The neighbours are revolting: how to organise a strata coup

As I sat, just last week, preparing to return to Sydney from Saigon, I was surrounded by posters celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Russian revolution.

Back in Strataland, I know from many posts to this website, a strata coup is being plotted somewhere every day. But how do you get rid of one chairperson, or trio of office-bearers, or an entire committee?

The greatest obstacles to change in strata are apathy and inertia, both of which are exacerbated by the ability of the incumbents to control both the message coming out of a committee and who it is going to.

If you want to take over just because you don’t like the person in charge, you may as well give up now.

In general, strata owners hate direct personal conflict within their communities and they are not going to buy into your complaints without good reason.

On the other hand, if you can show that the scheme is badly run, costing owners real money and depressing the value of their properties, then you have the ammunition you need.

Assuming the incumbents aren’t listening to you, may even be actively working to keep you out of the committee, and are refusing to pass on your ideas, what do you do?

The simplest tactic is to set up a website or a restricted Facebook page that can be accessed only by owners in your building.

Then you need to get a list of owners’ physical addresses – you are entitled to see your strata roll –  and send out postcards (because they are cheaper) saying something catchy like “Want to know how your committee is costing you money? Log on to this website or Facebook page.”

You would also include an owners-only password, just to show you aren’t washing your dirty linen in public.

And what’s on the website? Preferably there’s something that criticises committee decisions (or lack thereof) but not individuals.

And include some well thought out examples of how money could be better spent or how the values of all properties would be enhanced by a bit of investment here and there.

Statements from local real estate agents telling owners hjow much more their properties would be worth if the committee did this or that, will carry weight.

This, however, will not convince retirees on fixed incomes who have no intention of either paying higher levies or selling any time soon.

Then add a call to arms and the names and CVs of your supporters who will be standing for change at the next AGM. If you don’t have any supporters, stop now.

Start about a month out from the AGM and update the pages regularly.  And collect email addresses from owners if you can, as you are not entitled to see them on the strata roll unless they have given permission.

Do this and, at the very least, you’ll have laid the groundwork for a debate at the AGM and there will be less chance of the ‘better the devil you know’ donkey vote.

This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

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