AGMs – Oh, no, not another election

For anyone who wants a say in the running of their building, the apartment block AGMs is your night of nights. It’s when your executive committee is elected and they’re going to do all the thinking (you hope) and talking on your behalf for the next year.

This is also your big chance to get rid of that dictatorial chairperson, sticky-beak secretary and numerically dyslexic treasurer. But that will only happen if you organise. Under strata law, you are permitted to have a maximum of nine people on your EC, so there won’t even be an election if only you and eight other people put your hands up.

And remember ordinary owners don’t get to choose the chair or any of the other office bearers – those jobs are divvied up by the EC members once they’re elected. So think tactically if you’re looking to make a change.

I know of one building where the chair was an absolute tyrant, and dangerously inefficient with it, but had the unquestioning support of four of the other EC members. The dissenters on the EC put together a “ticket” including themselves and five new members, campaigned hard with letter drops and phone calls, and blew the chair and her cronies away. It sounds like overkill but she would have been a constant source of grief even just as a ordinary EC member.

If you’re not standing yourself, ask tough questions of those who are. What do they bring to the EC? Are they standing for chair, secretary or treasurer, and why? Will they support anyone else in those roles, and why?

In new buildings, especially at their first AGMs, the crucial question of any potential EC members is “do you have any professional or commercial links with the developer?” Be wary of anyone who admits they have and downright suspicious of anyone who fudges their answer. As we explain in our book Apartment Living (ABC Books), a dishonest developer’s stooge could cost your building millions of dollars.

But finally, remember that most EC members give their time, energy and skills honestly, with no reward and little thanks for making tough decisions. The AGM is your chance to give them a pat on the back – if they deserve it, do it.

Jimmy’s Mailbox

I rent in a small strata block and my garage is fronted by a open area for turning. This area is clearly signposted “No Parking” and the by-laws forbid it but people still park there and block my access. You can’t get cars towed from common property and the owners’ corporation are unwilling to impose fines. What can I do?
JR, Potts Point

Owners Corporations have no legal relationship with tenants, only with owners. So write to your landlords, politely saying you are being denied the full use of the garage and unless they can get the OC to act, you will have to ask for a rent reduction. Keep it civil but if they refuse or delay taking action, go to the rents tribunal (Tel: 1800 451 301) and ask for a ruling – don’t withhold rent arbitrarily. Or you could post a sign saying: “Warning: Cars parked here have been vandalized.” It’ll get illegal parkers’ attention, if nothing else.

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