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Tenants in, strata ‘presidents’ out, in vote shake-up

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This first appeared in the Domain section of the SMH on July 25, 2015

In the raft of more than 90 proposed changes to NSW strata law released a couple of weeks ago, one plainly daft idea was binned while another bold attempt to make unit blocks a little more representative survived.

The looney tunes plan was to have strata chairpersons directly elected at a general meeting rather than chosen by their committee.

You can be sure that some “Dear Leaders”, propped up by proxies farmed with an efficiency that would put the Wheat Board to shame, were ecstatic at the thought of being swept into power presidentially by hordes of devoted supporters (and buckets of votes from the absent and uninterested).

The dynastic despots of North Korea can’t hold a candle to some of the strutting martinets of strata, many of whom genuinely believe that their buildings would collapse without them, therefore they must do whatever it takes, by fair means or foul, to ensure they stay in power.

And if this was done by direct vote at a general meeting, their reign would be unthreatened by the one fly in their democratic ointment – currently the chair of a strata committee can be voted out at any time by its members.

But, hey, even Prime Ministers can be stabbed in the back – why should strata chairs be immune? Anyway, that idea has gone, thankfully, along with proxy farming.

However, the proposal that renters will be able to elect a rep to sit on the strata committee in any building where tenants comprise more than half of the residents survives.

Given that tenants make up more than half the residents in strata, that’s a lot of buildings that could have a renter rep next year.

But before owner-occupiers start manning the common property barricades, tenant reps won’t be able to vote and they can be excluded from discussions on sensitive financial matters.  They also can’t be elected chairman, secretary or treasurer, regardless of any skills they may have.

Would it be so bad to hear the point of view of the majority in a block? Many tenants already contribute more to strata community life than all the investor owners combined.

Anyway, as it stands, tenants only need an owner to nominate them for election, then they can vote and be elected ‘president’ of the building if they want – just not by popular acclaim.

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