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Forum: Committee coup breaks so many rules

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There are some very dubious goings on in one of our Flatchatter’s schemes, where a coup by half of the committee has been conducted under cover of covid.

Up until this year, the committee had fewer than the maximum allowed number of members, so everyone who wanted to be on the committee got a gig.

However, this year half of the members contacted other owners to say they wanted to reduce the size of the committee.

Nothing particularly sinister about that – strata voting is politics at a very basic level and sometimes you just have to go and explain your position to other owners in person.

However, what rationale the power group had for cutting the committee in half is not known. To make it less unweildy might have been a compelling argument. To get rid of unpopular members might have garnered less support.

Now, to follow the law, there’s a very strict process for committee elections; you turn up at your AGM, there’s a vote taken on how many seats you want on the committee and then those who are interested nominate themselves or are nominated by other owners.

If there are more nominees than seats, you have an election and those with the most votes get elected.

NSW strata law says that the election must be conducted under very specific rules, including that the owners are given a blank sheet of paper on which they have to write the names of the people they want to vote for, and then sign it.

What you definitely may not do is provide a voting paper, with names pre-printed on it, and ask owners to tick a box next to the names they prefer.

Furthermore, strata law is quite specific that electronic pre-voting is not permitted for the purposes of a committee election.

In this scheme, as in so many others, the AGM could not be held in person and owners were invited to submit their votes by email.

However, with the motion to reduce the size of the committee from eight to four, the power group, aided and abetted by the scheme’s strata manager, issued a voting paper with the names pre-printed on it.

So there are two breaches of strata law right there. Now our Flatchatter, who was one of the deposed members of the committee, has asked to see the voting papers.  The strata manager has declined, saying they need instructions from the committee to do that. 

This is also highly dubious – every strata owner in every scheme in NSW is entitled to see just about every scrap of their OC’s paperwork.

Casting this in the most negative light, a group of owners, in collusion with a strata manager, has broken the law twice in order to take control of the strata scheme to the exclusion of others.

But even giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, this could still be seen as a bunch of well-intentioned owners who don’t understand the basics of strata law taking control of a block, helped by a strata manager who seems to be no better informed than they are.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Either way, this story could run and run, and you can follow it HERE.

Elsewhere on the Forum:

  • How do you recoup years’ worth of unpaid levies from investors who live overseas? That’s HERE.
  • Can owners who wouldn’t have enough votes to approve work on common property still use their simple majority to apply for planning permission? That’s HERE.
  • A leak from my flat caused damage elsewhere.  Am I liable for the OC’s hefty plumber’s bill for investigating the cause?  That’s HERE.
  • Do we still have to wear masks indoors on common property? That’s HERE.
  • Is there anything to prevent the owners corp from repurposing a common property area for much-needed parking? That’s HERE.
  • When you need to replace your smoke alarms.  That’s HERE.
  • Do building management committee decisions take precedence over strata committee wishes?  That’s HERE.  

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