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Advice wanted re:behaviour of a strata committee member
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ComradeRK
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08/01/2018 - 11:24 am
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Hi,

I was directed to post my query here from another forum. Basically we have a strata committee member who is throwing his weight around and making what are, in my opinion, unreasonable demands of us, and I’m looking to find out what avenues I have to address his behaviour. For reference we’re renting and in NSW. I’ve copied my full post below.

So not sure if this forum can help me, but I’m struggling to find any information elsewhere. If anyone knows a better place to find advice I’m happy to hear it.
My fiancee and I are tenants living in a strata apartment. Just before Christmas two notices were put up on the building door, one saying we would have to vacate the carport space we have on January 3rd in order for it to be pressure cleaned and another saying that at some undetermined time after January 3rd we would be required to leave our apartment door open all day in order for it to be painted.
To start with, on the 3rd, although we were told the carport would have to be vacated after 8am, one of the strata committee came to ring our buzzer literally half a dozen times at about 7:20, insisting my fiancee move the car immediately. I was at work, and she was still in bed, as we had been informed that the car wouldn’t need to be moved until 8. After she came out to move it, work didn’t even start until 8:30. I’m mainly including that for context about the committee member – it’s annoying but not a big deal.
Yesterday night, however, at about 9pm the guy from the unit above us came to leave a doorstop with us and tell us we would need to leave the door open today. I told him we would not be leaving the apartment open when the apartment was not attended and he kind of shrugged and left. This morning on my way out to work I told the painters, who were already there, that I would be away, however my fiancee had an appointment this morning but would be back in the afternoon. I asked if they could paint our door once she was back, and they were fine with that.
At about 9am I got a call on my mobile at work from the strata committee guy (no idea how he even got my number? Does my landlord have to provide that to strata?), who asked why I hadn’t left the door open. I explained that I wasn’t exactly going to leave my apartment open and unattended. He responded by saying “everyone else in the building has done it”, and I told him again that as our apartment is full of our computers, TV etc I’m not going to leave it open and unattended. He then called me a dickhead and hung up.
About half an hour later I got a message from my fiancee, who was getting ready to leave for her appointment, saying that the painter had come and knocked on the door and said she had to leave it open. Apparently he was really sheepish about it, so it sounds like committee guy put him up to it. Given that I’m not comfortable with leaving everything open and unattended, I had to make a hasty explanation to my manager, drop everything and dash home from work (including paying for an Uber, since taking public transport wouldn’t have got me home before my fiancee had to leave). I’m now sitting at home when I should be at work.
Whilst I do now get to watch the remainder of the cricket, which is nice, I have been forced to drop everything and run home, using one of my sick leave days and having to shell out for an Uber, to cover an issue that didn’t even need to occur, since the painters were initially fine with waiting until the afternoon to paint our door. And it’s not like I could have planned to take the day off (not that that’s a reasonable thing to expect of us anyway), since we were only told when this would be taking place at 9 last night.
What I’m wondering is first, is there any way we can seek recompense at all, ideally having this guy removed from the strata committee? And second, who can I make a complaint to about this guy’s behaviour? From what I could find online, NCAT seems to be the first point of call. I’ve been there before with a previous landlord, and to be honest I’m not sure if it’s the right venue, since all I really want is for this guy to back off and maybe give me an apology. The other option that occurs to me is to call the cops to report him for harassment, but I’m not sure if this is enough to merit that.
Does anybody here have any idea what my options are? Or another forum that might be able to help? I’ve tried tenancy advocacy already, but couldn’t get through on their phone lines. Thanks!

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JimmyT
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08/01/2018 - 12:30 pm
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OK, I’m not sure exactly what you want here – compensation for the hassle, to punish the committee member for being a tool, to prevent this behaviour in the future or a combination of all three.

First, can you take steps to have a committee member removed?  Yes you can (in theory). Under section 238 of the Act (below) NCAT can order a committee member to be removed for “serious misconduct”. I’m not sure this qualifies.

You might however write to the committee and ask that the committee member be counselled about their behaviour and reminded that they do not have the power to order anyone, owners or tenants, to do anything.  There are procedures that should be followed and they have not been in this case.

However, you will consider this matter closed and you will not take this any further (as per Section 238 of the Act allows you to) provided that there is a public apology included in the next minutes of the executive committee and you are compensated for the unnecessary expense caused by this committee member’s actions.

You might add that there is an underlying sense in these incidents that tenants have no rights in strata.  This is not the case and it’s worth reminding all committee members of that.

So that’s an option – I’m not sure it’s going to help and I doubt if you will get compensation but it might just fire a shot across this committee member’s bows and make him think before he acts up again.

 

238 ORDERS RELATING TO STRATA COMMITTEE AND OFFICERS

 

(1) The Tribunal may, on its own motion or on application by an interested person, make any of the following orders:

(a) an order removing a person from a strata committee,

(b) an order prohibiting a strata committee from determining a specified matter and requiring the matter to be determined by resolution of the owners corporation,

(c) an order removing one or more of the officers of an owners corporation from office and from the strata committee.

(2) Without limiting the grounds on which the Tribunal may order the removal from office of a person, the Tribunal may remove a person if it is satisfied that the person has:

(a) failed to comply with this Act or the regulations or the by-laws of the strata scheme, or

(b) failed to exercise due care and diligence, or engaged in serious misconduct, while holding the office.

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Lady Penelope
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08/01/2018 - 1:28 pm
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Seems that JT and I have a similar response.

There is often scant regard by ‘retired’ Committee members for those occupants who work and are not in their apartments 24/7, and also scant knowledge by the Committee of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

Leaving an entrance door open for a number of hours with no occupant present is clearly a security issue.

I would have thought that the OC should have paid a security company or had a Committee member act as security person to monitor the doors of those occupants who were unable to be at home while the paint was drying and the entrance doors were left open. 

Your landlord too may bear some responsibility for this inconvenience.

Your first action could be to write a letter to the Committee (via your buildings Strata Manager) outlining a timeline of events and how you believe that this Committee member has acted improperly. I would ask for (1) a written apology for your treatment and would also ask for (2) compensation for any financial loss that you have suffered during the entrance door painting process.

This matter should be placed on the Agenda of the next Committee meeting.

You may receive an apology letter from the Committee after the meeting. If the Committee says ‘no’ then you have an option to take this to mediation via NCAT.

The correct procedure is to that you should have been given at least 2 days notice (working days) by the Committee of this work, and the specific hours during which you would be inconvenienced.

Had you been given 2 days notice then you may have been able to contact your Letting Agent/Landlord who may have been able to offer a solution to your security issue. The Letting Agent may have been able to act as your security person had you been given the correct notice. 

Letters written to the Committee form part of the Records and remain available for future owners to peruse. If a particular Committee member has been abusive or unreasonable then this will be on the Record for all future owners to see.

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ComradeRK
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08/01/2018 - 2:25 pm
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Thank you both very much for your advice. I will be writing to the Committee to request:

– That the member be counselled about their behaviour and reminded that it is not their place to give orders to other residents

– That a public apology be made in writing, and recorded in the minutes of the Committee meeting

– That we be provided with a copy of said minutes

– That in future we be provided with at least two working days’ written notice of any works requiring access to our lot, and that in any such situation alternative arrangements be offered to those residents who are not able to provide access at the specified date and time

On reflection, I will not be requesting compensation, as it sets an unnecessarily confrontational tone.

Thank you once again for your assistance.

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Austman
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08/01/2018 - 4:09 pm
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I agree that the behaviour of the committee member was unacceptable.

But as a committee chair, I know only too well how difficult it can be to arrange access to the lots for OC works.  And even more so when it involves all or most of the lots on the same day.

We try to be as co-operative and as accommodating as we can.   And arrange for someone to be present if lot doors need to be kept open.  And to even lock doors and return keys afterwards etc.

Lady Penelope said

The correct procedure is to that you should have been given at least 2 days notice (working days) by the Committee of this work, and the specific hours during which you would be inconvenienced.

I’m curious where the 2 days notice comes from?  It’s 7 days notice in Victoria but I couldn’t finds anything specific for NSW.

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Lady Penelope
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08/01/2018 - 8:10 pm
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Austman – Vic’s requirements must be different from NSW. Here are the requirements for NSW from the Office of Fair Trading site. NB – The ‘you’ being referred to is the Landlord.

Notice prior to entry

The amount of notice you or your agent must give to the tenant depends on the reason for entering the premises.

In addition to reasons below, you, your agent, or any other person acting on your behalf can access the property at any time for any reason if the tenant consents, which may also include agreeing to a shorter period of notice.

Reason

Notice required

To inspect the premises (no more than four times per year) At least 7 days written notice
To do ordinary repairs or carry out maintenance At least 2 days notice 
To carry out urgent repairs, such as fixing a burst water pipe, a gas leak or a blocked toilet (see clause 19 of the lease for a full list of matters considered to be urgent repairs)  None
To comply with health and safety obligations, such as installing smoke alarms At least 2 days notice
To obtain a property valuation (no more than once in 12 month period) At least 7 days notice 
To show a prospective tenant (only permitted in the last 14 days before the existing tenancy is due to end) Reasonable notice on each occasion
In an emergency  None
If you have tried to contact the tenant and been unable to do so and have reasonable cause for serious concern about the health or safety of the tenant or other occupants None 
If you reasonably believe the premises have been abandoned None 
To show the premises to prospective buyers 2 weeks written notice before first inspection.
Subsequent inspections as agreed with the tenant or, if there is nothing agreed, no more than 2 inspections per week, with 48 hours notice each time
In accordance with a NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal order As determined by the Tribunal
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JimmyT
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09/01/2018 - 7:47 am
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Those are the requirements for a landlord wanting access to their rented property.  I don’t know if they are applicable to a strata scheme requiring access to a rented property.

But now that I think of it, any tenant in comradeRK’s position could just tell the committee to make their arrangements through the landlord, at which point the rules quoted by Lady P would kick in.

But generally speaking, the time is long overdue for resident owners to treat tenants with a bit more respect.  Apartment renters represent more than half the community meaning that, through their rents, they contribute half the levies.

A little respect is all that’s required – and it’s one of those things that when you give it, you get more back.

Give me a long-term renter any day over a opportunist investor who doesn’t give a damn about the block, the community or its residents.

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Austman
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09/01/2018 - 9:42 am
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JimmyT said
Those are the requirements for a landlord wanting access to their rented property.  I don’t know if they are applicable to a strata scheme requiring access to a rented property.

A problem in both VIC and NSW is that the OC has to give non-emergency entry notice to the occupier.  And that’s the tenant in a 100% leased lot.  In NSW the occupier has to agree or the OC must get a Tribunal order.

IME most of the time there’s reasonable co-operation once communications with the actual occupier (owner/tenant/other) has been established.   Which might have to be via the owner or an agent.

But every time I have to arrange one of these multiple lot access events, and I have another one tomorrow morning, it’s usually a day or two’s work spread out over several weeks, with all the to-ing and fro-ing, trying to get everyone involved on the same page or at least close to it.

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