It’s nice to bring a happy conclusion to a story, albeit one that we thought was over and done with ages ago.
Regular readers may remember the story of the North Coast builder-developer who decided he wanted a nice apartment with oceans views – and that a dozen or so other people should pay for it … and keep paying.
The initial warning signs came when he sent water bills to the first two purchasers of apartments in his small block, saying that, because there were only three owners in the building, the water should be shared three ways (notwithstanding the fact that it was being used to heavily water the landscaped gardens in the hope of making the block more attractive to prospective buyers).
One owner, who had served on a strata committee in the city smelled a rat and contacted Flat Chat. We told her that this was against strata law and that the payments could only be based on unit entitlements. The developer was not pleased.
Then the brand-new lift broke down and owners were told there would be a special levy to pay for repairs. On a new lift!?!
Then subsequent purchasers were told to sign over their proxies as part of their sales contracts (which is strictly illegal). Also illegal, 25-year management contracts with mates were signed in advance of the first AGM.
Then the developer said the original purchasers didn’t have a vote because they hadn’t paid their levies (the water bills).
When they pointed out he hadn’t paid any levies either – because there was no money in the bank (in fact there wasn’t even a bank account) – he said there were no levies, just “contributions” that he ran through his business.
Every time the owners tried to assert their rights, there was bluff, bluster and BS and they were accused of being troublemakers.
In an effort to legitimise the whole operation, a local strata manager was hired and he proved to be worse than useless.
How can you be worse than useless? How about turning up with the old strata laws and claiming no one had told him that they had been changed six months ago?
The developer’s illegal proxy votes were allowed, the new legal limits on proxies were ignored, and a raft of ridiculously pro-developer by-laws were “passed” while the basic model by-laws were ignored.
The mandatory bank accounts and funds for a strata scheme, as required by law, weren’t set up.
Oh, and in the middle of all this, Fair Trading proved themselves to be about as useful as a chocolate teapot. When all of these breaches were laid out to them by yours truly, FT responded by sending a letter that told owners they had to abide by the law, and here’s the web address where you will find it.
Thanks fellas – you were a big help. One phone call to tell the developer he was being watched would have saved months of heartache … but no, that was too much trouble.
The developer stacked the committee using invalid proxy votes and the strata manager went along with it. Our Flatchatters, retirees hoping for a quiet life on the coast, some of whom aren’t in the best of health, were ready to give up.
It was a nightmare – but it was also a wake-up call. There were so many things fundamentally wrong with this situation that we couldn’t decide where to start.
Now, Flat Chat usually works on a hands-off basis. Flatchatters bring us their problems, other Flatchatters offer solutions and the occasional word of support. We don’t get directly involved. Ever.
But this was an affront to everything with think is good about strata living. The rights and wrongs of the situation could not have been more clear, yet our friends at Fair Trading were doing nothing.
So we contacted our sponsors, Strata Choice, and asked them to take a look. First they pointed out to residents all the breaches of the Act that had been committed, and told the them what they should have been doing.
The residents tried, but the developer wouldn’t budge and threatened them with all sorts of legal action and dared them to take him to NCAT where his lawyers would make them rue the day etc etc etc
Don’t forget, these are ordinary people up against a bully who either doesn’t understand strata law or doesn’t care. So, because they don’t operate in that area of the state, Strata Choice contacted another strata management firm whom they knew and trusted and asked them to take a look.
They spoke to the incumbent strata manager who, having had the facts of strata life explained to him, quietly resigned.
A general meeting was held under the terms of the strata Act, the new strata manager was appointed, the laws were followed, the pro-developer by-laws were rescinded, the standard by-laws were adopted, accounts were created and systems were put in place. Finally, everything was as it should have been to begin with.
The rogue developer predictably blew a fuse and threatened legal action etc etc etc. But with the law on their side (that’s the current law, not last century’s) the residents can finally relax.
Strata Choice didn’t have to get involved. There was nothing in this for them. But they did, and they made a huge difference to a lot of people’s lives.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is one of the reasons they have just been named Strata Management Company of the Year for the second year in a row and we are proud to have them as our principal sponsor.