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Best way to keep residents informed?
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boxfee
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01/07/2017 - 2:04 am
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I've been on our SC in NSW for 3 years or so and in a complex of over 150 apartments we have lots of things going on. We want and need to give updates and information to lot owners in our complex on an ongoing basis not just via minutes of SC meetings. 

We would appreciate advice about choosing the right platform or forum for this. We want to make our complex feel like a community so we'd want to provide general information like council services or updates on NBN for instance. Or updates to relevant laws and regulations that owners wouldn't necessarily find out about otherwise. 

We acknowledge that not all owners will be active on social media, but printed newsletters and emails seem outdated. Perhaps a password accessed website?

We'd appreciate any feedback from others who have tried this and anything that we should be wary of? eg. Are there privacy issues? Anything else that we need to be cognisant of?

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JimmyT
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01/07/2017 - 8:30 am
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Stratabox.com.au will give you a free trial of software to do exactly that.

A password protected website or online forum will give you a level of protection against defamation and privacy claims because it is for internal use only.

However, that protection evaporates if there is malicious intent behind any offensive posts - especially if those posts get out to a wider readership.  But that's one reason a protected website is better than a publicly visible noticeboard.

I met a strata manager a couple of years ago who had to shut down a strata's web forum because two owners were using it to hurl nasty abuse at each other.

Password protection and a tight code of conduct would take care of that, though.  Your next problem is who manages it.

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Puddn
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01/07/2017 - 11:14 am
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I agree with Jimmy that a secure, password protected web-based system is the go.

We have used BuildingLink as our platform for over 5 years and it works a treat as a general communications platform as well as a building management system.

We mix up SMS blasts (emergency), emails, newsletters, formal meeting notices, rolling notices on a display screen in carpark, an internal 'neighbourhood meeting place', internal 'pet park', internal 'marketplace', on-line library of all strata documents (plans etc), resident surveys and paper notices.

It has taken a while (as not all owners are 'savvy') but committee is confident it has settled on a mix that works for everyone. No owner can complain about not knowing what is going on now, yesterday or tomorrow.

Out of 245 lots only 5 retain paper systems, with the rest using phones, tablets or PCs to make or receive communications. Whilst, many owners love our newsletters, others just want minutes and outcomes. Owners can elect to be part of the system or not - except for formal strata communications such as meeting notices.

Individual posts are viewed by building manager and/or committee before general release. In five years only 2 posts have been blocked, although a number have been controversial.

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Lady Penelope
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01/07/2017 - 1:11 pm
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I would guess that all of these methods of communication would need to be approved by way of a By-Law before they were implemented.

Some considerations: It would be unreasonable to exclude some people from access to information either due to their inability to afford internet access and/or a computer, or their lack of computer skills. This form of communication may negatively impact the poor, the disadvantaged, and the elderly. 

If these issues can be sorted out then it could be a good idea. 

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tharra
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01/07/2017 - 1:39 pm
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boxfee said

We acknowledge that not all owners will be active on social media, but printed newsletters and emails seem outdated.

We've started out low tech with an email list for which we pay a peppercorn hosting rent. It may seem outdated but email has a low barrier to entry, is flexible & most importantly is a push mechanism that gets to a multitude of devices. The list is moderated with a few people authorised to post. Our secretary uses the list to post non sensitive info about happenings in our strata - building works, service outages etc. The info is echoed on notice boards in the lifts and entry points. The list is open for tenants & owners to join, we have QR codes about the strata. People can subscribe & unsubscribe themselves so it's also very low maintenance.

We tried a web site with forum & an RSS feed & neither worked out for us. Having to login in to generate content for our secretary & setting up a separate client for RSS or checking a web site was too much of a barrier for the users. Maybe we'll revisit it down the track but for now firing off an email which is pushed out to users who are already very familiar with email is working well for our simple "info out" requirements.

More formal strata communication to lot owners: minutes, notices, levies etc. is handled by our strata manager & lot owners can elect to have that delivered via email.

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Austman
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01/07/2017 - 5:39 pm
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Best way to keep residents informed?

From over a decade's experience, I can say a password protected site is NOT the way to go.

You will miss a lot of residents and others (eg tenants and agents) if you do that.

If you want to genuinely keep all residents informed, you need an open site - and it's better if they can subscribe to it for updates.  Then display the site address (URL) in a prominent place inside the building(s).  Typically in a noticeboard like location.

This is not for meeting minutes or things like dispute handling.  It's to let all residents know all about the building as well as how to contact the OC/BC.  It can also contain by-laws/rules and decisions of the OC/BC.  If the site is kept factual, it in itself doesn't generate controversy. 

It's been a big success in my OC/BCs.

No by-law/rule is needed to create such as site AFAIK.

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Puddn
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02/07/2017 - 1:52 pm
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Lady Penelope - I agree......  excluding those that are not tech savvy is not appropriate. We take great care to ensure those individuals receive 'paper' versions where possible. In our 245 lot scheme, there are only 5 'non tech savvy' individuals.... so not hard to manage. The occasional phone call from committee fills in gaps if necessary.

Tharra - yes, some systems are too time consuming. We have managed to find a good balance - mainly because it is not down to one person to manage. Several people do their bit to maintain currency of information.

Austman - we have both a secure system, and an open basic website. However, all registered agents and all tenants are part of our secure system and are not excluded. Open site displays basic information only, including bylaws, and an option to contact committee, building management and or strata manager directly. However, once a resident (owner or tenant), or a nominated person on behalf of an owner - registration is automatic. Usage is optional.

Our experience has been to mix communication methods up, but it did take a year or two to get everyone registered, educated and involved.

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JimmyT
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02/07/2017 - 4:49 pm
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Lady Penelope said
It would be unreasonable to exclude some people from access to information either due to their inability to afford internet access and/or a computer, or their lack of computer skills. This form of communication may negatively impact the poor, the disadvantaged, and the elderly. 

A computer recycling scheme might be an idea - let people who are upgrading their PCs pass them on to residents who can't afford one of their own (maybe as a loan from the Owners Corp).

Also there are various community college courses in basic computing for seniors like this one and this one and others.

Getting computer basics can make a big difference to seniors especially as they can keep in touch with friends and family ... and the rest fo the world through emails, Skype and social media.

So I would use the push for an internal communications system as a way of getting people online rather that worrying that you are excluding those who aren't.

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boxfee
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02/07/2017 - 11:10 pm
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Some really good points all round. Sending a big digital 'thank you' to everyone who took the time to respond.

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Ali
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11/07/2017 - 8:25 am
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But how do you get their contact details? I am an owner and sole remaining SC member of a block of 4 in NSW. Two owners recently sold and their units are now tenanted. I asked the SM for the new owners contact details but he said he could not give them to me for privacy reasons.

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Lady Penelope
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11/07/2017 - 9:40 am
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Ali - The SM is wrong. You are an owner, (and you are on the SC), therefore you have a right to examine the Roll under section 108 of SSMA 2015. Ask the SM to quote to you which section of any Act precludes you from searching the Roll - I guarantee that they won't be able to provide one.

If the SM remains 'pig headed' about this then perhaps they should be replaced with another SM at the next General Meeting. 

You can also go to the Title's Office and search for the Owner's addresses that way - but it is far easier to go through the SM. 

A link to information about this issue is here:

http://www.stratalive.com.au/a.....trata-roll

Amendment: Apologies - I quoted previous Act rather than current Act. The relevant sections is 

STRATA SCHEMES MANAGEMENT REGULATION 2016 - REG 42

Inspection of records

42 Inspection of records

For the purposes of section 182 (3) (k) of the Act, the owners corporation must make available for inspection the accounting records and other records relating to the strata scheme that are kept by the strata managing agent.

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JimmyT
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11/07/2017 - 9:49 am
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Ali said
Two owners recently sold and their units are now tenanted. I asked the SM for the new owners contact details but he said he could not give them to me for privacy reasons.  

This old chestnut ... your strata manager is WRONG!

As a member of the Owners Corporation - i.e. an owner - you are entitled to view all of its official documents. This includes the strata roll which must, according to Section 98 (below) contain the name and address of owners for the service of documents.

FYI: Section 119 referred to (also below) explains how owners can be fined $550 for not informing the Owners Corporation of the details of new leases.

This is basic strata management stuff. You might want to check when your strata manager last had any update in their professional training.

98   What must be recorded in the strata roll?

(1)  There must be recorded in the strata roll in relation to a particular lot:

(a)  the owner’s name and an Australian address for service of notices or the name of the owner’s agent appointed in accordance with Part 3 of Chapter 4 and the agent’s Australian address for service of notices, and

(b)  information provided under section 118 or obtained from the Register in connection with the lot, and

(c)  information provided under section 119.

 

119   Notice to be given to owners corporation of leases or subleases

(1)  If a lot is leased, the lessor must give notice of the lease, in accordance with this section, to the owners corporation within 14 days after the commencement of the lease.

Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

(2)  If a lot is subleased, the sublessor must give notice of the sublease, in accordance with this section, to the owners corporation within 14 days after the commencement of the sublease.

Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

(3)  If a lease or sublease of a lot is assigned, the assignor must give notice of the assignment, in accordance with this section, to the owners corporation within 14 days after the execution of the assignment.

Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.

(4)  The notice must specify:

(a)  the name of the lessee, sublessee or assignee, and

(b)  the date of commencement or assignment of the lease or sublease, as the case requires, and

(c)  the name of any agent acting for the owner in respect of the lease or sublease.

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Sir Humphrey
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11/07/2017 - 11:34 pm
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I suggest a paper newsletter in every letterbox - owners and tenants. Make it interesting to all. People will read it when it is in their hands. 

Then, also send an electronic PDF copy to all who have opted in for electronic notices, but that won't get to as many. 

Then, put a copy on the managing agent's web site for documents or the OC's own website, but few people will log on specially to read it - no use for timely advice, more of an archive. 

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Ali
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13/07/2017 - 9:47 am
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Thanks all, I will try again.

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larry_vincent
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26/07/2017 - 3:24 pm
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Have all owners requested a copy of Strata Committee Minutes?

I found out by reading the Strata Committee Minutes following the May AGM that following the introduction of the new strata laws that all owners would now have to request them from the strata manager, in writing, if they want to receive Strata Committee Minutes.

It was not mentioned at the AGM by any of the Strata Committee and no information was provided in the Strata Committee Meeting Notice.

In the EC Minutes, following the AGM is was stated - 6.11 Distribution of Strata Committee Meeting Minutes - Any owner wishing copies of minutes of the strata Committee Meetings need to request this in writing from the Managing Agent within 7 days of the meeting being completed. It is not automatically sent to all owners as minutes are for General Meetings'

As I live in a complex of over 200 units I was concerned that many owners would not know about this requirement and I wrote to the strata manager and was alarmed to find out that less than 10 owners have asked to receive the Strata Committee Minutes. I have asked the Strata Committee Committee to publicize this requirement to all owners as I am sure many owners do not know about this change and it will impact on the accountability and transparency of the Strata Committee.

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