Monthly Archives: November 2014

Nanny may have just made it all to hard for the coalitions of the willing?

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The legislative year has ended and #strata law reform in NSW has all the momentum of the republican movement.

Lots of media releases, position papers and expensive consulting reports about making New South Wales number one again may have alarmed and excited us in equal measure but the statute books are stagnant. Strata management laws remain as misunderstood and frustratingly complicated as they have ever been.

In my new venture as a strata manager, I recently won the rights to manage a company title block. In these properties strata laws don’t apply. The company owns the building and the shareholders have the right to occupy their unit. Banks hate them but in reality, the occupation rights of the shareholder are little different to strata – you own air space not bricks and mortar.

Shareholders of company title blocks manage their affairs under the Corporations Act where Nanny has been less intrusive. In corporate land shareholders elect the directors but that’s where their powers end – the directors run the show and do so with relative freedom from statutory regulations about how they should make their decisions. It’s delightfully simple.

Now people are people, and buildings are buildings. Children, animals, leaks and parking will always challenge communities but as volunteerism is dying, perhaps because the Nanny state has just made it all too hard, maybe it’s time we let our elected committees, the coalitions of the willing if you will, have the powers they need to get on with the job.

Common sense law reform in 2015? As likely as Palmer becoming Prime Minister?

Why I should never, ever be on a committee

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I’ve never been good at being on committees. I’m impatient, intolerant and insensitive, or so a large number of former colleagues will tell you if you care to ask around. In my middle years I have come to think the masses right, at least when it comes to business. As a result I now confine myself to managing and consulting to committees rather than being on them. It’s working better for everyone.

Fortunately most people are not like me. They can participate in a debate, express their point of view; occasionally winning a point and just as often losing one, but they don’t take it to heart – they just move on. Our communities need these people, particularly our strata communities where decisions are made by others about what and how we use that most intimate of space, our homes. It’s a tricky business telling people how they should live and it takes a special talent to do it well.

In a study being done by one of our few but talented strata academics, I was recently asked about governance in strata and how particular governance issues might affect strata property and strata owners. It’s an important piece of work and I thought long and hard about my answers.

Asked if I thought there were any potential outcomes that the study questionnaire had missed, I said the study should look at strata decision-making in terms of its impact on the satisfaction levels and fulfillment of volunteer members. I think the lack of good and talented people willing to serve on an owners corporation is the biggest threat to the whole strata system becoming unworkable. If government wants owners to be self-determinant, then owners corporations and their managers, need to start thinking about ways to make the experience both pleasant and productive for it’s seldom either at the moment.

Anyway, the second questionnaire’s been issued and the (expletives deleted) academics (expletive deleted) haven’t listened to me – I won’t be telling them again, and that’s why it’s best I don’t sit on committees.

A Bully Named Anne

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In my thirty years as a strata lawyer I’ve seen bullying in strata a few times but there is nothing like being in the firing line to focus one’s attention on the topic.

I’ll call my bully Anne because that’s her real name. Anne is on the committee but is too busy to come to meetings or read her emails or take my calls to discuss our relationship or her particular demands. However, that doesn’t stop Anne from having highly developed opinions about my performance and me.

When she calls she yells and swears and threatens me with the sack. When she emails she does it excessively, up to ten emails at a time, and she uses capitals and exclamation marks. She sets impossible deadlines that set me up for failure and has a nasty mocking tone in her voice that tends to trivialise my work and makes me feel a lesser being.

After taking my last call from Anne, I went home physically affected by our exchange and I felt for the younger people in the strata industry, the less seasoned, the less articulate and educated and those more vulnerable than me.

I’m not going to take this conduct anymore. I’m not going to work in fear of losing my job because the person I’m dealing with has a problem. I choose to believe most people are inherently reasonable and the committee and the owners corporation will come to see Anne’s conduct for what it is; the manifestation of her issues and not a reflection of mine.

The Federal Government provides protection for bullying in the workplace. Owners of strata management companies have a duty of care to their employees and it’s time those of us who are leaders in this industry started to call people out on this behaviour.

So there Anne!!!!!!

To see how Block Strata is transforming strata management services visit www.blockstrata.com.au and say ‘NO’ to bullying.

The Truth About Red Minute Books

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If there is a symbol of the past for strata management in Australia it must surely be the ubiquitous Collins Minute Book, red and feint lined if you please.

Since the beginning of professional strata management services in the early 1980’s, strata managers have dutifully written their minutes and when confirmed correct, have taken to cutting the paper down to a fraction less than A4 and sticking them in the minute book one page at a time with glue. Tradition dictates that the glue covers all the back of the page and not just be dabbed on the corners.

Dare to ask why managers engage in this arts and crafts ritual and you will be met with a surprised look and some imaginative answers. Some will tell you it’s the law. Rest assured there is no law that requires strata managers to cut and paste (literally) and stick minutes in a book coloured red or otherwise. Others will say it stops those nasty strata inspectors, prone to theft and vandalism as they are, from stealing the minutes rather than paying for the copies. Those in the know will say its because you buy the minute books from Office Works for $10 and sell them to owners corporations for $55.

The truth is that it’s done this way because it’s always been done this way and that perhaps is the worst reason of all.

To see how Block Strata is transforming strata management services visit www.blockstrata.com.au and say ‘NO’ to red minute books. 

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