Our most recent Flat Chat Wrap podcast was largely about how some strata committees wrongly use privacy laws (which are irrelevant to strata schemes) to prevent owners from getting together to discuss real issues in their communities.
In response, our sponsors Strata Answers tell what happened when they encountered an NCAT Member who was asked to put a hypothetical threat to personal privacy ahead of owners’ legal right to know what’s going on in their building.
You’d think that being able to contact your fellow owners in strata was basic to the sort of cooperative living all of us in strata have bought into. But listen to Flatchat‘s podcast and you’ll learn of the lengths that Strata Managers and Committees go to prevent one owner talking to another.
It seems there is a common belief amongst strata managers that the email addresses of strata owners do not form part of the strata records. Erroneously they fall back on Federal Privacy legislation – legislation that could only possibly apply to those few owners corporations with a turnover in excess of $3 million and in any event would not prevail over the rights in strata law of owners to have access to their OC’s records.
We think about strata records as being what the strata manager holds, but an owners corporation’s records do not stop there. If a building is of any size, it will have a building manager. Behind that screen he sits in front of in the basement lies a treasure trove of information.
Whether it’s kept on a building management software platform like Buildinglink or Mybos or on spreadsheets, the maintenance and defects history of a building is there, apartment by apartment, area by area. Pure gold. This history and a library of expert reports are a lifeline for owners wanting to save themselves and their building from the costs of inaction over building defects etc.
The scariest thing would be if the owners corporation had allowed their building management to take ownership of their records by running software licenced to the BM on the BM’s computer. Hopefully not. This alone is a recipe for losing access to key owners corporation records.
Fast forward to NCAT where we recently had to go to get access to Building Management records for an owner. At least the building manager was not asserting title; in this case it was just the Committee wanting to keep an enquiring owner in the dark.
Did NCAT agree to the application ? No.
NCAT required us to demonstrate that allowing an owner access to their building management records was not going to lead to any infringement of privacy!
Seems like NCAT is no better informed than strata managers, confusing an owner’s right to access records with pure speculation on what an owner might, or might not, use those records for.
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