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  • #54378
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter

    Hello, at a recent AGM, two owners (of whom I am one) complained about the absence of details in financial statements offered in the agenda by the managing agent.

    The two of us were assured that if we want more details eg a listing of payments made by the strata and lot owners’ levy ledgers, all we need do is ask and the agent shall email it to us immediately, “as it’s easily available, captured by the software used”.

    The two of us accepted that.

    However it is now 2 days since the Chairman confirmed my emailed request for specific details to be sent to me. He stated that he and the agent need to discuss my email with the rest of the SC. No time frame was mentioned.

    My questions are:

    1. What exactly is there for the SC and agent to discuss? Can the SC deny my request? If so, on what grounds?

    2. Can the SC trot out the same lame excuse they trotted out in the past, being: “that sharing lot owners’ individual ledgers with all owners is a breach of lot owners’ privacy”. Note, back in the day NSW Fair Trading told me that is a load of baloney (not to mention a breach of the NSW SSMA) and when I told the EC (as it was) that if the details are not sent to me pronto I will take the matter to NCAT where they can explain to the Member exactly on what grounds the Treasurer and Chairman are denying me the information, they sent me the details post haste.

    Please advise what sections of the Act I need to quote in my application to NCAT, if the super secretive SC remains unwilling to share financial information with those not sitting on the SC.

    Thank you.

     

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 35 total)
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  • #55262
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hey Kaindub,

    Happy Easter and thx for the reply.

    You wrote, copied below (in regular font) and my replies (in italics):

    Strata managers have as part of their agreement the right to charge fees for doing certain things. Have a look at the agency agreement. However the fees are charged to the OC and not to the individual owner. Interesting. But the agent’s email inferred the owner requesting the information will be billed for any work allegedly performed by the agent in addressing my questions.

    If the SM is being diff I cult, just stump up $34 or so and do your own strata search. You then have unfettered access to all documents and its harder for them to hide stuff they don’t want you to see. I asked for access to all the records (ie inspection at the agent’s office) this, but it was denied. Instead I was given access to a problematic portal that is said to contain ALL the documents I am after, but in my limited search of that portal I already found it is a poor alternative to actual physical inspection of documents.

    Its hard to gauge whether there is anything wrong with the payment to the committee member. I make it a point that if I do any work for the OC like maintenance , I provide a quote and a statement of work and get prior authorisation from the committee. Why it is hard to gauge the facts, you ask: for starters, the Sec claims in an “invoice” he gave his SC colleague but not the OC that he visited the strata 62 times, but (a) there is no period to cover the invoice; (b) there are no notes as to WHEN he visited; (c) there are no notes as to WHY he visited; (d) there are no ACTUAL invoices from retailers for the items he says he purchased to perform work at the strata, just a one page from the Sec listing alleged purchases; (e) there are no before and after photos of the NEED for the work and the PERFORMANCE of the work; (f) unlike you (i) the Sec did not discuss the proposed work with the OC , (ii) the Sec did not rcv prior authorisation to carry out the work from the OC; (iii) the Sec did not provide a quote before the work was done; (iv) only his colleague on the SC (the only other member of the SC, an elderly non confrontational woman) approved his so-called work and (v) neither the Sec nor Chair informed the OC the work was done and pmt was made. I found it by trawling through the records.

    However sine there appears to be no committee meetings as evidenced by the lack of agenda and minutes, you could argue that there was no appropriate and hence the payments should not have been made. Spot on! My thought exactly.

    Why aren’t you on the committee and ove r seeing this? The strata has 5 lots. For some years every lot was on the SC. Then I questioned the Sec about his lack of transparency, historic and current: Why did he use OC funds to pay for a new stove for a lot owner?  Why did he mix his funds with the OC’s funds? Why does he not seek tenders for works? Why does he not go about performing works for the OC in the proper manner (as you indicated you have done Kaindub).

    The Sec is a lawyer and leaned on two owners (senior citizens) in the strata of 5 lots, one with what seems to me to be dementia and the other with less problematic memory issues. With their votes in the hand, he has controlled the SC for over 25 yrs. One senior has been given OC owned storage space for use at zero rent for decades. I see this as a “sweetener” for the senior citizen gifted by the SC.

    The Sec infers “how good is it that a lawyer is on the SC” and made clear that he would not join the SC is I was elected on to it.

    These two seniors fell for the Sec’s threat to not sit on the committee if I was to join, regardless of how poorly he serves the owners.

    Whatever he says, the elderly owners repeat. Regardless of the merits of his views.

    For instance: the smoke alarm in my lot, an alarm chosen by the SC/OC, paid for by the OC and installed for the OC’s account, proved to be faulty over a year ago. The Sec demanded that the cost of a technician and associated repairs will be for my account. When I discussed the matter with the Chair and told her that her view, being the Sec’s view is unlawful as she and the Sec chose the alarm (being the SC) on behalf of the OC and installed it for the OC’s account, in addition to its maintenance under the SSMA being clearly assigned to the OC, her reply was “Can’t you work out an agreement with the Sec? Why is this such a problem for you”? I replied “there is nothing to work out. It’s OC responsibility”. She refused to do anything than repeat the Sec’s words. She would not check with NSW FT or any other source.

    Only when I told the agent and the SC that the alarm installer confirmed the OC is responsible and NSWFT told me to tell the SC  that not only is the OC is responsible for the alarm but if they wish to repeat their outrageous demands for me to pay then I should seek mediation where the SC can explain to NCAT’s Conciliator and if there is a hearing, then the SC can explain to the Member their views which clearly conflict with the SSMA.

    Unsurprisingly, the Sec stopped harassing me with demands to pay. He no doubt doesn’t want to end up at NCAT having to explain himself.

     

    #55227
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    Strata managers have as part of their agreement the right to charge fees for doing certain things. Have a look at the agency agreement. However the fees are charged to the OC and not to the individual owner.

    If the SM is being diff I cult, just stump up $34 or so and do your own strata search. You then have unfettered access to all documents and its harder for them to hide stuff they don’t want you to see.

    Its hard to gauge whether there is anything wrong with the payment to the committee member. I make it a point that if I do any work for the OC like maintenance , I provide a quote and a statement of work and get prior authorisation from the committee.

    However sine there appears to be no committee meetings as evidenced by the lack of agenda and minutes, you could argue that there was no appropriate and hence  the payments should not have been made.

    Why aren’t you on the committee and ove r seeing this?

     

    #55181
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hi Jimmy,

    Sorry about my delayed response but I had some family matters to attend to.

    Thanks for the advice. I will look into it.

    One more thing. When I asked the SC and agent for details of monies paid to date and still owed on large projects (which required special levies to be struck), I was told by the agent: “this goes beyond standard reporting and a charge will be levied on your lot for the work gathering this information”. Having to pay for such data would encourage most owners from not following up such a request. It seems to me that either the SC/agent are willfully concealing data or more likely, their record keeping is at best incompetent. We are talking tens of thousands of dollars, which is a big deal for a small strata.

    My questions are:

    A) Can an owner be charged to acquaint himself with the true finances of the strata? The financial statements given to owners at the AGM are so poor they would embarrass a first semester accounting student. When I was Treasurer at a different, much larger strata, I offered chapter and verse gratis when such requests were made. I refused to shunt owners to the managing agent. But then, I had nothing to hide; and

    B) Given the 2 person SC never meets officially (ie no agendas are sent and no minutes are prepared), should I ask for a General Meeting and list my questions for the above as motions? I would also list a demand that the Sec refund $900 he received from the OC (on the mere ‘OK’ of the Chair) when he presented a one page “invoice” for articles he claims to have purchased to effect maintenance at the strata. Note, not a single original invoice was attached to his  one page dozen line “invoice”. There are no before and after photos. There is no evidence that the works claimed to have been done, needed to be done or were done (no independent verification was offered). Also I understand that ANY pmt to a SC member must go to the OC and be paid only after approval by the OC. (Notwithstanding the Sec’s unsubstantiated claim that the items claimed at ‘at cost’). Not only was this pmt hidden from the OC, but the elderly Chair who ok’d the pmt took as Gospel the Sec’s alleged 60 visits to the strata for repairs, for which he billed the OC the bridge toll, when there is not one SPECIFIC incidence report about why he visited on OC’s dime and what he did at that visit, let alone 60 reports.

    #54842
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    Clearly this is a new system and it has teething trouble.  Without know the system, it’s hard to know what options are open to you.  But I would have thought a filtered search would have been standard – e.g search for invoices, documents, excel spreadsheets.

    Rather than hassle the strata managers, who may not know any more than you about how to finesse the system, see if the software provider has a help section on their website.  There you might find what you are looking for if others have had the same problems.

    #54831
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    I’m back. Thank y’all for your patience.

    After asking for access to ALL of the strata’s records, last week I received access to an online portal. A vault that is said to contain all I am after. After discovering the vault would not allow me to view or download more than one invoice, I complained to the agent and several days later I was told the problem I pointed to was fixed.

    I take the agent at his word.

    Here is my problem: if I were to access ALL the strata’s records in the agent’s office, I would surely be able to choose to sift through say, just invoices or just minutes or just emails etc if I chose to. But the way this portal  is organised it is a mere storage locker for scanned documents, allegedly in date order (I have not verified that) but even so, it does not allow me to say, review say just all the emails in a timely manner. There are no folders etc.

    I feel like Jim Hacker on Yes Minister asking his permanent secretary for certain documents. In reply Mr Hacker receives cartons of papers that are not organised, collated or sorted in any meaningful manner, requiring abundant energy and hours to unearth what he is after. (The bureaucrats know they cannot withhold documents from him, so they bury the ones he is after so deep it is hard to unearth).

    My question: Can I insist on physical access to the original documents, such as the minute book; payments (or invoice) books etc? I ask because over the last two days I have sighted 60 or so invoices with another 500 to go. And that is before I study them and thereafter turn my attention to other documents I am after.

    Any thoughts? Much appreciated.

    #54740
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Jimmy-T wrote
    In my experience, the one way to convince older owners – who are often on fixed incomes – to change their minds is to tell them that their money is being wasted. Telling them that someone they trust shouldn’t be trusted is a much harder sell.


    I agree in principle, but the dynamics in this strata is different.

    Jimmy-T wrote
    Thus, your original approach that the “hidden” subscription to a strata law web service was suspicious, may have worked against you, whereas questions about money being spent on things the scheme doesn’t need would probably  have more effect.


    Please note that I shared my suspicions with you and nobody at the strata. I want access to all the strata records first so I can determine the extent of the absence of transparency, before making noise with the agent and SC/OC. I found it very interesting that in recent two chats with NSWFT, they were for the very first time in my experience, encouraging me to adopt an aggressive posture with respect to the agent who is holding back strata records, even though I asked politely.

    Jimmy-T wrote


    So your initial thrust in getting more transparency on the finances was right, but your tactic may have been wrong.  Presenting the owners with a simple approach along the lines of  “here’s how we can save  money” rather than “you are being swindled” might just get you that extra vote that you need to get on the committee.


    Maybe. Let me clarify. The 5 lots are as follows: “A” (Mr Secretary), “B” (Madam Chair), “C” (senior gentleman with memory issues), “D” (new owner) and me.
    “B” is constantly assured by “A” that issues will always come to the attention of the SC and that she can rely on A, so long as he alone can sort matters out. He is a solicitor, after all he reminds us. “B” is frankly an extension  of “A”. As far as I have seen, she is not involved let alone responsible for admin, repairs, maintenance, instructing, hiring or liasing with the agent, convening or even Chairing meetings (as there are none). When I ask her about any matter regarding the SC, she refers me to the agent who will contact Mr Secretary.
    Case in point: Her chronic deference to the Secretary (without question) was most visible last year. The smoke detector in my unit was not working. It is a common property asset and hard wired. Like all such units it is connected to a common fire board. When I mentioned to Madam Chair that it was not working, she referred me to the agent who would seek instructions from Mr Secretary. In due course Mr Secretary via the agent emailed me that I have a choice: I can either pay the OC for their electrician to fix the problem or I can pay an electrician of my choice to fix it. “Let us know”, I was told.
    I replied to the agent and relayed the contents of my email verbally in person to Madam Chairman (when I bumped into her) that “this is not my problem as the detector is common property”. Her reply to me: “just sort out the payment for repairs with the Secretary”. I doubt she understood my point on common property. Only after I emailed the agent with advice from NSWFT: “such fire systems are OC assets and OC responsibility” did Mr Secretary stop his demands. From her perspective it seemed to me that I was a nuisance and not “being fair”.
    When I reminded her that several years ago, at the same strata with a different agent, Mr Secretary tried the same shenanigan on me, she could not recall. I do however have the emails wherein the agent in that case pretty quickly broadcast just who is responsible for a common asset – the OC. I am worried by her automatic deference to Mr Secretary and what seems to be his ignorance of the Act. You’d think after 30 years he’d know it inside out. Or does he know it and he’s having a go at me?
    As to the senior gentleman, “C”, he is more and more forgetful and is prone to mood swings. Mr Secretary sits with him at AGMs in order it seems to secure his vote. After all, such people are not reliable, unless they are “managed” by another person, such as one of authority at a meeting, sitting by his side.
    This explains I believe why at the last AGM in 11/20 via ZOOM, Mr Secretary traveled to “B’s” abode and sat with both “B” and “C”. Silly me thought the point of ZOOM was to stay safe and stay at home, so everyone can meet virtually from their own homes or offices, without the need for travel.
    So here we have A+B+C voting as per Mr Secretary’s wishes.

 Appealing to either “B” or “C” as you suggest will not work in this strata, unfortunately. “D” is a relatively new owner and as I have found when Tsr of a large block, new owners often go just to the committee for background information on the strata and when seeking directions on voting when presented by a AGM agenda. Especially owners who reside elsewhere. a

    Sorry for the long winded reply, but I wanted to clarify as much as I could.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by .
    #54727
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    You may have misread my post.

    So what you are saying is the in the past the Chairman tried to convince the other owners that two people from the same lot can both be on the committee but you managed to thwart that efffort.  Nevertheless, the owners still voted to have only two people on the committee and you were not one of them.

    To be honest, I don’t think this battle of wills or clash of personalities is going to further your case one iota.  The seniors in your block will be more alarmed by agitation and dissent (regardless of how justified it is) than any hypothetical claims, however valid, that the block isn’t being run properly.

    In my experience, the one way to convince older owners – who are often on fixed incomes – to change their minds is to tell them that their money is being wasted. Telling them that someone they trust shouldn’t be trusted is a much harder sell.

    Thus, your original approach that the “hidden” subscription to a strata law web service was suspicious, may have worked against you, whereas questions about money being spent on things the scheme doesn’t need would probably  have more effect.

    So your initial thrust in getting more tranparency on the finances was right, but your tactic may have been wrong.  Presenting the owners with a simple approach along the lines of  “here’s how we can save  money” rather than “you are being swindled” might just get you that extra vote that you need to get on the committee.

    #54713
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Kaindub, thanks again for your feedback.

    You may have misread my post.

    You wrote: I understand that the committee consists of two people from the same lot.
    Not quite. It is two people but from 2 separate lots. Pls see my explanation as to the attempt to foist onto the committee multiple reps from the one lot, in my most recent email.

    You wrote: You nominated for the committee but the OC voted to have only 2 members.
    I nominated myself as did Mr Secretary and Madam Chair. Three nominees.
    Mr Secretary then asked how many folk do we want on the committee. I said “3”. We voted and I alone voted for 3. He then moved for a committee of “2”. I voted against. He, the Chair, another senior and a new owner sided with Mr Secretary. I mean, why wouldn’t they? He is very assertive with the seniors and the new owner is no doubt influenced by him more than anyone else they have met in the building. After all, he surely informed them of his 30 year tenure as Secretary, as a sign of his importance.

    After it was settled that the committee would have 2 members, we voted on which 2 persons would be on the committee. No prizes for guessing that Mr Secretary got his way and the 2 SC members who have been on the SC for years, him and the senior woman, were re-elected.

    You wrote: If you cant convince the committee and strata manager of their errors, take this to NCAT, You may also want to consider asking to have the solicitor removed by NCAT from the committee for the lack of knowledge of the act.
    Kaindub, if I went to NCAT I would not argue that he lacks knowledge of the Act, but that he behaved as far as I can see in a manner that does not rise to the level of honesty. He knows the Act inside out.

    Let me say that if I went to NCAT, assuming I had all my ducks in a row, I will certainly give y’all a heads up of the date, venue and time.

    #54700
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    If I understand your comments, you have the in to the committee that you need.

    I understand that the committee consists of two people from the same lot.

    You nominated for the committee but the OC voted to have only 2 members.

    One of these members is not allowed because they are from the same lot, so you are automatically the second committee member.

    If you cant convince the committee and strata manager of their errors, take this to NCAT, You may also want to consider asking to have the solicitor removed by NCAT from the committee for the lack of knowledge of the act.

     

    #54705
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Jimmy, the folk Mr Secretary wanted to put on the committee own one lot jointly. Your point “Co-owners of the same lot cannot be on the committee at the same time “ is correct. Mr Secretary, a lawyer of 30 years plus standing with a deep interest in strata affairs pretended not to know the law and addressed the motion as though it was another insignificant procedural matter. He acted very chummy with the seniors: “the more on the committee the better, no”? seemed to be his cunning attitude in promoting this outrage. When I made clear to the seniors that he is breaking the law by doubling the voting entitlements of one lot to the detriment of them, the seniors, I had to repeat myself given their  memory problems. I did not know that it was illegal for one lot to have multiple representatives on a committee and I was alone in initially opposing Mr Secretary’s outrage (which I thought MAY be allowed, he is after all a lawyer he keeps reminding the OC) but I said that it stands to logic that irrespective of how many reps a lot can have on a committee, in total the reps cannot have more than one vote. I said that I would not oppose the motion so long as the lot in question’s two reps would have half a vote each. And if they brought a third person I indicated again I would not object so long as the one vote for that lot would be split again, this time to one third of a vote each.

    The seniors finally saw the light.

    Mr Secretary did as you would expect. Accepted his shenanigan had hit a brick wall and dropped the matter.

     

    #54694
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    At the AGM that from memory immediately followed my objection to Mr Secretary’s move to allow one lot owner to have two representatives on the OC, with a vote each …

    On what basis is this being allowed?  The only way that is permissable would be if the owner concerned owned two properties.  Is that the case? Co-owners of the same lot cannot be on the committee at the same time.

    #54687
    TrulEConcerned
    Flatchatter
    Chat-starter

    Hi Kaindub,

    Thanks for yr insight. I may have been unclear.
    At the AGM that from memory immediately followed my objection to Mr Secretary’s move to allow one lot owner to have two representatives on the OC, with a vote each, Mr Secretary/Tsr  made clear to the OC that he would not sit on the SC if I am voted on. He convinced two seniors in the block of five that they would be “fortunate to have him with his experience as a solicitor on the SC”. The inference being it’s him or it’s me. Not both. Never mind that I was Tsr of a block of over 60 units for nearly a decade (with a committee of between 5 and 7) and after some years decided not to re-contest as I had other matters in my life to deal with.

    Naturally he had the lot he was batting for (who wanted 2 seats) in his pocket, so with his vote and the two seniors:  the vote was 4:1.
    Oddly, from that AGM onwards I recall he always asks me before the meeting takes place if I have a recording device with me. Once I brought a friend to the meeting and Mr Secretary grilled my friend with the same question, in addition to inspecting my friend’s very large key ring for possibly a minute recording device.

    As to your point on numbers on the SC: Mr Secretary begins discussion at the AGM on the topic asking who wants to be on the SC. At the 11/2020 AGM three hands went up via a ZOOM meeting – Mr Secretary, Madam Chair and me. He then asks “how many people should we have on the SC” and volunteers “2” and we vote on that number. 4 support a 2 member SC. I object and ask for 3 members on the SC. We vote and I alone support 3 members.  We then vote on which 2 of the 3 nominees will go on to the SC. Naturally I alone voted for myself.

    I found it quite disturbing that while all 5 owners were to independently join the AGM via ZOOM, presumably from their own abodes, Mr Secretary arranged to have the 2 seniors sit with him at the meeting, held in the home of one senior. The seniors seemed overly compliant with Mr Secretary.

     

    #54685
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    In a block of 5 if all lots nominate one person every nominee will be on the committee, unless a motion is passed to limit the numbers of committee members.

    Just to clarify, under the Regulations, the process is that the chair announces the nominations made in writing and calls for nominations.  Then they must take a vote on the number of people required on the committee.  If the nominations exceed the number of seats, an election takes place.

    So it’s nominations first, size of committee next, then a poll if necessary to choose the members.

    This is a tried and tested way of a tightly held committee restricting its membership, especially in a small scheme.  In this case, it is possible that three owners could nominate themselves, vote to have only three seats on the committee and then elect themselves to those seats.

    I like the idea that in small schemes all owners should be on the committee by default, but how small when the Act allows a maximum size of nine?

    #54683
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    May be a final comment from me.

    You can’t in normal  circumstances be “unvoted” from a committee

    The act says the maximum number of  committee members is 9. In a block of 5 if all lots nominate one person every nominee will be on the committee,  unless a motion is passed to limit the numbers of committee members. But then a vote needs to be taken to elect members from the nominations.

    I agree that Jimmy’s last advice is pretty correct.

     

     

    #54673
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

    I was going to say that the real problem here is a lack of transparency and accountability, rather than dishonesty, and while that may be the case, it’s becoming apparent that there’s a clash of personalities at the heart of this.

    I sympathise.  I found myself in a similar situation in the past, at loggerheads with a chair who said that he’d quit if I was ever elected to the committee.  I wasted a lot of time and energy bashing my head off that brick wall but eventually decided that I could get my opinions across by other means, via more sympathetic voices.

    They say it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees – but then living on your feet trumps them both.  The sense of relief when you decide to stop fighting unwinnable battles and not take the bait when it’s dangled before you is immense.

     

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