Monthly Archives: May 2012

Learn to Be Transparent

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Perhaps no word is so often used to describe a model system of management or government than transparent.

If anything, in business it is a term so often used that it has little impact. People talk of transparency in business and public life as a given but what is transparent about strata management apart, ironically from the right all owners and purchasers have to inspect all the books and records? This no more delivers transparency than a library delivers education. Transparency is not just about access to information; it is about the effective dissemination of information and accountability. Transparency in this sense has been delivered in business and public life by published policies, procedures, declarations and plans. There is none of this in strata life. Beyond a set of by laws or rules, thoughtlessly written as they so often are, and applied erratically and in a reactionary way, nothing about strata is published. There is no statement of purpose, no governance charter, no compliance plan, no policies and no procedures and almost certainly there will be none of this available electronically so the information can be accessed quickly and at a time that is convenient. All of these things, taken for granted today in other settings, will aid better and more harmonious community living.

Cleanliness The Kid Sister of Safety

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Cleanliness, that thing next only to godliness – our grandparents would have us believe, is now linked – our lawyers would have us believe – more closely to safety.

A greasy slippery step or spill on the car park floor is as unsightly as it is unsafe and a concern for our owners corporation in a litigious world. Slips and trips are the most common form of legal action against owners corporations and the regime in place for keeping common property clean is important.

A building manager, if there is one, will take front line responsibility for supervising cleaning work but if there is no building manager, then the responsibility will fall to the owners or in the case of investment properties, rental property mangers because they are the only others onsite. Very rarely are strata managers paid to do site inspections – there’s is a more sedentary job performed from their office, not the building.

Of course in the slip and trip courts, all players win a prize so no matter how vigilant the owners are, accidents will happen and public liability insurance is a must.

Sticks For Beating Wrongdoers

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The stick for abusing power must be personal liability, a fine or imprisonment.

These are the corporate regulators’ sticks. Our courts deal out the beatings and our media makes a grand job of naming and shaming those that take them for failing to meet our increasingly high standards of corporate responsibility. By comparison the statutory sanctions for breaching strata management laws are like being savaged with a limp lettuce leaf.

Indeed a general immunity exists in most strata titled jurisdictions for anything done (or not done) by a committee member in good faith and without negligence. What that means legally in the context of an owners corporation is not yet clear or not tested by a court of high authority but the message it conveys is this– ‘near enough is good enough. Try your best but don’t bother too much if compliance with these laws is too hard for you are but the humble servants of your community doing a hard job for free’.

Carrots and sticks have been fine weapons for all eternity in the war between good and evil and more of these by legislators in the domain of strata communities would go a long way to encouraging true responsibility of members. In the absence of these powers that grant freedom to our strata leaders, it is difficult to foster responsibility, but if we are to have harmonious strata bodies, then despite these legislative handbrakes strata community leaders need to emerge and work within the boundaries that have been created.

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