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Broken System
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Whoopi
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05/04/2017 - 4:46 pm
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 Hi All

 This is a grizzle, hope you all don't mind.  I am in Sydney. I am two years into a long term dispute with my Committee. $30,000 down the drain and more expense to come. Probably looking at $60,000 by the time I get to the tribunal. Whether I am judged right or wrong by the tribunal  I truly believe this System is geared against the individual and leans far too heavily on relying on Committees and owners and Strata Managers doing the right thing when we all know from reading the forum they don't. This dispute has taken a toll on my work my relationships my health and my happiness.

What is the point of having Strata Laws when the only way to enforce them is with the Tribunal. Please don't even suggest going without a lawyer as you would be eaten alive. We lodged almost a year ago and it has dragged on and on. Going to the Tribunal without a lawyer is like having brain surgery without a Doctor.

If we break road rules we get pulled over by the police. If we break council rules the council inspector comes along and issues a warning. That can be followed through to a fine .

 When someone in Strata community particularly the Committee breaks a law,  they answer to no one, unless an owner takes them to the Tribunal. If you call Fair Trading their answer is go to the Tribunal. Where one member decides  who is right or wrong. Fair trading can investigate Strata managers but have no power to investigate Committees ... That is ridiculous and the experienced Committee members know it!

I have even written to the State member who has now been replaced and he sent  me to guess where? Fair Trading who said go to the Tribunal.

So an  individual owner is up against Committees who have sometimes been in office for scores of years. Who have each others backs or in this case have 'something' on each committee member so they toe the line. Who have proxy farmed the investors who don't give a hoot, have access to all of the owners phone numbers, emails and addresses and use them to manipulate votes and also slander you while they are at it so even if you try to speak to owners they look at you as if you murdered a kitten.  Who write  'Empire Strikes Back' minutes like: 'We must defend the owners corporation against this  individual owners application' So not only do you have a major issue and conflict you also become alienated and isolated in your own home.

We had a general meeting to discuss and vote on the funds for the Tribunal and no owners showed up. When asked how could the owners have voted with a full understanding of the issues without hearing our side of it . I was told: The Committee had told them what was happening. Of course the committee are completely biased and also hiding what is really happening.  No one wanted to go to an EGM and they feed on that as well.

Solution:

 Wouldn't it be easier if we could call a Fair Trading inspector, just like a Safe work inspector to come out to a building and investigate the dispute on site. Make a recommendation that goes to all of the owners. Give these inspectors the power to give fines or warnings. Settle it then and there. No lawyers. As an owner I feel totally unsupported by the system. If I lose at the tribunal I won't even be able to sell, as all of the issues have been documented now and the issues run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Strata laws are pointless because they are not instantly and effectively enforced. 

So frustrated, it shouldn't be this hard.  Rant over, Thanks for listening.

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LawoftheLand
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05/04/2017 - 7:57 pm
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Hi Whoopi, I totally agree with you 100%! I sympathise with you and your continuing struggles with the SC.  And hell yes, why can't people realise that Strata Law is an applicable law also? Same as the Traffic Act for instance? 

I and another (who now appears to have gone rogue) managed to terminate our old Strata and a new one appointed - with the correct voting processes, mind you. But this appears to be a waste of time as the new Strata is gearing up to be the same same as the old one.

I am unsure exactly what qualifications you need to have to be a SM but it appears if there is any easy way out of ANY situation - our's is right up there with comments like 'the way around this is.....' .  It is terribly frustrating and unprofessional.

I am not opposed to any reasonable spending/enhancement/works/quotes as long as it is all compliant, where necessary the Act is followed and matters voted on. The SC appear to be a law unto themselves and can see myself being chucked off at the next AGM so they can carry on freely doing what they want.

Our SC seems to believe if they merely discuss something, then that's it! It's all suddenly binding. And the SM doesn't care as it is less work for him.

I think Fair Trading should fine SM's and heavily (imagine that!!) - then the SC's would be much more compliant.  The fact is you need big dollar$ to trawl through the Tribunal which many don't have and sadly as you have discovered Whoopi. The whole Strata business is so unregulated and there's no entity to enforce anything.

Sorry I haven't been much help but I couldn't resist penning my support.

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JimmyT
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05/04/2017 - 11:26 pm
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LawoftheLand said
I and another (who now appears to have gone rogue) managed to terminate our old Strata and a new one appointed - with the correct voting processes, mind you. But this appears to be a waste of time as the new Strata is gearing up to be the same same as the old one.

Strata what?  Strata manager?  Strata committee? Strata scheme?

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LawoftheLand
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06/04/2017 - 12:08 am
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Strata Manager.

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Sir Humphrey
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06/04/2017 - 9:26 am
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Whoopi appears to believe a committee or committee member is not complying with the Act and LotL appears to believe a strata manager is not complying. 

We might be able to be more helpful if we know what they are supposed to have done or not done.

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Whoopi
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06/04/2017 - 1:11 pm
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 Hi Sir Humphrey and Law of the Land and JimmyT

 Thanks for chiming in on my grizzle. The answer to your question  'What is it have they done?',  would be easily answered  with 'What is it  haven't  they done?' I speak essentially of the SC but the SM is the puppet of the former. So they are indistinguishable in the end.

 My list of  complaints is so long (with evidence to back it up) my solicitor suggested just focusing on one area which is, not maintaining common property. We have had experts in (court approved) shaking their heads in disbelief at the way we are living.

 To be perfectly honest I fear retribution so I don't want to go into detail.  Which of course makes me feel and sound ridiculous. But until you have lived in one of these Fiefdoms you cannot fathom the impact it has on one's life.  My advice to anyone ever considering buying into Strata is DON"T. You place your money and your property in the hands of volunteers, untrained in any way for the job . No business acumen, no building experience and no people skills. Emotionally immature despots who are attracted to being on a committee due to a hunger for control, power and the access to the considerable money available to them.

 When speaking to our Barrister he said it is a very high bar to reach to unseat a committee. He said he was prepared to have a go and we are still considering it.

 I wish you could help me, but I know you cannot.  What they have done is really not relevant. The point of my letter is that it is so hard to make  Committees answerable for their behaviour. 

 Thanks for listening, if I win I will let you know.

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tharra
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06/04/2017 - 5:23 pm
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Whoopi said
 My advice to anyone ever considering buying into Strata is DON"T. You place your money and your property in the hands of volunteers, untrained in any way for the job . No business acumen, no building experience and no people skills. Emotionally immature despots who are attracted to being on a committee due to a hunger for control, power and the access to the considerable money available to them.

I feel for you in your situation but to lump all strata schemes in the "run by incompetent tinpot dictators" pile does disservice to those of us who strive to keep their strata schemes running as smoothly as possible by volunteering their professional skills & experience to their owner's corporations.

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Sir Humphrey
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06/04/2017 - 7:41 pm
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tharra said

Whoopi said
 My advice to anyone ever considering buying into Strata is DON"T. You place your money and your property in the hands of volunteers, untrained in any way for the job . No business acumen, no building experience and no people skills. Emotionally immature despots who are attracted to being on a committee due to a hunger for control, power and the access to the considerable money available to them.

I feel for you in your situation but to lump all strata schemes in the "run by incompetent tinpot dictators" pile does disservice to those of us who strive to keep their strata schemes running as smoothly as possible by volunteering their professional skills & experience to their owner's corporations.  

At their best, strata schemes allow neighbours to create a greater sense of community and to make democratic decisions about how to maintain and improve shared facilities for the good of all. However, there will always be some people with less than ideal character traits, fortunately in a minority in most places. 

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06/04/2017 - 10:14 pm
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Whoopi said
But until you have lived in one of these Fiefdoms you cannot fathom the impact it has on one's life.  My advice to anyone ever considering buying into Strata is DON"T. You place your money and your property in the hands of volunteers, untrained in any way for the job . No business acumen, no building experience and no people skills. Emotionally immature despots who are attracted to being on a committee due to a hunger for control, power and the access to the considerable money available to them.

Well, I have lived in one of those fiefdoms and, in fact, it was working through it that led to the Flat Chat column and this website. The developer, the strata manager and the chairman - a crook and a bully - were in cahoots. We were being ripped off, lied to and publicly humiliated; blamed for everything that went wrong by the same people who rushed to take credit when things started going right.

It can be hard, frustrating and heart-breaking . I made enemies and lost friends and sometimes felt like giving up.  

But if you can separate your emotions from what needs to be done, identify the problems that are the highest priority and the solutions that have the highest chance of success, and then just drive towards that simple first step, you will make progress.

At the end of the day, your investment of time, money and energy with either pay off or it won't but, at the very least, you will have learned something about yourself and about other people.

And that's worth something.

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Sir Humphrey
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07/04/2017 - 8:27 am
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JimmyT said

At the end of the day, your investment of time, money and energy with either pay off or it won't but, at the very least, you will have learned something about yourself and about other people.

And that's worth something.  

I agree with all JT said. I recently resigned from our EC after being a member for 9 years and treasurer for 8 of those. I had no background in law or finance but I learned quite a bit about both, which was interesting. 'It is not rocket science', nor even the kind of science I did for my day job. We had some really big issues and improvement projects that took a great deal of work but we got them done. Owners are generally very happy with what was achieved.

I did conclude that at any given time there will be 5% who are completely resistant to reason and/or seriously lacking in normal social skills. EC members get exposed far more to such people and it can wear you down. I am glad of it though. I learned a lot about people that I had not seen through work or other aspects of life. 

I don't doubt that ECs can end up with such people dominating within the committee too. They can be aggressive, assertive and alternately* diplomatic or unpleasant. The bullies I have encountered have come from high-powered positions and were used to being taken seriously and getting their way. Being very plausible, they could sway more mild-mannered members for a while. The solution is to out-vote and out-lobby them, whether they are in the EC or outside of it, but it takes determination and many would rather walk away. They only have any power if nobody stands up to them using facts and reason. I am pleased to have hung in there and achieved a lot while on our EC but I need a break from it now. 

*In one recent example, the guy does seem to alternate between on one hand giving me compliments for various achievements and being genial face to face, and on the other hand presenting written formal-looking reports to the committee that would, at face value, demonstrate that the entire EC and me in particular as treasurer have neglected various serious obligations. 

In an earlier example, a different, no longer current EC member had his own rather eccentric interpretation of a particular provision of the Act. His insistence sufficiently unsettled some other EC members that it held up a review of our Rules for quite a while. Common sense, our managing agent, a strata specialist lawyer's advice, the content of an OCN newsletter article, Rules that had survived Tribunal scrutiny and Rules adopted without controversy by other OCs were all inconsistent with this guy's interpretation but none of this was enough to shake his confidence that he was right. In the end, I wrote to the Attorney-General, quoted this EC member's legal argument verbatim and on the other hand presented the usual interpretation. I asked the A-G, whose department had not long previously reviewed the Act, for advice about who was right. Only with that advice in hand were we able to proceed with our internal review. Even so, our guy wrote to the A-G to let him know that he was wrong. 

All quite funny in retrospect but stressful and irritating at the time when trying to get on with useful things. 

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Whoopi
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07/04/2017 - 12:07 pm
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Thank you everyone for your input. I do agree there are those of you who are not in the roles of Committee members for the wrong reasons. That you approach your responsibilities with diplomacy and humility with the  agenda to serve and not rule. I commend those of you who do that for your owners.

Again I am not seeking to criticise those who are doing the right thing but finding an easier way to get some justice for those who don't.

Bless you, if you are one of the good guys. But the fact remains the system which is the core of my complaint is broken for those of us who are not lucky enough to have the good guys working for us.

 It was comforting to hear your stories JT and Sir Humphrey I am taking all of your advice and marching forward . 

 I do love where I live and  hope that my family and I will find peace without having to move. Thank you everyone for you input once more.

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Whoopi
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03/09/2017 - 11:58 am
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 Dear Friends on Flat chat 

I have been grizzling on this forum for quite some time.Thank you for listening , helping and indulging. I am still not happy with the system. Since this thread  began my financial input to legal action has risen to $120,000. I laughed and cried when I read my first post and we were at $30,000. But I am happy to tell you after two years of  the worst living conditions and conflict and character assassination WE WON. The tribunal granted us everything we asked for. A landslide victory under the new laws.  Over $300,000 of repairs to our apartment. We will still have many dramas to deal with to have the orders complied to I am sure. But just at this moment let me bask in the warmth of success. 

 

 Ok basking finished .....This is not good enough... Most owners could never afford to fight the fight we had to. We could not even sell as our property was in such terrible disrepair and it was documented.  Yes we won, and I stand by everything I said in former comments. Jimmy T  what can we do? What can I do to change this state of affairs? We plan on approaching the member once we get through the huge amount of repairs, if we have any sanity left.  I am quite sure I will end up back in the Tribunal as the Committee are still in power. Change is needed. The individual owner needs protection and a voice that does not take years and cost them all of their savings.Thank you all again for reading and advising.  Now back to basking!Laugh

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rthorburn
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05/09/2017 - 7:38 am
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Whoopi, may I ask if your legal costs were awarded in the orders.

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Whoopi
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09/09/2017 - 11:46 am
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Hi Rthorburn

We are  currently applying for costs so will be about a month before I can answer that.

 

 CHeers

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rthorburn
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12/09/2017 - 7:39 am
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Thanks whoopi. Would be very interested to hear. 

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Millie
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12/09/2017 - 2:00 pm
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Hi rthorburn

For the last six+ years I've done everything humanly possible to 'right' the situation within our Sydney strata scheme.  I recently said, again, to the Head of Mediation, NSW Fair Trading that either I have failed spectacularly or the system has failed me.  He said to me, again:  "The system has failed you."

They are our homes, our money, our lives; under no circumstances should it be like this.

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Whoopi
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13/09/2017 - 3:52 pm
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Hi Millie

 

 It shouldn't be this hard. It really shouldn't.

 In reality my family have not broken a rule or a By law in our building. Yet we have been under seige since we arrived.

 My biggest complaint re the system is Strata Committees answer to no one. Unless you go to the tribunal. This leap from  communal negotiation into the legal arena needs a middle ground. Mediation is not cutting it sorry. 

 The next issue for me is the company nominees proxy farming is alive and well while company nominees are allowed to be owners and committee members they should only be employees of the company or legal reps. Half of our building are investors whose votes have been spread amongst the committee who are now all of a sudden company nominees.

 I want my life back and my money too Millie

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Whoopi
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13/09/2017 - 4:25 pm
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JimmyT said

But if you can separate your emotions from what needs to be done, identify the problems that are the highest priority and the solutions that have the highest chance of success, and then just drive towards that simple first step, you will make progress. 

BTW Jimmy T , This is what we ended up doing and were successful in the Tribunal. But it took two years over $120,000 and our home is not a sanctuary but a battle ground still. We are outcasts even though we were and are in the right, though I am past caring about that now. We also know our battle is far from over  So it's back to the  trenches.

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BONNIE L
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14/09/2017 - 8:44 pm
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Hi, thanks the conversation, and on our 'homes, our lives' I have a query please. If the Tribunal has re-opened a hearing date, and no notice appears on the notice board, is that a procedural thing?  When I asked around, was told it only went to strata manager and isssue between them and the applicant.  Yet all owners may be affected by the outcome.  Any comments helpful, much appreciated. 

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Whoopi
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15/09/2017 - 3:18 pm
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Hi Bonnie 

 I am interested in this question too . As with our situation the owners have not been told the outcome of the Tribunal or how much it cost them to fight us . This I find astounding but I don't think there are any rules/laws on this. if there are I would love to know.

Our minutes were massaged to the point the owners had no idea who was taking who to the Tribunal or what it was about or how much money was involved.They were told not to come to the EGM and told how to vote or to give their votes to the committee. Our minutes are propaganda for the Strata committee and  the Strata manager. Eventually the owners will have to find out something but I don't know how. Perhaps when they get a special levy.

 I do know you have the right to ask for all information from the Strata manager on any legal issues. If they don't  deliver you can go to Fair Trading . You can also ask for the costs of the legal activity.They may charge you for their time which is legal but I find that offensive, you are an owner and have a right to know about your investment and your building. I think that rule is there to stop people driving their Strata crazy. If the info were put into the minutes you wouldn't have to ask.

 We asked our Strata manager to send the findings of the Tribunal to the owners as we felt they had a right to know the truth. He ignored our email. The owners still don't know and we will try to send out to the owners we have details for  but again getting a recent Strata Roll is almost impossible.

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