Value of votes

There is a basic and fairly pragmatic principle that guides the running of strata plans and that is “user pays”.

At the heart of this concept are your unit entitlements, a figure on which your levies are based and which, in the event of a tight count at the owners corporation, determines the power of your vote.

In admittedly simplistic terms, there’s a correlation between the value of your home and your unit entitlement: the bigger, better and higher your apartment, the more you have to pay in levies and the more heft you have in debates with your neighbours.

Which is all well and good provided everything is fair and above board. And why would anyone want it to be any different? The answer to that is the same as to why any able-bodied person would park in a disabled spot – because it suits them and they can get away with it.

In the past week this column has had two emails from people not happy with their unit entitlements. One is from a woman who bought into a small apartment block that had, a few years ago, been converted to strata from a company title. The other was from people who bought into a new and much larger block.

In both cases these owners discovered their unit entitlements seemed very high compared to other owners in more expensive apartments. There are many ways this could happen. The original company title owners could have fiddled the figures when the building was converted to strata. A simple way would have been to count every apartment as having the same unit entitlement.

In the case of the new apartment block, the developers may have offered low levies on commercial properties or expensive apartments to attract buyers, hoping the other owners would shoulder a bigger share of the burden without noticing.

Either way, neither disgruntled owner needs to accept this. You can get unit entitlements changed by a unanimous vote of all owners (like that’s gonna happen). Or you can go to the OFT which will by-pass the normal mediation process and go straight to an adjudication.

But it’s a complex area and you should try to get advice from a specialist strata lawyer before you embark on a course of action that may cost you more than you ultimately gain.

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