Stages of strife when strata shock strikes

Do you have any idea what’s going on in your apartment block?  Does every change come as a shock, quickly followed by a range of emotions, just like the five stages of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When you’re told there’s going to be a special levy or the pool is going to be closed all summer, it’s the five stages of strata confusion: When was this decided? How can I stop this? Who do I blame? Why is this happening? And, finally, where do I pay?

In a recent Flat Chat column we met a couple who contemptuously ignored strata committee notices – until they couldn’t get their car out because the driveway was being excavated, something they’d been warned about for weeks.

So are you ever completely surprised by a decision your committee makes?  And how often do you think “well, no one asked me!”?

Okay, the last thing you want is to come home from slaving over a hot computer to agendas and minutes, spreadsheets and fact sheets that are all about things going on in your building that you really, really don’t care about – until you do.

Seriously, when was the last time you actually read the minutes from your strata committee?  Have you ever looked at the agenda for their next confab and thought: ‘Hey, I’m going to exercise my legal rights and attend this meeting – even if I can’t speak’?

At least you’d be able to find out who’s making decisions about your home and how they are reaching these strange conclusions.

Can you bear to drag yourself along to the AGM?  It’s only once a year and not only can you speak, you get to vote for the members of the committee … or not.

Even if you don’t go, do you read the agenda and think about giving your proxy to that bloke you bump into in the lift who seems to know what’s going on?

Do you read the AGM minutes and flick through the financial report pages and dream of finding a couple of hundred thousand dollars that the octogenarian treasurer misplaced when he reluctantly converted to a spreadsheet from a double-entry ledger?

Have you even read your building’s by-laws or rules?  Or do you just depend on that bloke from sales who lives in a totally different building but assures you all by-laws are the same.

FYI, they’re not.  That bloke from sales is an idiot.

You have to pay attention, unless you you are one of those lucky people who can go with the flow and decide that if the hairdressers on the committee want a mirrorball in the lobby, they must have a good reason.

So go to at least one committee meeting this year and definitely turn up for the AGM.  Or get ready for the five stages of strata confusion, quickly followed by the five stages of grief.

This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

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