May 11, 2020 at 2:03 pm #228742FlotsamMember
Regrettably, I have to seek advice on an owner that is harassing the SC.
Multiple emails of a repetitious nature, covering topics that have been discussed before, inappropriate and disrespectful language… all of which I am aware can be dealt with a Communications By-Law.
However, the owner continues to send emails to the private email addresses of members of the SC, despite being asked to stop, because it is his stated position that a SC should have no expectation of privacy. In addition, he has put such questions to committee members when passing by them in the street despite their requests to leave strata matters for strata mediums. The clear intent is to intimidate (and it may well be causing mental harm to some members of the SC) but there is no suggestion of physical violence. Is this harassment? Can a Cease & Desist be issued?
Any guidance would be appreciated.May 11, 2020 at 3:31 pm #228754JAE in WAMember
Since members of a strata company do NOT have any right to privacy your bothersome owner IS entitled to know and use email addresses that are contained within the strata records. Owners of email accounts have the right to not be bothered by persons and the ability to block senders…apparently this DIY solution has not been implemented.
The council is obligated to make reasonable attempts to resolve disputes with owners. You label the efforts of an owner going to great lengths to communicate with the council members as intimidation; the owner most likely labels the ‘response’ of the council as inadequate or worse.
Ignoring a complaint never makes a problem go away.
I suggest the council respond differently or let others occupy the positions of power.May 13, 2020 at 8:36 am #228810FlotsamMember
Thank you for the response. For the avoidance of doubt, please assume that the SC has responded to queries and considers the responses adequate. With over 100 other owners, not one other owner has come forward to disagree. You would be correct to suggest the owner in question considers the responses inadequate, however.
Your other comments that “ignoring a complaint never makes a problem go away”, etc, seem rather an unhelpful generalisation. Surely you are aware that there exists owners who can never be satisfied? I am aware of one that wrote 300 items of lengthy correspondence in a calendar year. With respect, it seems unreasonable to me that your expectation is that the SC should respond to all of this correspondence, no matter how much of it there is, no matter how much it has been answered before, no matter how rude it is, or else find someone else to occupy the position and have them respond ad nauseum instead. I would suggest that there are very few people willing to respond to such correspondence; perhaps our Strata Plan is unfortunate not to have you serving on the committee if you would be so inclined!
We remain keen to hear from anyone else that has suffered similar problems.May 13, 2020 at 11:11 am #228832JAE in WAMember
Your response to free advice is illuminating. It now seems probable that the council members have not blocked the sender’s email account let alone engaged in formal mediation and prefer to “suffer” rather than allow the bothersome owner to become a problem solver.May 13, 2020 at 11:17 am #228836FlotsamMember
Thank you again for your thoughts JAE.
We remain interested in hearing from other parties that may have experienced similar and found a positive solution.May 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm #229021MissMember
Am suggesting this with respect and as a courtesy – we have similar issues but in our case the Committee has a bias against some individuals. Instead of trying to resolve any issues, all of which are legitimate, the SC goes on the attack and inflame the individuals be ignoring them and making strata life untenable.
Well the OC got a building manager, a brilliant chap with decades of experience, a pragmatic, conciliatory and mature approach bringing an outsider,s perspective coupled with knowledge of the Act.
Week one on the job, he asked who the ‘troublemakers’ were, Met with each of the troublemakers. Told troublemakers what he was going to do to resolve their issues. Starting resolving issues. By the end of week one, troublemakers were happy, so happy they were buying coffee and practically ticking the tummy of the building manager and harmony was restored.
Something like that might help your committee.
But this tale has a sad ending – after a short time the building manager resigned and the committee of chaos reigns.
At least your reaching out for suggestions, so that’s a good first step.May 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm #229026Amanda FarmerExpert
I agree that there is a limit to what committee members should be expected or required to respond to – whether on email or in person when passing fellow residents on the common property or even the public street.
No one wants to be bailed up by a fellow resident and berated when stepping out to walk the dog or take their child to school. That is the image I have in mind when reading your description. Especially when you are – as you say – doing your very best to serve your community, acting in compliance with the law, and all in the building (bar one) are content.
As you have noted, some buildings have implemented ‘communications by-laws’ that have assisted them to set boundaries for difficult residents who are hard to please, no matter how much effort the committee puts in. If you haven’t yet checked out my template, free to members, here, please do. It may give you some ideas.
As JAE points out, it is certainly possible for committee members to ‘block’ receipt of emails from a particular address and I’d suggest if you were going to do that, you first make clear to the person the reason why you’re doing that and make clear that if they want their communications to be received and read, those communications must be sent to the strata manager. A resolution at a committee meeting recording the reasons why this serious measure is being put in place is a good idea because you can expect there will be some push back.
When it comes to face to face communications, in my experience (both for clients and personally, in my own building), it has to be up to the committee member to put in place proper boundaries. I appreciate that this is easier for some personalities than others. Some people are naturally conflict-averse and don’t like having difficult conversations face to face. Unfortunately, you may find that during this period of dealing with an unreasonably demanding resident, committee members whose personalities fall into that bracket will want to step down. Such casualties may be unavoidable. This is a time for the thick-skinned and emotionally resilient to step up.
I accept that I come from a position of confidence because of my knowledge of the law, but I am always very clear with my neighbours that the appropriate line of communication about ‘building-issues’ is our strata manager, copying in the strata committee (so far, we don’t have a problem with email deluge, luckily). If I do happen to receive text messages or emails directly, I remind the person of this protocol and they quickly apologise. Of course, there is the odd emergency, which requires a knock on my door or an urgent phone call and that is simply the nature of being a resident committee member. In properly functioning buildings, it doesn’t happen all that often.
My advice to committee members who are continually harassed or intimidated on the common property by an unreasonably difficult resident is to express very clearly to that person that their communication is inappropriate and that you will not respond to it in that forum. Then walk away. “Write to the strata manager” might be the refrain. If the person is becoming abusive or threatening, pulling out a smart phone to record the behaviour – either audio or video – is usually enough to send them on their way and ensure they think twice before trying it again.
You will recognise over time (if you’re not already) that this person chooses their targets carefully and will stop confronting those that stand up to him and demand common courtesy.
As for legal avenues, in NSW if a person feels harassed, threatened or intimidated, then they can seek the protection of an Apprehended Personal Violence Order, issued by the police. That is, of course, a serious step but threats to personal safety should be treated as such.
Otherwise, letters from your strata manager citing breaches of relevant by-laws (eg communications by-law, behaviour on common property by-law) are essential, as is ensuring that all committee members stand united in their response to this person. It doesn’t help if one committee member ignores the insults and walks away and another stands on the street for 30 mins passively being dumped on. You’re ‘all in this together’. If you can send that message to your fellow committee members it may go some way to easing the emotional strain.
Amanda.May 17, 2020 at 11:30 am #229039FlotsamMember
Thank you very much Miss and Amanda for your extensive thoughts.
Hopeful this will help with the situation.June 14, 2020 at 4:50 pm #231067SydneyChairMember
If I may add another observation (from my own experience!)
Here in NSW (I’m not sure where you are), mediation is available via the Tribunal.
I’ve had situations in two buildings where an owner or tenant was intractable, so we proposed mediation.
Once someone is sitting across the table from their ‘bete noire’, with a professional, independent, ‘umpire’ between them, the nature of the conversation changes dramatically.
One case was with an owner of a retail lot who simply would not accept the implications of a by-law for his costs (and had been refusing to pay for some months).
The other was a tenant who had regular noisy parties in his apartment, keeping half the building awake. He’d ignored previous notices to comply and told more than one neighbour to ‘f-off’.
In both cases, their demeanour was dramatically different in the mediation room and they participated respectfully, recognising they had to present their case objectively and supported by evidence. In the first case, they spoke and listened, ultimately accepting they had misunderstood the by-law. In the second case, the tenant arrived, having spent the previous evening discussing the issue with his girlfriend and realising the choice came down to staying in the apartment or leaving. He’d decided he wanted to stay, and accepted that meant he had to take his mates down the road to the pub. So the mediation lasted less than five minutes as he apologised for his lack of respect for his neighbours.
We never had a problem with either after that.
[Note there are rules around NCAT mediation, and you may need to first lodge a ‘notice to comply’ in NSW. Things may be different elsewhere.]June 16, 2020 at 2:56 pm #231264FlotsamMember
Hey SydneyChair, thank you for the thoughts.
I guess it is not for everyone as the approach does require the patience of a saint sometimes and I know many SC members fall short of wanting to be involved in such tactics as they are volunteering their time in the first place (and do not wish to give more of it).
However, I think I would have to agree that the SC asking for Mediation is a tool that is underused. It definitely doesn’t always work to your benefit to wait for the complainants to initiate. I will personally endeavour to keep it in mind as an option!June 18, 2020 at 8:40 pm #231441Amanda FarmerExpert
I love this ‘good news story’ from SydneyChair. Thank you for sharing.
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