Roundup: Fair Trading giving faulty advice … again


One of the issues that came out loud and clear from the OCN’s Strata Matters owners’ day last weekend was that neither Fair Trading nor NCAT are functioning as efficiently as they should be.

OK, there are problems with underfunding and understaffing, which can only add to delays caused by a cumbersome system that’s geared to protecting the miscreants’ rights at the expense of everyone else’s.

But all of this is exacerbated by Fair Trading call centre jockeys who are simply giving clearly wrong advice to people who desperately need support and help from government officials who know what they are talking about.

Take the Flatchatter who has written to us – and even came to the Owners Day recently – distressed because the chair of her strata committee has declared their anti-Airbnb by-law invalid (based on other highly suss Fair Trading advice).

The chairman has started running Airbnb in their apartment, despite knowing the vast majority of the people who elected them don’t want it. Needless to say, they are also now blocking any effort to put things right. What do you do?

First thing, we told her, is to hold a strata committee meeting, declare the chair vacant, and elect someone else as chair.

‘Can we do that?’ they ask. And off they go to Fair Trading who tell them you can only remove an office-bearer from office by a 75 percent vote at a general meeting.

‘No,’ we said. ‘You can only remove them from the committee by a special resolution at the AGM, but you can kick them out of the chair with a simple majority vote at a committee meeting at which an agenda item is the election of a new chair.’

The person will still be on the committee (if they are that shameless) but they will no longer be chair.

‘No, no, no,’ said the Fair Trading mouse-clicker based on their reading of … what? Game of Thrones, maybe? 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t know what, but it ain’t NSW strata law. ‘No,’ they repeated. ‘It has to be a special resolution at a general meeting.’

The naturally distressed Flatchatter turned up at our seminar looking for some definitive advice.  So here it is.

Now I assume the person who offered that totally bogus opinion isn’t reading this website, or they’d be better informed. So we’d be grateful if someone sitting in a cubicle near them could just give them a nudge and point them in the direction of  section Section 45 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015.

It says, among the reasons an office bearer can be required to vacate their office, this: (1)(c) An officer of an owners corporation vacates office as an officer … if another person is appointed by the strata committee to hold that office.” (My emphasis)

It could not be any clearer, right? The section is even headlined “Vacation of office by officer.” There’s a bit of a clue in there, methinks.

OK, our friend can go ahead, her committee can elect a new chair and start issuing notices to comply and the deposed former chair can take their equally unreliable advice about Airbnb by-laws to NCAT for them to sort out.

But it has me tearing out what little hair I have left that we seem to be back where we were 15 years ago when I started writing about strata.

Too many people in Fair Trading, the department of broken toys, dodgy mechanics and free passes for fraudulent developers, seem to neither know its own laws nor care how they are applied.

Heaven help us all when they hand our buildings over to greedy investors for short-term holiday letting because foreign tourists and global entities (who don’t even pay tax here) are more important than local residents – owners and tenants – who just want to live in peace and quiet.

So, calming down to the strains of Send In The Clowns, here are your grumps and grouses from this week’s Flat Chat Forum.

  • Strata manager didn’t pay emergency lift phone bill – so it was cut off. Guess how we found out.  That’s HERE.
  • Owner replaced common property windows without permission. That’s HERE.
  • How do you get approval to install blinds or sunshades on a balcony. That’s HERE.
  • The compulsory strata manager in a two-lot scheme who just made matters worse. That’s HERE.
  • Scheme allows pets but restrictions and rules on dogs seem a bit harsh. That’s HERE.

Needless to say, by the time you read this, there will be even more questions and answers on the Flat Chat Forum


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