Flat Chat Forum Another day in paradise Current Page

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  • #56321
    EnterSandman
    Flatchatter

    We live in a Sydney block of units and 99% of the tenants are respectful, well mannered lovely people. There is always the 1%.

    Whilst you can’t please everyone, this individual owner is an absolute serial pest and will complain about anything but then act as a law unto themselves.

    Challenging minutes of strata meetings and accusing the chair and committee members of being fraudulent are just a few of the constant litany of baseless and trivial complaints from this one person this year.

    Recently our Strata Manager was onsite with a contractor and the resident verbally abused him, rattling off a long list of other complaints he has.

    Our strata manager is bombarded by this person’s complaints on a daily basis and isn’t paid enough to have to put up with this individual. What recommendations would you have for us?

    We don’t want our strata manager to walk away and they are also tired of this person. Are we able to instruct all correspondence to be in writing? Or tell them to just ignore the resident?

    [This post has been edited to make the issues raised more general, and less specific to any one  strata scheme – JT]

    • This topic was modified 1 day, 19 hours ago by .
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  • #56549
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I have been sent an rude email under the made-up name Simon Boccanegra. Normally I would just flick this to spam, but it’s worth answering because it illustrates how obsessive  people who believe they are in the right can get drawn into the quicksand of legal costs.

    So here is the email.

    The following sounds very hard to believe. $40 thousand costs awarded against someone at NCAT? I sincerely doubt this. I’ll call BS.

    “And costs are awarded under certain circumstances, as has happened to a very distressed reader who wrote to me today saying she’s had legal costs of $40k awarded against her.”

    Clear this up, sunshine. Was this taken to a higher court or something. As you would know NCAT almost NEVER awards costs. It’s supposed to be a civilised egalitarian way to settle disputes, yes?

    As explained in the link I posted earlier, there are certain grounds under which NCAT will award reasonable costs. They are (and this is taken from the NCAT website):

    a) A party has conducted their case in a way that unnecessarily disadvantages another party
    b) A party has been responsible for unreasonably making the case take longer
    c) The relative strength of a party’s case or whether the case was hopeless
    d) The nature and complexity of the case
    e) A party’s case was frivolous, vexatious or misconceived
    f) A party has not cooperated with the Tribunal in providing a just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in dispute
    g) A party has not followed Tribunal orders or directions
    h) Any other matter the Tribunal thinks is relevant

    Now that covers a  lot of options but you can see how a misinformed, obsessive and vexatious litigant could trip themselves up, especially if they suffer from bush-lawyeritis.

    Now, to be clear, costs awarded by NCAT are not a penalty, per se, nor are they compensation for travel or time taken off work.

    However they do include fees for representation, and costs that unrepresented parties would have to have paid if they had been represented, such as filing fees, expert witnesses and printing costs.

    The limitations on those charges are established in the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014, but all it takes is a few delayed hearings, misconceived challenges and recesses to address previously withheld evidence and the legal bills could mount up for the other side .

    And, of course, delays, misdirections and unsustainable arguments would not only inflate the defence’s legal bills, they would trip over several of the clauses that allow costs to be ordered.

    OK, but $40,000? In the case that was brought to my attention, the costs claimed for defending the Tribunal action was six or seven relatively small amounts (at least by legal standards) that added up over the course of a tricky case.

    So, yes, you could theoretically end up having costs of $40k awarded by NCAT, because NCAT can either get the parties to agree on the costs, apply the terms of the Uniform Terms Application Act, or set a figure itself.

    Simon Boccanegra is an opera by Verdi about a peasant who seeks high office. Spoiler alert:  At the end  he is betrayed and dies of poisoning.  Sad.

     

     

    • This reply was modified 19 hours, 2 minutes ago by .
    #56537
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    For the record, although this discussion was initiated by one person in one scheme, it has wider and more general implications across strata in all jurisdictions. Most of the comments below are very general and not specific to any single community.

    Also, my apologies for leading the discussion down a rabbit hole about Apprehended Personal Violence Orders. It turns out they are applicable for individuals but less so (or possibly not) for groups.  I have edited out all references accordingly.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56499
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Could it be the case that their behaviour is a result of feeling ignored by the players (strata committee and strata manager) who are supposed to also protect his interests (if legitimate) as an owner, but who sound like they are investing time and energy in working out how to shut them up?

    You could be right but there is no easy answer to this. One person’s grim determination is another’s illogical obsession.

    Surely it would be prudent to understand their position properly before resorting to… [a] conduct by-law, which would presumably apply to everyone equally.

    The fact that it applies to everyone is kind of the point.  That way you aren’t curbing the individual, just the unacceptable behaviour.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56493

    When you say ‘trivial’ complaints, is it a matter of perspective? What’s an example of a seemingly baseless or trivial complaint that this owner has made? Perhaps this owner just needs to be given a forum to be heard so the real issues can be ventilated, addressed and moved on from?

    Could it be the case that their behaviour is a result of feeling ignored by the players (strata committee and strata manager) who are supposed to also protect his interests (if legitimate) as an owner, but who sound like they are investing time and energy in working out how to shut them up? Perhaps the aggression is merely frustration?

    Surely it would be prudent to understand their position properly before resorting to… [a] conduct by-law, which would presumably apply to everyone equally.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56480
    Flame Tree (Qld)
    Flatchatter

    You need to be sure the complainer isnt in fact correct on all/many/some of the things he raises.

    If the committee does their full job he has less to whine about so make sure he isnt just (poorly) pointing out things that should be addressed.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56361
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    There must be some way of dealing with a ratbag resident who enjoys dragging his or her neighbours to NCAT, even when they know they are going to lose.

    The by-law could be a way forward, especially if the strata committee seeks costs if it goes to NCAT.  And costs are awarded under certain circumstances, as has happened to a very distressed reader who wrote to me today saying she’s had legal costs of $40k awarded against her.

    If anyone’s interested this document outlines the “special circumstances” under which NCAT can order costs

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56359
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    The by-law I refer to is by-law 7 of the model by laws from the 2016 act. It was bylaw 6 in the model by laws for pre 2016 buildings. And it existed in the model by laws in the 1973 act.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56354
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    The other tactic that one strata manager uses is to hold committee and general meetings off site ie in his office. When the troublemaker starts trouble, the strata manager gives a warning and the next outburst uninvites the troublemaker from the premises.

    It sounds like a good idea, but I can imagine a serial pest (rather than Shouty Angryman at a meeting) might then launch an action at NCAT that they had been deprived of their right to attend a meeting.

    I’m not saying they’re right, just that if people are determined to make nuisance of themselves using spurious complaints then this would be grist to their mill.

    Interested in the behaviour by-law.  What’s the actual wording?

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56348
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    In my building we have the standard by-law for “Behaviour of Owners , occupants and invitees”  Used it a couple of times for good effect.

    The other tactic that one strata manager uses is to hold committee and general meetings off site ie in his office. When the troublemaker starts trouble, the strata manager gives a warning and the next outburst uninvites the troublemaker from the premises. That then makes it a trespass and the police can be called to remove the troublemaker.

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56334
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    JT advice to set the ground rules for communications is a good strategy, especially if you can get it minuted.

    How is this person able to get a voice. Remember that a strata is a democracy, where the decision of the majority rules. Just tell them that whatever decision they don’t like has been voted at a correctly convened meeting, and the decision stands.

    Point out that schedules 1 and 2 tell him how he can get decisions changed (provided he can gain enough support)

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
    #56327
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I think I may know the the type of person you are talking about.

    Now, you can’t prevent this person from writing to you, but neither can he force you to read the emails and letters.  So you could pass a resolution at your committee that, in view of previous abusive and time-consuming communications, the committee has resolved not to read them unless they come from the owner’s solicitor, and have instructed the strata manager to deal with them the same way.

    Just make sure the resolution is absolutely neutral and doesn’t contain any comments that could be seen as defamatory. Personally, I would only refer to this person as “the owner of lot ###” – not even his apartment number – as anyone who wants to know who they are can soon find out but you aren’t seen to be unfairly targetting one person.

    Something like “In view of the tone and number of communications from the resident of lot X, this committee resolves not to read or respond to further communications unless they are in writing (or come from the owner’s solicitor), and has instructed our strata manager to restrict direct communications accordingly.”

    If the miscreant takes action at Fair Trading and NCAT, you can  seek costs on the grounds outlined HERE, including:

    •  The relative strength of a party’s case or whether the case was hopeless
    • A party’s case was frivolous, vexatious or misconceived
    • Any other matter the Tribunal thinks is relevant

    I note you refer to this resident as “tenant”.  Are they a renter?  If so, they are on even shakier ground, I would think.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 day, 17 hours ago by .
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