Monthly Archives: August 2012

Apartment Buildings Monstrosities or Masterpieces

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A reasonable set of by-laws will contain none that have past their use by date. By-laws about architectural guidelines are in point.

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More on a Legislative Paradox of Power

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As with the chairperson, the serving committee has its hands unnecessarily tied. It has, in most places, considerable restrictions on spending money and fixing problems.

It does not have the necessary power to start legal proceedings when a blue is on and, in some cases, to get legal advice to avoid one if that’s what’s needed. It can’t amend by-laws to be reasonable and responsive to the issues and grievances committee members are elected to resolve. The committee will have limits imposed on its ability to spend money and choose the contractors that undertake work about the common property.

These relatively normal freedoms in the corporate and not for profit world are denied to the committees of strata communities. The law requires them in order to proceed on important issues to call a general meeting and obtain differing levels of resolution, from the uninvolved, disinterested and uninformed masses making up the remainder of the owners corporation. When three months of hard work in getting quotes to fix a leaking water membrane goes down the tube because the owners don’t want to spend money on something that doesn’t affect them on the lower floors even though the problem is one affecting common property another committee resigns in frustration and all their hard work and acquired knowledge goes with them.

A Legislative Paradox of Power

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There is a paradox in the legislative approach to strata titled law making in Australia. Our legislators would have us take responsibility for our own strata title environs but place such restrictions on the freedom of those elected to do so that no one ever quite steps up to the mark of responsible self determination.

Consider the chairperson. This is the person prepared to put their hand up to run an owners corporation. They take the flak for things that go wrong without ever being thanked for the hours spent making sure things go seamlessly right. They are, by virtue of the apparent responsibilities that go with the title called to sort out squabbles between neighbours and are accosted at any time of the day or night concerning the common property and about the latest leak or parking problem. In fact, despite being dragged into these issues almost daily, the only power our lawmakers give to this person in return is the power to chair a meeting. Big deal! The chairperson doesn’t even have the power to spend a minor amount of money on buying a round of drinks for the committee let alone to keep the wheels turning between meetings and to make important decisions in cases of emergency when a meeting or circular resolution of the committee is not practicable. After a tough day, when the chairperson is trying to do the best he or she can in a practical way, someone, most probably a retired lawyer, will say – ‘hey you don’t have the power to make that call’ – and the camel’s back will snap – another resignation and another good meaning but inadequately empowered chairperson will step up to be slaughtered.

When the Developer Hangs Around Too Long

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Responsibility for the structure borne of the developer’s creativity and courage passes to the owners of a strata scheme at a point not long after the initial round of settlements. Like parents on the first day of school, some developers hang around a little too long.

They do this by holding proxies for owners and other forms of constraints over the voting and operation of parts of the development post settlement. Usually this relates to maintaining control, or attempting to do so until all of their apartments are sold, remembering that the developer’s profit is always in the tail. Others seek to maintain this control for other reasons. They may be staying on as an owner and think they know best, they may be holding on to the management rights or they may just want to protect the building from the new owners as a lasting reminder to the world at large of their talent as a developer. Whatever the reason, these actions always end in tears.

On Being Careful What We Wish For

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Why do our lawmakers on the one hand stipulate for self-governance of our strata communities and on the other deny the willing the powers necessary to do the job? Is it because they are volunteers?

Is it because they are untrained? Is it because we can’t trust the people and must save them from themselves? It’s all of this and it is our fault.

We hold our politicians accountable for everything that goes wrong in our lives and as a consequence they pass laws that try to protect us from ourselves. We should be more careful what we wish for. Laws made in the name of the responsible management of common property are so designed for the lowest common denominator that they actually promote irresponsibility.

We learn as parents, care givers and mangers of people in business that people generally behave the way we expect them to. If we expect people to behave badly, they will and if we trust them to do the right thing and guide them to do so with the necessary rewards and punishments, then they will learn to act responsibly and enjoy the freedom that comes from so doing. But in strata management law making, there is no carrot and there is no stick.

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