How can you put a strata pro in charge?

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How bad does your strata committee have to be before a tribunal will sack them and appoint a strata manager to take over?

If you can’t vote the committee out, usually because of blind proxy votes, this is the ultimate sanction in strata disputes, employed when a building and its residents are suffering at the hands of people elected to look after them.

But this is no easy option. Unhappy owners first have to find a strata manager who is prepared to do the job.  Many aren’t because they usually have to make unpopular decisions and often end up being dropped as soon as normal service is resumed.

Assuming one does sign up, the disgruntled owners then apply to the NSW Civil Administration Tribunal (NCAT) detailing the problems and how the committee is either unprepared or ill-equipped to deal with them.

After that it’s a case of be careful what you wish for. Success usually means no more committee meetings and very little discussion, for a couple of years, at least.  Strata professionals are now running the show and even the people who got them the job may have zero input into decision-making.

So how bad do things have to be before a strata manager is appointed? That, it seems, is subject to the whims and fancies of whichever adjudicator or member is handling the case.

Recently, in a particularly bitter dispute, NCAT found against one set of owners for serious breaches of by-laws.  Meanwhile a different Member agreed to the miscreants’ application for the appointment of a strata manager, partly on the grounds that the committee was wasting money pursuing owners for breaches of by-laws.

And how about the notorious building in Sydney’s CBD where the MP-laden committee resolutely ignores Land and Environment Court bans on illegal short-term lets? NCAT reckons that flouting the law is not a significant enough problem to merit sacking them.

We plan to ask the Attorney General’s office, under whose aegis NCAT falls, for some clear guidelines on triggers for a statutory appointment.  A checklist or a few boxes we can tick, perhaps?

Right now it can be a lottery, depending who is sitting on the bench. More worryingly, this seems to speak to a deeper malaise in NCAT where strata professionals are avoiding the Tribunal rather than take their chances on the ‘strata roulette’.

You can follow our progress (or otherwise) right here. And read about some NCAT “fails” HERE.

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