The other day I came across a paid-for strata advice service that said it offered an alternative to scouring the web for the opinions of serial whingers.
It made me think, is that all we are, serial whingers? We certainly spend a lot of time complaining, but then there’s a lot to complain about.
But whingers? Obviously, this website was talking about some other online entity – it certainly couldn’t be us – but it’s worth looking in the mirror occasionally and asking yourself why you do what you do.
For me, I have a thing about people being ripped off, tricked, bullied and cheated, especially by entities that they should be able to trust. And sometimes, exposing them, whingeing if you must, gets things done.
Way back in the early days of Flat Chat, a woman wrote to us for advice about buying a unit in one of Sydney’s most “trustworthy” developments. She had been told that as a condition of sale, she’d have to hand her proxy votes to the developer.
Was this OK, she asked. By the way, this was one of the largest and most highly regarded developers in the state. And no, it wasn’t Meriton.
The Flatchatter went back and, on our advice, refused to sign. “That’s OK,” she was told, “we’ve got everyone else’s vote anyway.” She wisely took her money elsewhere.
I was appalled and started digging. It turned out that this developer was using these proxy votes to run their scheme to suit themselves. They appointed their own strata managers, decided whether or not they wanted to fix defects, and stifled any dissent.
They even warned owners that, once they had handed over their proxies, if they turned up at a strata meeting and tried to vote – which would have invalidated the proxy – they would be in breach of contract and liable to be sued.
In one of their more blatant acts of bastardry, they had overturned the unanimous objections of owners in one prestigious block to their plans to turn their small private marina into a large commercial one. Seriously!
They basically sacked their executive committee and appointed an employee to a committee of one. Then he wrote to the government saying the residents supported the development even though he had been at a meeting that almost turned violent, such were the objections.
So yours truly wrote a series of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and suddenly, the law was changed. Now, if you look at the current Act, you will see that a proxy vote acquired as part of a contract of sale has no validity. That’s where the current law comes from.
When the law was initially changed by then Planning Minister Frank Sartor, by the way, and not the Fair Trading Minister de jour, he credited press exposure for prompting his action.
Press exposure? That was this little serial whinger over here – I know because no one else was even writing about strata.
What else have we done? When a multi-billion dollar corporation like Airbnb sends a delegation to your workplace, saying your are an activist, not a journalist, you know you’re making an impact (as proven by the holiday letting laws announced last week).
To be fair, nobody likes a serial complainer who can never be satisfied, regardless of how hard you try to please them. And add to that the one-note nutters and bush lawyers who cherry-pick “facts” to “prove” their cases.
Worst offenders on this website were the individuals who, before I caught them, used multiple identities to make it seem like they were an online chorus of disapproval, rather than just one sad person with too much time on his hands.
But let’s hear it for the whingers of the world. We are the fingernails on the chalkboard of bureaucracy – and sooner or later, we are heard.
And on that note, here is this week’s collection of your best new whinges … sorry … forum posts.
- Is it a good idea to set up and alternative strata committee “in exile”? That’s HERE.
- Should our strata manager have paid to repair a privately owned water heater that was moved on to common property without permission? That’s HERE.
- My strata committee is threatening to turn off my swipe keys because I do Airbnb lets. Cand they do that? That’s HERE.
- Our old block has an unfair split on levies – is it too late to change them? That’s HERE.
- I want to buy another flat in this block but keep my car space when I sell mine. How do I do it? That’s HERE.
There are already more new posts on the Flat Chat Forum and updated on some older ones too. You can “watch” or “subscribe” on the pages to make sure you don’t miss out.