PODCAST 55 – Privacy poppycock, powers of attorney and pets in peril


This week in the podcast we revisit the vexed question of whether or not you should be allowed to view other owners’ email addresses.

The SCA (Strata Community Australia – aka, the strata managers) website says this in its FAQ for apartment block neophytes:

How do I obtain the phone number/email address/postal address of members of the committee?
Due to privacy laws you only have the legal right to obtain the postal address of lot owners, which you can request from the strata manager, or if the scheme is self-managed, the committee.

In other words, no email addresses for mere owners. Now, we’ve had this discussion running on the Forum for a while and I, JimmyT, have to admit I got it wrong.

I said that because the strata Act doesn’t require you to provide your email address, then that wasn’t part of the strata roll and was therefore private.

But hang on a minute, the strata Act does require owners to provide their email addresses.  And if strata managers and committees are using them to send out notices, agendas and minutes, they are part of the records of the business of the strata scheme anyway.

So how come strata managers say you can’t have them?

Privacy, they say.  But corporations with a turnover of less than $3 million a year – e.g. most strata schemes – aren’t covered by the federal privacy laws, and even if you were in a mega complex that did qualify, the privacy laws are superseded by laws that require information to be provided … like the strata Act.

So here on the Flat Chat Wrap  podcast we are calling this out – especially since one of our readers took their strata managers and strata scheme all the way to the Supreme Court in WA and got a definitive ruling that they were entitled to see and use the email addresses of all the other owners. That’s quite a saga, as we explain.

You will often hear it said that sending someone an unsolicited email is an invasion of privacy.  How exactly can that be the case?  It may be an invasion of their email inbox, but that’s about it. Sure, sending complete strangers unwanted emails is spam.

But co-owners in the same apartment block, with myriad common interests and concerns? In any case, the recipient doesn’t have to read it, and they can block the sender with the click of a ticked box, should they so desire.

Personally, I would rather another owner emailed me and told me they were worried about decisions made by the committee, than hope and pray that the reason I don’t hear any complaints is becasue they can’t get past the fake privacy filter.

Call us cynical, but we think the real issue is that too many committees and strata managers don’t want the instant, costless communication that emails offer.  Why?  Because, with half the strata units in Australia owned by investors, with snail mail often only going to their agents, the results could be unpredictable, to say the least, if owners with a grievance were able to communicate with each other and start asking awkward questions.

So the next time your strata manager refuses to let you see other owners email addresses, stick your iPod buds in their earholes and make them listen to our podcast.

Elsewhere in the Flat Chat Wrap, we look at what happens to proxy votes and Powers of Attorney when the owner of the property dies. {NB: This podcast has been corrected since it was first published}

And we issue a warning to pet owners, especially the parents of pugs and bulldogs and their ilk, about the combined dangers of smoke and heat.

That’s all there in this week’s podcast.

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