There was a popular saying around at the end of the last century – “don’t get mad, get even”. However, as I often ask people who write to the Flat Chat website, frothing at the keyboard over some real or imagined injustice, what is it that you really want?
Naturally, when you have been misrepresented in your strata committee minutes, balked on a perfectly reasonable request, and publicly humiliated at a meeting, your thoughts may stray to revenge.
Then there’s the more subtle frustration of knowing that the powers that be in your block simply aren’t up to the job, damaging the value of your property and your quality of life, to suit themselves.
So you lie awake, imagining yourself as a cross between Atticus Finch and Winston Churchill, laying waste to your foes with the power of your public speaking at your next AGM.
But in reality, the result is rarely as satisfying as you hope. Regardless of how righteous your anger is, and how justified your frustration, your neighbours don’t care that your feelings are hurt.
Unless the block is effectively dysfunctional – in a way that’s hitting owners hard in their levies – they usually don’t want anyone or anything to rock the boat
So what do you do when your block is run by incompetents, bullies and liars? What you don’t do is stand up at an AGM and use language like that to describe the incumbents.
If the majority of owners haven’t already reached that conclusion themselves, they aren’t going to be persuaded by five minutes of invective from a clearly disgruntled resident.
Unless there is a dire emergency that requires immediate action, you need to play a long, patient game backed up by economic arguments rather than emotion.
A newsletter or Facebook page that routinely suggests the owners corp could be doing something that would benefit everyone, instead of something that’s wasteful or ineffective, can be persuasive.
And it should be in a tone of “hey, guess what I’ve found out” rather than “we reveal the corrupt and incompetent committee is at it again!”
Simply put, if you can offer proof that the committee or its office-bearers’ decisions (or lack thereof) are affecting property values in the building, you are going to get more attention than just saying “he’s wrong, I’m right, so vote for me”.
Most importantly, don’t make it personal. Bullies love that, especially when they are in a position to make you look foolish by using their direct access to owners through emails and the like, which you don’t have.
Strata owners hate personalised politics, because all they see is two people arguing in a way that affects their homes and their lives. That’s a huge turn-off for most of your neighbours.
The best way to start your quiet revolution is to gather together some like-minded owners and work out a long-term strategy that will ultimately result in removing the problem committee members and replacing them with your people at the next AGM.
And that will only happen if the majority of active owners in your block – the ones who actually turn up at AGMs or send proxy votes – think that their lives will be better.
So check the minutes of your last AGM to reveal who voted and work on them. And try to work out who didn’t vote and see if you can get them to give your team their proxies.
But as for getting even? In the words of Confucius, when you go seeking revenge, remember to dig two graves.
This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review