Having lived in apartments in Australia for 30 years, I have encountered every kind of dubious committee office-holder, from the corrupt bully to the incompetent narcissist, and the hands-off passive aggressor to the “my way or the highway” control freak.
Let’s add to the konga line of clowns the “hobby farmer” who doesn’t have a clue but has nothing better to do with his or her time, the dog in the manger who doesn’t enjoy the job but doesn’t want anyone else to have it, and the loner who substitutes committee work for a social life.
Of course, there are many good, solid strata committee chairs, secretaries and treasurers around who have none of these negative traits and just want to make a contribution.
But there are more than a few who have exotic combinations of questionable qualities: the incompetent control-freak corrupt narcissist in full flight is a wonder to behold.
And there is one characteristic that unites all of them: they can be a lot harder to remove than they were to elect.
Once you have control of the message coming out of the strata committee – and free access to everyone’s email addresses that mere mortals aren’t allowed – any challenge to your authority can be headed off.
Meanwhile, a submissive strata manager anxious to keep their job will do nothing to rock the boat.
So what do you do when the people at the top are more interested in holding on to power than using it for the greater good? Well, you could take a lead from our federal politicians and organise a “party room” coup.
In NSW, this is a simple as someone on the strata committee moving that the office-bearer’s position be declared vacant and another member of the committee elected.
In Victoria, it’s similar but slightly complicated by the fact that the chair has the casting vote in the event of a tie. However, in both cases the deposed member remains a member of the committee.
Queensland is a different matter because the office-bearers are elected by the Body Corporate members at a general meeting. But there, as elsewhere, the offending leader can be removed from the committee by a resolution at a special general meeting.
The motion can be to remove the member because of a breach of the scheme’s code of conduct … or for no stated reason at all. The former requires a process of accusation and responses – the latter doesn’t. Which would you choose?
Other legislated reasons for removal of Queensland committee members include conviction of a serious crime, missing two meetings in a row or death. They play hard ball up there.
In Victoria, a simple majority of votes at a general meeting can see a member bounced out of the committee.
But in NSW, it requires a special resolution – 75 per cent of votes at the meeting – and getting those votes could be hard if the unwanted member has a tight core of supporters.
However, as a last resort, you can apply to the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to have members removed either from office or from the committee entirely.
That last resort could be your only option; in most apartment blocks most people will put up with the idiosyncrasies of their glorious leaders provided they don’t do anything that raises their levies by too much or makes their lives a lot more difficult.
And so your greatest problem when you have a challenging chair in charge isn’t proving your case – it’s the immovable inertia of the lumpen strata-tariat.
This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.