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  • #58278

    Owners in our apartment complex are worried that one committee member may have an agenda that could have negative consequences on us all. The person concerned was named in parliament several years ago in relation to specific strata-related complaints.  She has bought five units in this complex (of fewer than 50 lots) in recent years.

    I have heard different accounts of what has been happening and my concerns grow on the value of my own property.  Some committee members are saying that our properties are being devalued by this person for her own personal gain.

    She has openly abused and denigrated other committee members at a general meeting, calling them “deplorable”. The meeting turned out to be a complete waste of time and one committee member resigned because of anxiety issues.

    This owner does seem to know the Strata Act quite well (it could well be a perception being created) and at the last general meeting, her voice was the only one being heard despite other owners speaking up.

    They were talked over and the Strata Manager did not control meeting proceedings properly.  I have written to the Strata Manager with suggestions on meeting protocols, which hopefully, some of them will be adopted.  As we meet online, it may be an option to record the meeting with the consent of owners.

    I have contacted the Department of Fair Trading to ask them about committee member integrity.  However, it seems anyone (irrespective of past transgressions) can be a committee member.  I find this alarming as our sinking fund is quite sizeable.

    Is there anything under strata law that states members of the committee must be of good character / have integrity? Is there anything to ensure that a person of questionable character should not be considered a committee member?

    Is there some forum that owners can check the integrity of committee members?

    Some of the owners suspect this person is seeking to have the current strata management company ousted.  She apparently did this to another strata plan she is on and where she is the sole strata committee officer (Chair, Secretary and Treasurer) – subsequently installing a strata manager she knows.

    We are concerned this may be part of her agenda.  There are other considerations  such as that she may be part of a development company.

    Can you suggest avenues we can explore to uncover what this owner is up to and have her removed from the committee (an opportunity that may be available at the next AGM)?

    What suggestions can you make for the strata committee and owners corporation to ensure integrity, transparency and collaboration going forward?

     

     

     

     

Viewing 5 replies - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
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  • #58293
    Boronia
    Flatchatter

    You are lucky.

    I own a unit in in a block of 21 where one person owns 15 and has proxies for 3 more from “absentee” owners.

    #58297
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    You are lucky. I own a unit in in a block of 21 where one person owns 15 and has proxies for 3 more from “absentee” owners.

    If they are the original owner, then their holding is worth only five votes (because they own more than half the properties) and they can only carry one proxy.  Making six votes in total (and I’m not sure if they can even count the proxy).  Not a majority but a start.   If you can get the others to vote with you, you’d have a majority.

    First thing to do is to contact the proxy givers and tell them their vote is being wasted as, under NSW law, the person concerned can only carry one proxy.

    Time to put the cat among the pigeons, I think.

    #58300
    Boronia
    Flatchatter

    No, they are not the original owners. In some of these units, they are actually the third. Does this affect the proxies?

     

    #58303
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    This is what the Act says about proxies:

    (7) Limit on number of proxies that may be held 

    The total number of proxies that may be held by a person (other than proxies held by the person as the co-owner of a lot) voting on a resolution are as follows—

    (a)  if the strata scheme has 20 lots or less, one,

    (b)  if the strata scheme has more than 20 lots, a number that is equal to not more than 5% of the total number of lots.

    Since a proxy can be someone who isn’t even an owner, then I don’t think that multiple lot ownership allows mutiple proxies over the limit of one per 20 lots (in your case, that’s one).  It’s per person, not per lot owner.

    That said, with 15 other votes under their control, I guess they only need one proxy to be able to pass by-laws unimpeded.
    Do you think this owner is stacking up the ownership so they can redevelop the site?  Or do they just like the building that much?
    #58304
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Owners in our apartment complex are worried that one committee member may have an agenda that could have negative consequences on us all. The person concerned … has bought five units in this complex (of fewer than 50 lots) in recent years.

    She has openly abused and denigrated other committee members at a general meeting, calling them “deplorable”. The meeting turned out to be a complete waste of time and one committee member resigned because of anxiety issues.

    Personal abuse should not be tolerated. Have a look at my suggested standing orders for committee meetings (below).  Get this or a version of it adopted as a by-law at your next general  meeting and that will give you a framework for curbing abuses.  Note items 14 and 15, about “naming” members who are persistently disruptive.  You could also adapt the standing orders for general meetings.

    Don’t expect your strata manager to change the way they do things just because you have suggested it.  This formalises the way meeting should be conducted an the SM works to your rules, you don’t have to work to theirs.

    NB: Most of the items in my suggested standing orders simply codify what is already in the Act.  Once they have been adopted as a by-law, then you can refer to and enforce them.

    “Naming” of disruptive elements this way would mean that the committee and its members would have a sanction against owners without being subject to concerns about defamation.  There is a lot of leeway allowed for strata committees in the cut and thrust of discussion, provided criticism is not made maliciously (i.e. the main intent was to defame them and damage their standing in the community).

    A vote by the committee would be protected in this way and minuting that the named person had breached such and such a rule at the meeting lets everyone in the block know who this person is and what they are up to.

    I have contacted the Department of Fair Trading to ask them about committee member integrity. However, it seems anyone (irrespective of past transgressions) can be a committee member.

    True, unless the member has been subject to orders from NCAT removing them from that specific committee.

    Is there anything under strata law that states members of the committee must be of good character / have integrity? Is there anything to ensure that a person of questionable character should not be considered a committee member? Is there some forum that owners can check the integrity of committee members?

    No.  But there’s nothing to stop people asking questions at the general meeting at which the owners stands for election. “You were named in Paliament in 2001 for alleged misdeeds in relation to strata management.  Could you explain what that was all about?”

    Some of the owners suspect this person is seeking to have the current strata management company ousted. There are other considerations such as that she may be part of a development company. Can you suggest avenues we can explore to uncover what this owner is up to and have her removed from the committee (an opportunity that may be available at the next AGM)?

    What suggestions can you make for the strata committee and owners corporation to ensure integrity, transparency and collaboration going forward?

    The critical issue here is to get people involved, either directly or through getting their proxies. Right now this person has 12.5 percent of the vote.  They only need to rustle up another five owners to block by-laws.

    So before the next AGM organise your “ticket” of committee members, make sure they are all financial and, when you get to the election, make sure the number of seats you decide on is fewer than the number of candidates.

    You can have a mixture of existing members and new ones, the main thing is to make it very hard for this person to get herself elected.  You don’t even have to confront her at the meeting – just quietly get your numbers organised in advance and she will be “blind-sided” as they say on Survivor.

    If the election is conducted according to the rules, after the chair announces the nominees, the meeting is invited to decide on the number of seats on the committee, to a maximum of nine.  Make sure you select a number one less than the number of nominees.

    You can’t hand out voting papers – votes must be written on blank sheets of paper – but you can hand out information sheets, telling people who your candidates are and even why they should vote for them.

    If the multi-unit owner challenges this at the meeting and again abuses the committee, have someone prepared to stand up and say that this is the kind of behaviour you are trying to remove to allow for the smooth running of the block.

    Once you have the numbers, then concerns about the strata manager or any other nefarious agendas will evaporate.  But you have to work at it.  There are no StrataKops who will come to the rescue; you do and your fellow owners need to do the groundwork.

    You might also be interested in an article about codes of conduct that I wrote for the AFR back in 2018.

    Suggested Standing Orders for Strata Committees (based on NSW strata law)

    NB: These are only a suggestion – they can and should be adapted for your circumstances and then must be registered as a by-law to have any effect.

    1. The meeting may not commence until the quorum of attendance (50 percent of the membership as decided at the previous AGM) has been reached. Acting members’ (proxy) votes may not be counted towards the quorum.*
    2. The meeting must be chaired by the elected chairperson unless they are absent or unable to do so, in which case the committee must elect a chair for the duration of that meeting.*
    3. Voting on committee matters is by a show of hands with each member carrying only one vote (unless they have been granted an acting member vote in writing by a member who cannot attend and the committee has agreed to it being allowed).*
    4. A simple majority of the committee in attendance can choose not to allow acting member votes if they so wish.*
    5. Members can be considered to be in attendance if they are present by telephone, video streaming or other electronic means.*
    6. The committee must allow non-committee members to attend the meeting but they are only permitted to speak if a majority of the committee agrees.*
    7. The committee may decide by a simple majority whether or not non-committee members should speak only on specific items on the agenda or on any or all agenda items.*
    8. In a tied vote, the Chairperson does not have a casting vote and any motion will be considered not to have been carried if it remains tied after a re-vote.*
    9. The chair should make it clear to non-committee members that they are bound by the Standing Orders.
    10. The committee will consider the items on the agenda in the order in which they appear unless a majority of the committee agrees to change the order at the meeting.
    11. The Chairperson will allow each participating member or attendee to speak only once on a topic until everyone who wants to speak has had a chance to do so. The same restriction will apply after each time an attendee speaks.
    12. After discussions, and before a vote, the Chair will call for anyone who wishes to raise a point that has not already been discussed, to do so.
    13. Once a vote has been taken and the meeting has moved on to the next agenda item, a previous motion may not be revisited.
    14. Attendees and members who interrupt, talk out of turn or talk over other members may be warned verbally that their behaviour is not acceptable.
    15. If the behaviour is repeated despite a warning, the chairman can call for a vote of the committee to ‘name’ the miscreant in the minutes of the meeting.
    16. The meeting will be called to a close after the final item has been discussed and voted upon.
    17. If there is persistent disruption, the chair can propose the meeting be adjourned at any point, subject to the approval of the committee, with the remaining items to be decided “on paper”.
    18. There is no “any other business”.* Any items not on the agenda can only be discussed informally after the end of the meeting and no vote should be taken or recorded.

    *Items 1 to 8 plus 18 are  already part of NSW strata laws or regulations.

     

     

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