This topic contains 11 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Sir Humphrey 3 weeks, 4 days ago.

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  • #38129
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    Patch
    Flatchatter

    Hi , I am a lot owner of  a unit in a Scheme of 20-plus units in NSW

    In our strata plan the Executive Committee ( aka: strata committee)  has not held a properly convened meeting for over 5 years. No agendas or Minutes . Just an AGM once /year.

    But recently  some issues have arisen : 1)Tiling and 2) parking spots , both installed on common property.

    1) Tiling: Lot owners received  our first ever Minutes in  5 years on March 2019  that documented that the committee had agreed to an estimate quote of  “Tiling” of each level. The Minutes reported that the exec committee had rejected a display of tiles and went and bought their own Tiles from at well known hardware  store. The Minutes were sent 11 days after the meeting.

    The 10 year Capital Works plan designates that the carpet on each floor was to be replaced in 2021 for estimated cost of $10,000.  NOT TILES in 2019 ?  I and other lot owners have never heard anything about tiles with no mention at AGM 2018. I just viewed our recent Strata Financial interim report on a Strata information portal and  the committee has been spent $68,000 on capital works in 4 months? Lot owners have never been informed on what this has been  spent on ?

    I visited the property and noted the acoustics and echoing of noise has increased significantly since Tiles were installed. The workmanship is poor. I am told by an owner that live in residents are very unhappy.

    Also another owner has told me that the  Chairperson has informed live in owners that they are responsible for painting their own common property floor. On the Chairpersons  floor (which is also happens to be mine) the colours have turned dark to white and my brown door has also been painted white. I was not informed about this change ? But other levels colours remain unchanged.

    Unfortunately the tiles are very different from the dark carpet and the whole colour scheme will need to be changed on every floor but committee says owners will now have to do that themselves.

    2) Parking Spots :  The second recent issue is that the same committee members have also installed parking spots on common property previously designated ” no parking” . One under the residents clothes lines. The committee  has the  keys to locked bollards  and allows parking onsite on common property at committees discretion .Parking spots are now numbered with committee members lot numbers.

    So what do you advise a lot owner to do about a committee making their own decisions.  Unfortunately the AGM is not scheduled until October 2019.

    This is all very frustrating and confusing for Lot owners who have had NO correspondence. I have written to Strata Manager and Strata Committee for explanation about above  two issues however to date I haven’t received acknowledgement or  response from either party.

    Does anyone have any advice about an Executive committee that seems out of control? What should lot owners do?

    • This topic was modified 3 weeks, 6 days ago by Jimmy-T.
    #38171
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    There are a number of ways you can approach this, assuming that you tell the strata committee to undo all their work and they refuse.

    1. You can get support of  one quarter of owners (by unit entitlement) to call an EGM where you can seek a simple majority to have all the “improvements” undone.

    2. You could, at this EGM, seek to have any or all of the members of the committee removed by special resolution (75 percent of the votes at the EGM.

    3, You could seek obligatory mediation at Fair Trading, prior to action at NCAT to have the decisions revoked and the common property restored at the errant committee members’ expense. (Section 24 of the Act)

    4. You could seek obligatory mediation at Fair Trading, prior to action at NCAT to have one or more of the committee members removed from the committee. (Section 238)

    5.  You could go to NCAT (mediation not a prerequisite) to have a compulsory strata manager appointed. (Section 237) NB: This is a “be careful what you wish for” move as the chances are high that you may be unhappy with the  appointment of a strata manage who will be answerable to no one and have full powers to run the strata scheme as he or she sees fit.

    However, the NCAT application form sets out the grounds and conditions for such an appointment thus:

    Describe how the management structure is not functioning satisfactorily
    OR
    • Provide evidence of the owners corporation’s failure to comply with an NCAT order, failure to perform one or more of its duties
    OR
    • Provide evidence of the owners corporation’s judgement
    • What functions do you want the agent to have and exercise?
    • Attach the written consent from a managing agent listing their terms, conditions, fee and licence under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act, 2002.

    However, before you embark on any of the above options, make sure you have the support of a substantial number of fellow owners, or you will be dismissed as a trouble-maker.  Better to be seen as a problem solver.

    #38184
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    Flame Tree
    Flatchatter

    Bit rude. And shows the usual signs of a committee that feels it own’s the place and will be served rather than serve as they volunteered to do on behalf of all owners. There must be enough of them to win the committee’s vote on such things which is a pain as typically newer owners and fresh blood feel it’s all too hard and don’t continue as members and the recurrent mob feel all the more empowered or unaware of the shortsightedness and expense of such. A midnight bolt cutter run would fix issue 2 to enable others to also park as your committee feel is now acceptable. Offically (In Qld, at least), if it’s common property it need be accessible by all owners, not just some.

    #38201
    Avatar
    StrataLawyer
    Strataguru

    It might also be worth making an inquiry of the Council.  This “development” is likely to require some sort of approval.

    #38197
    Avatar
    Patch
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Thanks Jimmy – T and Flame Tree,

    More than a bit rude..$68,000 of rude. Owners are frustrated and obviously don’t want more OC expenditure at getting common property restored, removing committee  but it’s difficult as it will cost OC money. I like the bolt cutter idea. Trouble is parking is under clothes lines.

    Jimmy-T , I was interested in Section 24 of the Act you mentioned. How can an errant committee member/s be forced to pay for restoration of common property. Can Tribunal rule for that ?

    There is  obviously concern by lot owners challenging these same committee members , that they will use OC money  Section 103 “emergency legal funds” to defend decisions, turf and their Power ?

    I am told the Committee are currently  spending lots of $$$ on another separate NCAT lot owner common property repair matter vs OC ( I’m informed likely SC to lose the case ) that the OC have not even been informed of , let alone have had any meeting or resolution.  So the Committee don’t have a resolution to spend money on legal fees but are anyway. Thus another case , more $$.  Therefore Committee have a big pot of OC funds and are not afraid to write cheques.

    Any suggestions in the preventing or recouping mis-spent funds ?

     

    #38200
    Avatar
    webman
    Flatchatter

    Other than the excellent advise and details from Jimmy-T above, I would think that if common property is only available to one (or a subset) lot owner, then rent should be payable. So over and above the costs for returning the state of the building back to what it was (tile to carpet) there should also be a rental payment for the parking spaces to cover the period of time that they had exclusive use. Try posting up a sign asking to rent a car space in the building, and see what prices you are quoted, then use that as the value that these owners should pay (to the owners corporation).

    Hopefully you can get sufficient numbers of owners to vote with you.

    PS, as an absentee owner, you might like to setup a private facebook group, whatsapp group, or similar so that all owners (and/or residents, we have two separate facebook groups), to discuss and organise things. Right now, that is to fix your committee and building issues, but it can come in handy even in a well functioning community, whether it’s to borrow a ladder, or let someone know they left their headlights on etc.

    #38206
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Patch wrote:

    I was interested in Section 24 of the Act you mentioned. How can an errant committee member/s be forced to pay for restoration of common property. Can Tribunal rule for that ?

    OK, I should preface this by saying it’s not legal advice and for that you really should go to a strata lawyer.

    That said, the Tribunal can rule that the expenditure wasn’t properly authorised so, logically, the person who signed the bills was acting independently.

    Then it would be up to the Owners (as the owners corp) to seek to have that money paid back. So individual owners, or a group thereof,  send a letter to the strata committee asking them to pursue debt recovery against the errant committee members for the strata funds they spent  without proper authority.

    Obviously, the strata committee probably isn’t going to take itself  to court over this, so you then apply to NCAT to compel them to take action (Section 232).  At this point, anticipate mass resignations and multiple sales of units as the culprits (and the passively complicit) try to distance themselves from potential liability.

    Make sure you have a Strata Committee in Exile – and a good, reliable strata manager – ready to take the reins when it all starts to fall apart.

    By the way, two trips to the Tribunal, plus appeals, plus debt recovery, is a long hard row to hoe – but maybe a determination to see this through will put enough of a scare into the committee members to get them to do the right thing – which is to made good their personal land grabs then resign from the committee.

     

    #38208
    Sir Humphrey
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    Then it would be up to the Owners (as the owners corp) to seek to have that money paid back.

    Couldn’t it be done with one trip to the Tribunal? I would have thought that you could go to the Tribunal asking for:

    1) a ruling that the expenditure of $X on Y on (date) was not properly authorised, and

    2) if the Tribunal grants the ruling sought at (1) or some amendment thereof, an order that the expenditure be repaid to the owners corporation by (some named person(s)) by (some date), and

    3) any amendment of the above orders or any other order that the Tribunal considers necessary or reasonable to resolve the matter.

    #38211
    Avatar
    Flame Tree
    Flatchatter

    Firstly, Id get your numbers to enable a EGM and before seeking that first have an informal discussion among your leaders within that group to ensure you are all on the same page, know what you need to know, and what you collective want to achieve, and to help build your numbers – which may even include some current committee members as most decisions are not 100% votes in favor. Someone needs to lead it, so if that’s you I’d suggest you don’t run too far in-front of the others and be open to the groups various thoughts. I imagine getting many of these folks active and involved will help cement them in place. When you are ready to roll get the show on the road seeking your EGM but if you can’t get the numbers informally you might find that is the first thing you need to acheive.

    #38231
    Avatar
    Patch
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Thank you to  Jimmy-T and others,

    I think from the feedback that I have to bundle all issues into one big NCAT ?  And maybe work in background to also inform owners about whats going on. ( social media, email…etc ) .

    I like the Council Development Application angle in regard to  car park spots and I will  make enquiries with council.

    I sent a  letter to committee about 4-6  weeks ago and I have received NO reply  in regards to parking spaces and other common property changes .  However  I was  told today by a live in owner that several tradespersons were suddenly onsite again today and now grinding committee members unit numbers off the car parking spots , thus removing the unit numbers ( more OC expenditure to cover up )  but the locked bollards and spaces still obstruct common property, but no one actually knows who holds the Keys to bollards and car spaces ?  …. probably same lot owners ? Who can find out given the current amount of secrecy ?

    Financial records show the bollards were actually paid for by the OC  funds so ” the committee ” or lot owners are again changing common property with OC funds … So someone knows who has keys to bollards and they are changing common property (unauthorised) again? Hard to find out ? I can only link these changes  to my letter  to the committee for explanation  for numbered spots.

    Whats  difficult is when individual lot owners appear to act behind cover of  ” the committee” but really undertake  duties, make decisions and spend money as individual lot owners and appear self serving.

    I really like the idea the ‘ individual lot owners’  that are  hiding in key roles and  titles as  “Strata committee members”   can perhaps be made individually accountable at NCAT for the decisions and liable for unauthorised expenditure  ? Especially if have not complied with Act and had a prior  special resolution to do so.

    I would still appreciate any ideas in future.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 4 days ago by Jimmy-T.
    #38240
    Jimmy-T
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Patch said:

    I think from the feedback that I have to … work in [the] background to also inform owners about whats going on. ( social media, email…etc ) .

    Tread carefully here.  Have a look at this story about a defamation case that cost a tenant $120,000. By all means ask questions and inform other owners. However accusing individuals or groups of people of acting improperly, for instance, in a way that could be seen as defamatory, could see you in a whole other brand of trouble that you don’t want or need.

    #38241
    Sir Humphrey
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    I agree with JT. By all means take the issue on but be careful to always be scrupulously fair and accurate, even when the forces of evil are not. You win in the end by being seen to behave decently and honestly.

    #38249
    Avatar
    Patch
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hi all,

    Thankyou for the sound advice , I have read the defamation case payout $120,000 on FLAT CHAT.

    I have been very careful to keep all personal opinions  to myself and just confront the committee with facts and questions in all correspondence. It was difficult at AGM 18 when I asked questions and was faced with a committee member who yelled  , intimidated and physically stood over me . I’m want to avoid being  the brunt of more behaviour, so  decided NCAT is only way for lot owners to address the issues . The advice of Flame  Tree – “don’t run too far in front of others”  is good tip so I am advising other owners who are also unhappy with changes to document their issues and request answers from committee / strata manager as I did .

    I am  now concentrating my efforts on gathering valid evidence ( I filed for Mediation) and then request NCAT to request the valid documented evidence from the OC .With no valid Minutes /Correspondence to owners or any EGM minutes authorising changes to common property or  approving expenses , it will make Exec committee ( ie the  1 or 2 individual lot owners ) actions finally accountable. The removal of those individuals is desired outcome as it will clear the way for new EC members who want to fix the past. Agree with advice to have a back up “committee” ready to step up .

    This is a great Forum so thanks for input. I will update you on outcome of NCAT when I finally get there , but I may need some more advice along the way…..?

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