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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.
For the record, WA requires over 50% majority from all owners to remove the COO in an extraordinary general meeting. This requires proxies to be arranged, which can be difficult and time consuming if the strata manager declines to provide email addresses citing privacy. They are required to provide postal addresses with the strata role.
Frustratingly so in Queensland, the committee key 3 top positions are entrenched and positions automatically filled without question if the incumbent(s) wants to go around again. It’s nuts and keeps the same folks in the same job forever.
The other slots on your committee are open to open vote so you can swap out any perceived pew warmers on a competitive vote on the day – nominating ebforehand will get your name on the paperwork sent out so you might get a few postal votes to help with your nomination, esp if the other owners can’t or don’t want to attend the agm in person.
As I own a few shares, i attend a few meetings for public companies where the directors need to re-nominate them-self for their positions every 3 years – they get in if they are performers, and don’t if they are not or you have a better option. Oh, how I wish that was the case with all committee positions particular the top 3 I first mentioned.
That all said, being on the committee is a grueling, thank less job and comes with the expectation you will serve those you volunteer to, according to your State’s individual Act, so be careful what you wish for and just who you swap out and in. Done well you will enjoy it, but chances are you might also find it a real character building exercise!
Anyways, take a swing, if you find its a nightmare just quit, there’s much better things to do with your life than stress over this nonsense.
When committee is controlled by a majority block there is no way to even get elected and fix it from within by removing the clowns.
If they say they only want 5 people, and 3 of them use 100s proxy votes (Victoria) to all vote the same way, and won’t agree to call an email ballot, then there is no hope for improvement. The minority of 2 normal people can’t get any resolutions through.
These ‘delegates’ vote against having an online portal, so even absent investors only get the news if it’s included in AGM minutes.
Any ideas on how to change status quo?
Daisy, regardless of who is on the committee and how they like to approach it, they are there volunteering to be of service to owners and if they do not fulfill their legislative obligations they can be kicked by your States higher authority.
Its amazing how many committee members fall into the existing old culture without any attempt to learn and know and apply the law. I guess its just human nature but the job must meet minimum standards of repair and maintenance (as set out in the Act legislation – go find it and present that to drive home your argument that its not just your opinion but its the law) or what the heck are they really doing?
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