Nicole Johnston


Institution/Organisation: Deakin University
Position: Senior Lecturer
Biographical Information: Dr Nicole Johnston is an admitted Legal Practitioner and Academic at Deakin University. She teaches property law within the Deakin Business School. Prior to entering academia, Nicole worked as a Property Lawyer in mid and top tier firms. She is a socio-legal researcher focusing on multiple aspects of multi-owned properties including governance, conflicts of interest, legal relationships and building defects. Nicole is Chair of the International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties and Committee Chair of a large community title scheme.


Authored/ Co-authored Research

Title: Exploring the regulatory framework and governance of decentralised water management systems: a strata and community title perspective

Published: National Water Commission

Funders: National Water Commission

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Jan Warnken, Chris Guilding

Keywords: Environment, Governance, Qualitative research/interviews, Sustainability, Utilities / networks,

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The broad aim of the report is to explore the regulatory framework and governance issues associated with decentralised water management systems ) within a strata and community title (S&CT) context. Concerns about the capacity of centralised water supply systems to deliver reliable and secure water supplies have triggered interest in the potential of localised DWMSs as an alternative approach to water management. S&CT developments appear to represent strong potential vehicles for promoting DWMSs because there is an extant legislative framework that supports the governance and management .

Title: An Examination of How Conflicts of Interest Detract from Developers Upholding Governance Responsibilities in the Transition Phase of Multi-Owned Developments: A Grounded Theory Approach

Funders: The Australian College of Community Association Lawyers (ACCAL) provided a doctoral scholarship

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston

Keywords: Conflicts of interest, Developer control, Development, Governance, Law, Qualitative research/interviews,

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The multi-owned development (MOD) is a unique property type consisting of at least two individually owned lots tied to communally owned common property with a separate registered entity (the body corporate) created to govern and manage the property. While the body corporate is the ultimate governing entity and the orchestra of operations for much of a MOD’s life, there is a period of time when a MOD’s developer makes governing decisions. This study is therefore exploratory in nature, as it seeks to uncover the nature of governance decisions made by developers during the transition phase.

Title: Multi-owned properties in Australia: a governance typology of issues and outcomes

Published: International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, Vol. 8 Issue: 4

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Eric Too

Keywords: Conflicts of interest, Disputes/conflict, Financial management, Governance, Law,

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The purpose of this study is to develop a governance typology which identifies governance issues and outcomes. The study reviewed the legislation in three Australian states to identify specific governance categories and the legislative requirements related to those categories. To gain group opinion about the specific governance issues and outcomes, the Delphi method was utilised whereby industry experts participated in a two-round survey questionnaire. A typology was developed as a result of consensus found between participants. The findings identified key governance issues and outcomes.

Title: Multi-owned developments : a life cycle review of a developing research area

Published: Property Management, Vol. 31 Issue: 5

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Sacha Reid


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The purpose of this paper is to highlight the international significance of multi-owned developments, present an MOD life cycle conceptual model and review the range of identified peer-reviewed empirical research papers. The paper utilises an exploratory qualitative methodology to collate and analyse literature focusing on MODs. From the 403 research papers identified 96 peer-reviewed empirical research papers specific to MODs were examined. A MOD life cycle model has been conceptualised to facilitate a content analysis of the reviewed papers. The findings of this paper highlights the gaps

Title: Examining developer actions that embed protracted conflict and dysfunctionality in staged multi-owned residential schemes

Published: Proceedings of the Pacific Rim Real Estate Society 2012 annual conference

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Sacha Reid, Chris Guilding

Keywords: Developer control, Developer handover, Governance, Qualitative research/interviews,

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that if inappropriate decisions are made by developers in the initial establishment phase of multi-owned residential schemes, conflict and long-term dysfunctionalism for the eventual owners result. This paper maps out practises commonly utilised by developers in establishing staged, multi-owned residential developments and the consequences that these practises can have on a scheme in the short and long-term. Findings stemming from twelve semi-structured interviews conducted with key strata and community title industry experts from around Australia.

Title: The Legal Psychology of Disclosures in the Multi-owned Properties Context

Published: Presented at the 13th Annual Australian College of Community Association Lawyers Conference, Melbourne 2018

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Karla Johnston

Keywords: Conflicts of interest, Contracts, Information available to owners and residents, Law, Psychology,

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Drawing on insights from psychological theories and understandings of mental processing, the paper evaluates the effectiveness of disclosures in aiding purchasing decisions and in mitigating the (potential) harmful effects of conflicts of interest in the multi-owned property environment.

Title: Gatekeeping information in the multi-owned property environment: stymieing buyers’ rights to discover and decide

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Rebecca Leshinsky

Keywords: Governance, Home ownership, Information available to owners and residents, Law, Policy, Quantitative research/statistics,

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The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which gatekeepers of information stymie due diligence investigations in the multi-owned property environment. The study reviewed and analysed the relevant state legislative provisions providing statutory protections for (pre)purchasers of lots within the multi-owned property context. Further, an exploratory survey questionnaire was distributed to owners corporation (OC) managers in Victoria to gain knowledge and a greater understanding of the extent to which OC managers are gatekeepers of information.

Title: An Examination of Building Defects in Multi-owned Properties

Funders: PICA Group

Author/Co-authors: Nicole Johnston, Sacha Reid

Keywords: Construction, Defects, Development, Dispute resolution / courts / tribunals, Law, Qualitative research/interviews,

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The research aims to identify the types of building defects impacting residential buildings, the effects that building defects have on buildings and residents, the impact of the regulatory environment and how defects are managed by the owners corporation. The study identified the prevalence of building defects based on construction systems. Defects were most prevalent in following systems (in order): building fabric and cladding, fire protection, roof and rainwater disposal, waterproofing and structural.

Title: How property title impacts urban consolidation: a lifecycle examination of multi-title developments

Published: Urban Policy and Research; v. 32; no. 3; pp. 289 – 304; 1476-7244 (ISSN)

This paper has been peer reviewed

Author/Co-authors: Hazel Easthope, Cathy Sherry, Nicole Johnston, Sacha Reid, Jan Warnken, Eddo Coiacetto, Diane Dredge, Chris Guilding, Dawne Lamminmaki

Keywords: Building management, Developer handover, Development, Redevelopment / termination,

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This article employs a life cycle framework to examine the profound operational and governance challenges that are associated with the fusion of private lot ownership with common property ownership. The article calls for a more explicit recognition of these challenges by academics, policymakers, practitioners and the broader community.