Australian Polling Company Barred from Building Over Missing Rent, Renovation Disputes

Gavel, symbol of judicial decisions and justiceA dispute with a property owner gave the workers at an Australian polling group an unexpected day off just before the holidays on Sunday, Dec. 20. Impact Funds Management, acting as landlord, barred Roy Morgan employees from entering their Collins Street building in Melbourne because the company hadn’t paid rent since September.

Roy Morgan, a 70-year-old political and business polling company run by the eponymous founder’s son Gary Morgan, stopped paying rent due to a disagreement about renovations needed in the building. As a result, security guards turned between 150 to 200 employees away on Sunday, leading many to believe that they could be out of a job.

The company took out a 10-year lease through Impact Funds Management last year, yet they disagree with the landlord’s plans to renovate the building, which would include installing new elevators. Roy Morgan executives argue that such upgrades would render the building unusable for at least six months and affect their ability to sublease their offices.

Disputes also rose over the cost of the refurb, which would be about $1.2 million AUD (or nearly $870,000 USD).

The owners of Roy Morgan, however, are able to pay the back rent for the months of October, November, and December, which at this time amounts to $730,000 AUD, or $528921.50 USD.

The Australian reports that Chris Lock, CEO of the Impact Investment Group, said that the decision to kick Roy Morgan from the 401-403 Collins Street Building was made “after careful consideration and seeking robust legal advice.”

Executive chairman Gary Morgan, however, disagreed with the move, saying that Impact had put up “no legal eviction notice,” making the lock-out unjust.

Fortunately, once the case was heard in court on Monday, the company was let back into the building. However, they need to pay what they owe to the trustee of the owner or else be forced to find other executive offices for rent.

“Yes, the property owner might have the right to make upgrades and renovations of their locations (depending on the clauses agreed upon on the lease), but it is also their responsibility to make all necessary accommodations to ensure the proper operations of their tenants during that period of time, either by relocating them, giving them enough time to look for a temporary solution or even breaking the lease without penalization,” said Alex Restrepo, the Administrative Manager for OfficeList.com. “Relocating 150 to 200 employees in such a short period of time right before the holidays is no easy task.”

Morgan told reporters from ABC News in Australia that the whole ordeal had been a major inconvenience to the firm, which had no access to computers or clients during the lock-out.

“We’re doing massive surveys, we have clients all over the world, not just in Australia … in the UK, in the USA, in Indonesia, in New Zealand, across Asia, China, and this is very damaging to us,” Morgan commented.

Morgan estimates that the damages to the company could be significant.

“I’ve never been locked out before,” he told reporters. “I think it’s not a nice thing.”

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