Am I going to gaol for being on a strata committee?


A schedule I’ve just prepared comparing the responsibilities of committee members under new strata law with the current laws makes the point quite visually. The duties list before was small and now it’s big. These are not ‘things to be done’ type duties, rather, ‘you will be sued if you don’t’ type duties.

The soon to be imposed duties on elected committee members are hardly controversial and indeed are quite old fashioned; they’re just new to strata. There’s an obligation to act in good faith, to disclose conflicts of interest, to declare pecuniary interests, and to exercise due care and diligence when making decisions.

These are not things that should scare us. There’s immunity for doing the right thing and the new laws probably do no more than restate the common law that applies now anyway. By these standards, strata committee members are rarely sued, and no one can recall the last time one was sent to gaol.

In committing these things to the statute books there is however something about which we should be very afraid, and its not the loss of wealth or liberty. Accusations of committee members breaching their newly enacted statutory duties will become the new normal every time there’s a fight within.

Fights over dogs and cats will be elevated to questions about the exercise of good or bad faith. Alliances between different users of property will be attacked with allegations of non declared pecuniary interests, and every time someone wants to stop anything of significance because they don’t want to fund the additional levies there will be protests about process and the absence of due, care and diligence.

The result if we are not careful is that an already hard and thankless job might just become impossible. Such is the conundrum of this new form of living – if we are to be self governing as our legislators would have it then there must be standards but so far at least it seems no one wants to invest the time or money needed to reach these lofty heights.

Let’s see if these reforms change our ways.

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