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Can/should an OC be involved in neighbourhood issues?
Sir Humphrey

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12/09/2017 - 10:10 pm
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Austman said
...I'm sorry to harp on the matter but one of my committee members wants the committee to contact the council as the legal representative of all the owners about some matters where opinions are likely to vary. I don't think that's right at all.  

[I agree with JT asking what you mean by 'legal representative'.]

It really comes down to whether the majority of the committee is confident this particular opinion is widely held by the owners generally. That is for them to satisfy themselves about. You disagree, so argue your case. Conduct a straw poll of the next 10 people you see rather than both sides speculating about how widespread a particular opinion is. 

Even if the committee actually has hard evidence that opinions vary, they might still be able to honestly and reasonably represent a view that "Many, though admittedly not all, of our owners are concerned about X because of Y". In my opinion, owners' opinions do not need to be unanimous before the committee could act.

The committee just needs to qualify its statements honestly and appropriately in what is written or in what an appointed representative is asked or authorised to say:

  • "Some of our owners have asked us to pass on their concern that..." or
  • "Many of our owners are concerned..." or
  • "Almost all our owners..." or
  • "A recent general meeting resolved that..." or
  • "Our committee members are concerned about ... and we intend to draw this and your response to the attention of our owners".

There are many ways to avoid overstating or misrepresenting what is being represented when making representations to some authority!

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13/09/2017 - 5:57 pm
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 As stated, I'm not against OCs getting involved in neighbourhood or community issues per se, although I can't see where it's part of their functions in OC Acts. What I'm concerned about is OC committees that claim to represent all the owners in the OC doing that without even consulting the owners. That's what I mean by the "as the legal representative" of the OC  - which committees are.

I've looked though the legislations in VIC, NSW and ACT. I can't find anything that supports such committee actions. And, as others have pointed out, the issues might even concern moral values.

As for the argument that just because the legislation doesn't mention it, doesn't mean it's not allowed: at least there are some legal opinions on that. And so far, the ones I've found are not very supportive of that view. An example:

committee members liability

What should strata committee members do? Some suggestions:

Always check that actions being taken are authorised for a strata committee under the SMA or other relevant Act. If in doubt as to whether a resolution of the owners corporation is required, obtain it.

The legal opinion above also suggests that if a committee acts beyond its authority, it might even void office bearer liability insurance!

IMO if there was committee decision to write a letter on a neighbourhood or community issue to council viz:

On behalf of the 24 owners in strata plan 123, the Owners Corporation Committee requests the council to ... 

That will be beyond a committee's authority unless the OC has approved it. But that's what's being proposed. I'm not going to support that.

As a side note on checks and balances. In VIC, notifications and minutes of committee meetings need only be sent to committee members (not to owners) and there is no requirement for a notice board. Owners in VIC can be quite unaware of a committee's activities unless they specifically ask or check the OC's records.

It's not how I behave as an OC chair in VIC. I insist on sending out committee agendas and minutes to all the owners, but it is the way other OCs in VIC (where in those I am an owner only) behave.

Faraway girl
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14/09/2017 - 7:44 pm
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It can be very frustrating to read about residents in a Strata Scheme who don't want to be on the Strata Committee, don't usually attend meetings of either the Strata Committee ( to observe some of the issues they deal with) or the Owners Corporation ( when they see the Agenda and do not have an interest in the motions ) but then make a big issue if that same Strata Committee makes a decision that they don't agree with. Suddenly the issues of the Strata Committee should be an issue for the Owners Corporation.   No.  You can't elect a Committee and expect them to do all the work, and then when you don't like what they decide, suddenly decide that that particular issue must go to the Owners Corporation.

So in my humble opinion you can't have it both ways . Either leave the Strata Committee to act on behalf of all owners and that means that sometimes you may not agree with their decisions but accept that they had the right to make them, or stand for election to the Strata Committee and influence what issues they should deal with and what issues you can propose should be taken to the Owners Corporation. 

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