Monthly Archives: June 2013

Delivering Bad News on What is and is Not Common Property

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Every strata community should have a one page cheat sheet that can be used to easily communicate to all and sundry the ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s not’ of common property.

If the committee is refusing to take on an owner’s problem because it doesn’t relate to common property, then bad news delivered early, unequivocally and with a valid reason that is properly explained, makes for better friends in the long run. In delivering this bad news, it helps to be able to point to a document that has been used for some time to determine these matters. We take bad news better if we know others have been treated the same.

Questions of Failing

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As our first strata buildings approach middle age, it is time that we ask; how might the strata system fail? Tellingly, there are many answers to this question that in my thirty years in this field I have never heard asked.

Here are some –

The strata system might fail financially because owners have not saved progressively for repairs and maintenance and the burden of making the building good to prevailing standards of health and life safety is too great for the individuals or the building concerned.

The strata system might fail for want of self-management because owners find the laws and standards too hard and the rewards of serving their community on a purely volunteer basis simply not enough.

The strata system might fail for market-based reasons if demand for apartments ceased perhaps because repair and maintenance was let go beyond the feasibility of economic repair, or the burden of self management made it an undesirable housing option.

The strata system might fail for want of finance or insurance protection for the same reasons.

So the final question; is it time members of the strata community started asking these questions?

Flexibility in Strata Communities

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In enforcing community rules, reasonably a degree of flexibility is required. Every so often some officious looking strata chairperson will be interviewed on a current affairs show about his or her efforts to evict a fish.

Typically there will have been a problem in the community about animals and upon checking the by-laws, it becomes clear all animals are banned. Someone works out a fish is an animal and knows that the fellow who voted against them at the last meeting and took an unpopular position on the animal issue is secretly harbouring a single goldfish in a bowl on his mantle piece. The ‘rules are the rules’ approach to the interpretation of by-laws is taken and support grows for the deportation of the fish.

On a ‘matter of principle’ a breach notice is issued and before we know it the talk shows and the radio ‘shock jocks’ have made a story out of the fish, the apartment block and the crazy things that people do to each other when reasonable people sit by and fail to put the extremists back in their place.

Every set of laws has some antiquated provisions and unintentional consequences if interpreted literally. A good test for when some flexibility is required is to imagine how the public will react to your side of the story when it goes to air.

Your Strata Community and Fitness Goals

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If one has a commitment to getting fit, then one will usually have a goal or objective – ‘I will run a marathon (one must be middled aged)’, and a strategy – ‘I will run as far as I can each morning, until I vomit’. Goals and strategy turn commitment to principles into action- even when the commitment is daft.

The important thing about setting goals, as any weight watcher will tell you, is that they must be achievable, albeit with some effort, or they become demoralising and the program is quickly abandoned. In setting realistic achievable goals for a strata community, we do well to remember the strata condition; members are unpaid, meetings are sporadic, the strengths and weakness of the members are not known to each other, the rewards are few and the role and responsibilities of the group are not well understood.

In weight-watching terms, this body is not in good shape and the program should begin with baby steps. If the common property has been neglected for a while, a goal to commission a report on safety risks and implementing very urgent recommendations at first will be better than the more zealous, but likely to fail goal of commissioning the report and doing whatever it takes to make it right.

Responsibility in Strata

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If the mark of responsibility is doing our chores, then our strata communities are not there yet. Repairs and maintenance go unattended, work health and safety standards are observed only in the breach and building funds are starved for cash in the race to keep levies down.

Perhaps this is due to ignorance. Perhaps this is due to the legislative system. Or perhaps it is simply due to human behaviour as people in groups all leave the responsibility to another and eventually the ball drops.

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