New strata laws, same old dirty tricks


Now that the holidays are out of the way, the first of the year’s AGMs will soon be upon us.  That will be the first time most of us will have to confront the realities of the new strata laws.

It will be interesting to see how the proxy farmers and committee stackers try to get around the new regulations.

Some will send out emails asking you to pass your proxies on to a rusted-on committee member because you can’t give them all to the chairman any more. However, that could be a misuse of private email addresses, unavailable to other owners, that could leave the election open to a challenge at NCAT.

Also, you can have electronic voting – provided your committee has set it up.  You’d think all the drought-stricken proxy farmers who complained that the new laws “disenfranchise” owners would be rushing to install online voting.  No?  What a surprise!

Meanwhile, there is no set procedure for the mandatory by-law review that all schemes must complete by November 30, but your AGM agenda should also have an item that says you are reviewing the by-laws.

One idea would be to compare your existing by-laws with the new model by-laws and ask why they are different.

However, I suspect in the vast majority the chair or secretary will say “we’ve had a look and they are all fine,” tick the box and move on.

Another change is that rental agents and building managers can’t be elected to committees in blocks where they operate, unless they are owners.  That’s bad news for vested interests that have run strata schemes for the benefit of their investor clients or a cabal of mutual back-scratching mates.

We know some are already looking for loopholes, like getting their clients to make them company nominees, to make sure their influence is not diminished.  But they could be wasting their time.

Minister Dominello has said that anything clearly intended to circumvent or subvert the new laws should be challenged under Section 232 of the Act, which allows the Tribunal (NCAT) to rescind elections conducted improperly.

So whether it’s misusing your scheme’s internal email systems to tout for proxy votes or setting up company nominees, it’s worth a challenge at least. We’ll be watching this one closely.

Meanwhile, if you’ve already discovered some dirty tricks and dodgy deals in your committee, log in to the forum and let everyone else know.

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