Trouble In Paradise

You’d think life in a small strata complex of town houses near a beach was a little slice of the Aussie dream. But it has turned into a nightmare for one of our readers.

She was brought abruptly to earth the day she moved in when the secretary of the Executive Committee, elected by the owners to run the place, arrived at her door and said she’d been seen talking to troublemakers and he was keeping an eye on her.

The “troublemakers” turned out to be a perfectly normal couple who had dared to question the way the complex of fewer than 20 houses was being run. The fact that she did not cut off all ties with these new, friendly neighbours, meant our reader was marked out for special treatment.

She and her husband were refused permission to install Foxtel even though the secretary already had a satellite dish on his roof. Then she was told she couldn’t fit a security screen to the front door, even though all the members of the executive committee had them on theirs.

At their subsequent AGM, the dissenting owners had several motions questioning the running of the place excluded from the agenda, despite having lodged them properly and in plenty of time. This was all done with the collusion of the strata agent who obviously knew which side his bread was buttered.

Then the secretary produced a pile of proxy votes and a mob of his favoured residents, mostly docile retirees, to prevent the dissenters – about one third of the residents – from having any say at all.

With his ageing cronies installed as the executive committee, there was then an unseemly rush for the door as they were asked what responsibilities they would assume with their appointment. They just wanted to be on the committee as long as they didn’t actually have to do anything.

Our readers are taking this farcical situation to the Office of Fair Trading, to see if the new strata rules really are there to help owners.

Meanwhile, if they really are concerned with creating communities in strata developments, the State Government should consider amending the laws so the owner-occupiers get two votes.

There are too many strata Nazis ruling with a fistful of proxies out there. Let the people who actually live in these buildings decide how they are run.

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