Member call no. 32: Recommended by-laws, vexatious ex-committee members and more

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In this wide-ranging call with committee member Phillipa, I recommend some new by-laws for the committee to consider incorporating as part of their review process. We canvass ideas for dealing with vexatious ex-committee members who are circulating nasty emails, and discuss options for negotiating the terms of a new strata management contract, including removing delegated authority from the current, underperforming strata manager.

Links and resources mentioned:

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Amanda, Phillipa,

    Excellent video, lots of interesting issues.

    Re the “council parking permit” by-law. I know City of Sydney has had this limitation for at least two decades (the age of our Plan) and writes it into the consent. And I’ve seen some recent buildings with large signs to this effect in the lift lobby. It’s also specifically noted in all contracts for sale.

    Re the communications by-law: perhaps specify a single email address. Ours is secretary@[buildingname].net.au. You don’t have to get your own domain – maybe just get an address like “SPXXXXX@gmail.com”. This has a few advantages: several people can share it; it can be easily handed over to a future committee (make sure you use an IMAP email platform which keeps all sent and received emails); it puts a little ‘professional distance’ and the person sending can’t be sure who’s reading it (so can’t play “selective BCC” games with who sees what, the oldest game in the divide-and-conquer-via-email playbook).

    Re the vexatious owners: full marks on the transparency. It’s the way to go. Shining a bright light on people’s behaviour tends to bring them into line (or, at least, erodes their support at any general meetings). Another approach is to use an online project management platform – Basecamp and Trello are two I’ve used. This lets you make everything transparent, by putting all the correspondence in one place either for committee members, owners or both. You can also include contracts, insurance docs etc etc so anyone can see what’s going on at any time convenient to them. There may be committee members or owners who don’t want daily random emails, but are happy to spend time to catch up with what’s happened. These platforms put it all together.

    Finally, go self-managed. It’s not that hard (at least with smaller buildings). Engage accountants, auditors, building managers, lawyers etc when you need specific expertise (rather than relying on a strata manager who will have varying levels of skill). Keep things open, transparent and professional, with well-run, well-documented meetings. Your fellow owners will love you!

    One of the problems with strata managers is that small, good firms may get bought by large, bad firms. This is what happened in my building, which created months of nightmare. In another (commercial) building I’m in, we had a good manager who then left the firm and was replaced by a dud. After getting nowhere with the management of both firms (who made concerned noises, kept taking our money, and did nothing). We ended up taking both buildings to self-management. In the latter case, the OC contracted with one of the committee owners to act as building manager on a paid basis.

    And note that the legislation does provide for payments to committee members (only after the fact and approved at a general meeting). We’ve been doing this for several years at both my buildings, with no pushback. And if anyone asks, we can say “Well, we put in about X hours a month on this, so this is about $15 an hour. Are you happy to take it on for less – and do as good a job as we do?” In Phillipa’s case it could open the door to working out a monetary value for the time and stress of dealing with a vexatious owner. And I would be that blunt and direct: “I’ve spent X hours reading and responding to this. I’d like $X,000 for that.” (and if you get it, he’ll be really chewed up because he’s paying a share of it).

    Hope this is useful,

    D

    Reply
  • Hello Amanda , thank you for a very informative session today , I have many unanswered questions regarding a unfunctional committee I will send another inquiry to the forum in the New Year.

    Have a Happy and safe Christmas ,

    Tucki Tucki

    Reply

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