on the recent changes to the management rights and property legislation. He has also acted as the senior vice president of the Urban Development Institute of Australia in the past.
The knowledge that John has developed in management rights over the years has enabled him to become a trusted advisor to his clients, resulting in many referrals and a lot of repeat business. His experience enables him to quickly understand complex matters and steer his clients to an outcome that suits their situation. He is often involved in dispute resolution where clients use his expertise to negotiate outcomes to problems without the need for expensive litigation.
It is, in fact, the escalating number of disputes occurring in the management rights sector that concerns John most at the moment.
“There seems to be disparity and misunderstanding among the stakeholders involved in the management rights process, namely the bodies corporate and resident managers regarding responsibilities and the scope of works that come with the business. A number of bodies corporate have found themselves with managers with little, if any, understanding of their duties or the reasonable expectations of owners, and understandably, body corporate managers are now encouraging their bodies corporate to be extremely cautious when considering requests for consent to assignment.
“It’s vitally important for brokers to accurately advise incoming managers that management rights is not a passive investment,” adds John, “it’s a job, and often a tough one at that. Businesses should not be marketed on the basis that there are minimal hours involved in the caretaking side of the business. Buyers need to know that bodies corporate and owners have a valid expectation that a manager will put in the hours needed to perform all the duties required, and that they want value for the remuneration paid.
“In addition to this, managers now have the growing need to demonstrate to owners that they are getting value for money, and that the services they are paying for are being delivered. At a time when unit values have been stagnant for a few years and investor revenue has plateaued, or even decreased, there is a scenario that’s ripe for conflict. To ensure that management rights remains relevant, and valuable from an owners’ perspective, managers need to be asking ‘how can I give my owners better service and improve my complex’. If the job is done well, in the best interest of all owners, the management rights business will flourish.”
When asked about the challenges currently facing the management rights industry, John said: “In the short-term space, the proliferation of OTAs and shared-economy platforms like Airbnb are obviously having a substantial impact on small to medium-sized operations; resident managers need to work closely with their owners/investors to determine the best way to work them so that everyone wins, while the associations that represent them continue their advocacy for equitable regulation and more stringent licencing controls.
“With long-term or permanent operations, the biggest factor has been the recent over-supply of apartments, which in turn has had an impact on the stability and development of management rights businesses. The property market seems to be levelling out however, so I see this scenario improving slowly.”
As far as pending changes to legislation, John doesn’t believe that there will be any significant reforms in the next 12 months, and any that are passed are likely to address the marginal ‘nuisance’ issues such as pets, parking, smoking and the like.
So saying, John added that the industry has, and will continue, to closely monitor a push being made by an opposition group that are endeavouring to have the maximum management rights contract term reduced from the current 25-years.
“The contract term and subsequent top-ups to retain that operating period is important to managers for a number of reasons,” said John. “In a short-term environment, it provides business continuity and enables the resident manager to work on the growth of their operation in terms of obtaining bank finance. Obviously, any change to this legislation would have a dramatic impact on the current values of management rights businesses.
On a positive note, John noted another trend that he believes is an opportunity for the sector. “Good properties are always in demand, and we’re seeing a definite increase in the number of corporates, consortiums and syndicates enter the industry. The bigger operators are systemised and run well, and I believe the entire industry will benefit from the rising level of professionalism being introduced.”
And professionalism appears to be a cornerstone for Mahoneys. John speaks proudly of the culture inherent in the organisation, and of the combined contribution of the property law team. Likening their ethic to that of the management rights sector, John said: “It all comes down providing the best service possible, profitability invariably follows.”
John is married with six children, all of whom he is justifiably proud, and when he isn’t buried in consultations and paperwork, he can be found on the golf course.