Flat Chat Forum Strata Committees Current Page

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  • #55389
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter

    Some years ago a SC member arranged for a contractor to sweep the common pathway in a small strata every month.

    Once a month allegedly a person comes to sweep for which he is well paid for the very short time he is there. (As an aside, years ago my suggestion to have a resident do this and be paid was rejected).

    A retired resident advises me that he has not seen the sweeper for three months.

    I asked the managing agent about this and was told “well you do know it’s been wet in Sydney for a while, so I expect the sweeper did not attend”. Ok I thought. But I was curious. So a few days later I asked the agent to indicate whether the sweeper was paid in Jan and Feb. The agent advises “yes he was”.

    My search through the records unearthed two invoices: one for “cleaning in Jan” and another for “cleaning in Feb”. No more particulars are listed on the invoices.

    I asked the agent:

    1. Pls advise what day in Jan did the cleaning take place? How much time did the job take?

    2. Pls advise what day in Feb did the cleaning take place? How much time did the job take?

    3. Who authorised the payments, presumably after inspecting the work and being satisfied?

    The agent has not replied.

    Can the agent (who routinely passes emails to the SC) and SC ignore my questions?

    Can invoices be paid without having been approved by anyone?

    Can invoices be so meaningless as to raise the possibility that the OC is being fleeced?

     

Viewing 10 replies - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
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  • #55662
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru
    …I recall the Tsr/Sec year ago poo-pooing my idea for a resident to spend the 45 mins or so sweeping because he did not want the OC to be liable in case of injury to the resident….

    Our strata insurance policy includes cover for volunteers working on things on common property. It might not be as much of a liability exposure as was feared.

    #55582
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hi, sorry for the later reply. Your views are appreciated.

    1. Webman wrote: Out of interest, have you obtained any independant quotes on what it would cost to have the area cleaned once per month? How does this compare to the current costs?

    TrueE replies: There is a two person strata committee in a 5 lot building . The  Sec/Tsr nominated a cleaning service some years ago which is rumoured to be owned by his friend. No quotes were obtained. No other firms were even approached. While the strata has changed agents 3x, the said cleaning service has been a constant.

           2. Webman wrote: From a contractors point of view, they would be charging for the travel time to/from your  property, as well as transport costs (eg vehicle costs, etc), employee time, and equipment costs (even if that isa  simple broom and dust pan). Sure, it is always cheaper to do it yourself, and every job always looks easier when someone else is doing it. My suggestion, get three quotes, and then present those at the next SC meeting or AGM. Even older people will be able to decide if they want to pay a higher/lower price for the same job to be done.

    TrulE replies: You make sense. Even though some may charge for travel etc, three quotes would be very useful as one could see their individual greed. I recall the Tsr/Sec year ago poo-pooing my idea for a resident to spend the 45 mins or so sweeping because he did not want the OC to be liable in case of injury to the resident.

    As to your comment on older people: note when there are two and one has severe memory problems and mood swings and the other sits on a committee but is little more than an echo for the dominant Tsr/Sec (as she shies away from confrontation) your optimism cannot be realised in this strata.

    3              Webman wrote: Finally, perhaps you should also ask about the original agreement to provide services. Maybe it was to have the cleaning done on the xth day of each month for a fixed monthly fee. When there is inclement weather on the nth day, then obviously services can’t be performed, but it is quite possible that the agreement still permits charges to apply. Again, this might be something that could be re-negotiated if you feel the OC would be better served with a more flexible service (ie, provided any day within a week after the xth day where the weather permits), potentially at a higher cost.

    TrulE writes: From memory no agreement in writing was formalised by the Sec/Tsr on behalf of the SC or OC. He did say at an AGM that he will organise once a month cleaning. No mention was made as to whether he has a direct, indirect, professional or social relationship with the said contractor. I see from many invoices that mention is made of once a month cleaning with zero details as to who did the work how long he spent and what exactly he did. The price has grown to $82 per instance, which I find appalling as I could do the small amount of work in 45 mins max.

    Webman wrote: When looking at alternative suppliers, ensure you are quoting for the same thing.

    TrulE writes: Ideally YES. But I am dealing with an outlier situation to the Act. The strata has 5 lots. The Tsr/Sec demanded the committee comprise him and an elderly woman. That is 2 only. I moved for 3 members of the SC at the AGM but the Sec/Tsr argued that he “could not work with me” and that if I was elected he would not be on the SC. The seniors, see below caved in. For good measure cajoled an elderly man for his proxy. So now the Tsr/Sec has 3 of 5 votes: his, an elderly man + an elderly woman. Nothing will change unless he is blasted out of office. He argued against having me on the committee after inquiring with others about my performance at another strata where as Tsr for a decade I insisted on transparency and quotes, he clearly decided my attitude was incompatible with his vision for the strata.

    Webamn wrote: PS, have you tried talking to the actual worker when they show up to do the cleaning? If you approach them in a friendly manner, introduce yourself as a new owner, and being curious as to what they do, how often, etc, you could get a lot more information than beating your head against the SC wall. Although, the SC may have already pre-warned the contractor about you if you have already been raising questions, so that may not go so far now.

    TrulE writes: Given the rumoured association between the Sec/Tsr and the cleaning company, this good suggestion will not yield the result hoped for. In fact one resident told me that he has not seen the cleaner for 3 months and wondered what happened? In the last day the agent replied to my question as to WHEN the cleaner allegedly attended the strata and I was given dates in Jan, Feb, Mar and April. I suspect either the cleaner of committee members told the agent these dates. This no doubt is to explain why pmts were made to the cleaner over those months notwithstanding the agent last month wrote to me that the bad weather in Sydney could explain why the cleaner was absent for a few months.

    Also in response to my queries as to who on the committee approved the invoices after presumably inspecting the work and finding it to be a good standard, the agent parroted the  Sec/Tsr in the reply which ignored mention of anyone approving the invoices and merely indicated that the elderly man (who as mentioned is not on the committee nor a reliable witness) “usually” sees the cleaner and is “happy” with the work.

    Webman wrote: Best of luck, I think this is probably going to be just the first of many battles ahead of you 😉

    TrulE writes: You said it!

    #55484
    webman
    Flatchatter

    Out of interest, have you obtained any independant quotes on what it would cost to have the area cleaned once per month? How does this compare to the current costs?

    From a contractors point of view, they would be charging for the travel time to/from your property, as well as transport costs (eg vehicle costs, etc), employee time, and equipment costs (even if that is a simple broom and dust pan). Sure, it is always cheaper to do it yourself, and every job always looks easier when someone else is doing it. My suggestion, get three quotes, and then present those at the next SC meeting or AGM. Even older people will be able to decide if they want to pay a higher/lower price for the same job to be done.

    Finally, perhaps you should also ask about the original agreement to provide services. Maybe it was to have the cleaning done on the xth day of each month for a fixed monthly fee. When there is inclement weather on the nth day, then obviously services can’t be performed, but it is quite possible that the agreement still permits charges to apply. Again, this might be something that could be re-negotiated if you feel the OC would be better served with a more flexible service (ie, provided any day within a week after the xth day where the weather permits), potentially at a higher cost.

    When looking at alternative suppliers, ensure you are quoting for the same thing.

    PS, have you tried talking to the actual worker when they show up to do the cleaning? If you approach them in a friendly manner, introduce yourself as a new owner, and being curious as to what they do, how often, etc, you could get a lot more information than beating your head against the SC wall. Although, the SC may have already pre-warned the contractor about you if you have already been raising questions, so that may not go so far now.

    Best of luck, I think this is probably going to be just the first of many battles ahead of you 😉

    #55452
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    The agent (relatively new) does engage with owners outside of the SC.

    AND

    …  he will not reply to an email until he receives chapter and verse from the SC.

    These statement seem to be contradictory.  Also your quoting and requoting and referencing yourself in the third person is confusing.  Keep it simple, please, but let us know how you get on with your various approaches to the strata committee.

    #55446
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    TrulE wrote: The agent (relatively new) does engage with owners outside of the SC. Compared to many agents I have dealt with, this one is good. Like all other agents I have dealt with, he will not reply to an email until he receives chapter and verse from the SC, in this case the Sec/Tsr.

    Jimmy wrote: These statements above appear to be completely contradictory.

    TrulE responds: ALL agents in the strata plans I have been involved with wait to take their marching orders from the SC before replying to a non SC member. None have replied to lot owners without references to the SC. The current agent at least (from what I understand) immediately forwards my email to the SC for a view/comment/reply. He does not sit the email.

    —-
    TrulE wrote: I have no idea of the current policy [on payment approvals] which as I recall was never articulated by anyone at an AGM. So what you’re saying is that to ensure compliance with transparency, I should list a motion at the AGM accordingly?

    Jimmy replied: Or you could just ask the committee, or propose a motion to the next committee meeting that someone explains how payments are approved.

    TrulE responds: GREAT idea. Give the SC a chance to explain the current policy of paying invoices and if it smells dodgy, then list a motion at the AGM accordingly.

    —-

    TrulE wrote: Can I ask the SC if any member (there are two) has direct or indirect links or associations with the cleaning company, its owner(s) or staff? A link was never disclosed to the OC.

    Jimmy wrote: You can ask and, if there are, it should have been disclosed under Part 18 of Schedule 2, of the Act and recorded in a book kept specifically for that purpose. Failure to disclose can lead to fines of up to $1100 but  doesn’t render any decisions invalid.

    TrulE responds: I will look into this.

    Thanks again.

    #55433
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    The agent (relatively new) does engage with owners outside of the SC. Compared to many agents I ahve dealt with, this one is good.

    Like all other agents I have dealt with, he will not reply to an email until he receives chapter and verse from the SC, in this case the Sec/Tsr.

    These statements above appear to be completely contradictory.

    I have no idea of the current policy [on payment approvals] which as I recall was never articulated by anyone at an AGM. So what you’re saying is that to ensure compliance with transparency, I should list a motion at the AGM accordingly?

    Or you could just ask the committee, or propose a motion to the next committee meeting that someone explains how payments are approved.

    Can I ask the SC if any member (there are two) has direct or indirect links or associations with the cleaning company, its owner(s) or staff? A link was never disclosed to the OC.

    You can ask and, if there are, it should have been disclosed under Part 18 of Schedule 2, of the Act and recorded in a book kept specifically for that purpose. Failure to disclose can lead to fines of up to $1100 but  doesn’t render any decisions invalid.

    #55422
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Jimmy wrote:

    The agent doesn’t work for you, they work for the owners corporation (of which you are part).  It may be that there are instructions to or a tacit agreement with the Strata Manager not to engage directly with owners.  If that’s the case and you want it changed, propose it at as a motion at your next AGM and see if it flies as Owners Corp policy.  By the way, one of the reasons strata managers are discourged from dealing directly with individual owners (except, perhaps, in emergencies) is that each contact can cost money in Schedule B charges.

    TrulE’s comment:  The agent (relatively new) does engage with owners outside of the SC. Compared to many agents I ahve dealt with, this one is good. Like all other agents I have dealt with, he will not reply to an email until he receives chapter and verse from the SC, in this case the Sec/Tsr.

    TrulE’s question: If charges are levied for such questions, is it the OC or the individual lot asking the question which is charged?

    Can invoices be paid without having been approved by anyone?

    Jimmy wrote:

    Again this depends on the agreed relationship with the strata manager.  Some schemes demand that a Strata Committee office-bearer co-signs all invoices.  Some leave it up entirely to the strata manager.  Again, this is a policy that can be changed by a simple motion to the next AGM.

    TrulE’s comment: I have no idea of the current policy which as I recall was never articulated by anyone at an AGM. So what you’re saying is that to ensure compliance with transparency, I should list a motion at the AGM accordingly?

    Can invoices be so meaningless as to raise the possibility that the OC is being fleeced?

    That can happen in any walk of life, can’t it? Again, it’s up to the strata committee and owners corp to determine the level of diligence required.  If you want to change it, propose a standard format for all invoices that service providers have to use, and have that passed at a general meeting.

    TrulE’s comment: I like your point on standard format and will act accordingly.

    Jimmy wrote:

    If you suspect serious fraud, that’s another matter entirely and should be pursued through Fair Trading and NCAT in the first instance, and the police therafter.

    Each monthly invoice was similarly vague. While I suspect a good deal, I don’t have evidence. Can I ask the SC if any member (there are two) has direct or indirect links or associations with the cleaning company, its owner(s) or staff? A link was never disclosed to the OC

    #55423
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Cosmo wrote

     

    Unless enough owners are willing to demand better the agent can do all those things even if they aren’t aren’t authorised or legal.  Everything maybe above board or it may be as  dodgy as hell.  My view is that this, like most issues regarding common property, is one that must be transparent to all owners.

    TrulE’s comment: in this case I don’t blame the agent. From what I have seen, he doesn’t wipe his nose without a pre-approval from the Sec/Tsr, who is the only active member on the SC. The other member, an elderly woman is on the SC in  name only. I 100% agree with you on the matter of transparency. This strata is a small one of 5 lots where I found the SC to be allergic to the notion of “transparency”. Contrast this to when I was Tsr of a 65 unit block where transparency was one of our guiding principles in action not in theory.

    I have experienced such issues often.  The only way to properly address this issue is to get enough other owners on side.  Approach them point out how much the owners are paying and how little they really know about what value they are getting for that money.  Put a resolution either at the AGM or otherwise.

    TrulE’s comment: And here is my problem. A strata of 5. Two elderly owners who are not as sharp as they were and are IMHO, intimidated by a loud Sec/Tsr. One of which is the Chair and the other one blindly follows the Sec. So Mr Secretary has 3 of the 5 votes without even trying. The fifth owner is not so involved and when she is, she sees 3 votes in Mr Secretary’s corner and 1 vote in my corner and like all folk who are too lazy to look too deeply into an issue, she votes with the 3.

    When I raised the issue of being denied a seat on the SC which was a problem for Mr Secretary who demanded he be elected Sec and Tsr, the fifth owner had nothing to say. Mr Secretary secured 4 votes. Not only did he rail against me being on the SC, but he railed against changing the SC from 2 members, which it has been for some years, with him (Sec/Tsr) and the Chair glued to their seats like barnacles on the hull of a ferry.

    In short: the strata is dysfunctional; opaque;  decisions made in secret; decisions are not communicated to OC until the AGM and even then not always; and when questions are asked (by me), I am threatened with an invoice for the “work” the agent allegedly will spend looking to answer me.

    #55416
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Can the agent (who routinely passes emails to the SC) and SC ignore my questions?

    The agent doesn’t work for you, they work for the owners corporation (of which you are part).  It may be that there are instructions to or a tacit agreement with the Strata Manager not to engage directly with owners.  If that’s the case and you want it changed, propose it at as a motion at your next AGM and see if it flies as Owners Corp policy.  By the way, one of the reasons strata managers are discourged from dealing directly with individual owners (except, perhaps, in emergencies) is that each contact can cost money in Schedule B charges.

    Can invoices be paid without having been approved by anyone?

    Again this depends on the agreed relationship with the strata manager.  Some schemes demand that a Strata Committee office-bearer co-signs all invoices.  Some leave it up entirely to the strata manager.  Again, this is a policy that can be changed by a simple motion to the next AGM.

    Can invoices be so meaningless as to raise the possibility that the OC is being fleeced?

    That can happen in any walk of life, can’t it? Again, it’s up to the strata committee and owners corp to determine the level of diligence required.  If you want to change it, propose a standard format for all invoices that service providers have to use, and have that passed at a general meeting.

    If you suspect serious fraud, that’s another matter entirely and should be pursued through Fair Trading and NCAT in the first instance, and the police therafter.

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 6 days ago by .
    #55393
    Cosmo
    Flatchatter

    TruEConcerned asked,

    1. Can the agent (who routinely passes emails to the SC) and SC ignore my questions?
    2. Can invoices be paid without having been approved by anyone?
    3. Can invoices be so meaningless as to raise the possibility that the OC is being fleeced?

    Unless enough owners are willing to demand better the agent can do all those things even if they aren’t aren’t authorised or legal.  Everything maybe above board or it may be as  dodgy as hell.  My view is that this, like most issues regarding common property, is one that must be transparent to all owners.

    I have experienced such issues often.  The only way to properly address this issue is to get enough other owners on side.  Approach them point out how much the owners are paying and how little they really know about what value they are getting for that money.  Put a resolution either at the AGM or otherwise.

     

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