April 29, 2020 at 1:14 pm #227864MomentoMember
We had a chat about a month ago about my small apartment block strata committee “unreasonably withhold(ing) approval” of my application (26/11/19) for a retired racing greyhound as a pet according to by-law 16.
Our scheduled AGM did not take place at the end of March due to COVID-19 and was “postponed until further notice”. As a recent owner occupier I had planned to attend the AGM and nominate for the strata committee plus informally raise the matter of pet approval, going through the benefits of pet ownership to property value etc and offering again to have a one week trial with my daughter’s greyhound. I also intended to advise the committee that if we were unable to have a serious discussion I would reluctantly progress this matter to mediation. although my preference would be to avoid any form of litigation if possible.
I have deliberately taken a “softly, softly” approach as I am in no hurry and it is a priority that I maintain good long-term relationships, if at all possible, within our small community.
Having now re-surfaced after the initial tidal wave of COVID-19, and with these goals in mind, rather than proceed to mediation at this time, I am thinking to formally nominate myself for the strata committee and request that the strata manager conduct the delayed AGM by electronic means.
I would appreciate your further thoughts and advice re strategy in this situation.
from momentoApril 30, 2020 at 12:32 am #228023ts1904Expert
I know that a lot of strata management companies are deferring consideration of the election of new strata committees for the time being. I’ve looked into it rather extensively and the conclusion I came to was that it is possible to elect a new committee, but only if a ballot is not required (as a ballot paper “must be signed by the voter and completed by the voter’s writing on it” which is difficult online!).
I’d check with your strata manager to see what their intention is in case they are not planning to put forth the motion. I’d say in smaller strata schemes, it can be dealt with via a video conference and hopefully a ballot isn’t necessary.
That way, you can join the committee.
Failing that, if you don’t want to wait until this all blows over, maybe you could write to the Secretary via the agent and politely put forward your viewpoint and even invite them to a video conference of your own!May 6, 2020 at 8:35 pm #228506Amanda FarmerExpert
Yes, I remember our conversation! And I’m sorry to hear that COVID has resulted in this dragging out for you…
+1 to ts1904’s comments above. Our legislation is very ‘grey’ when it comes to the ability – or otherwise – of an OC to elect a new strata committee at an electronic meeting.
Perhaps try this as a next step:
1. communicate with your strata manager (in writing), with a ‘gentle’ enquiry, along the lines “are we planning to convene our AGM anytime soon? Is it possible to convene this electronically?”
2. perhaps they will respond positively, eg: “yes, this is planned for 1 months’ time, this is how it will happen…”
3. you can then progress to: “great! I’d love to be on the committee, how should I nominate?”
4. see what they come back with. Share it with us here.
Do bear in mind that the litigious process is significantly delayed at the moment, no doubt due to CVOID. It took me 8 weeks (!) to get a mediation date for one of my recent applications…Would it hurt to file an application for mediation anyway and see where you’re at in 8 weeks’ time?
As I believe I mentioned in our call, you are the one best placed to judge the response of your fellow owners…
Amanda.May 24, 2020 at 3:02 pm #229413MomentoMember
Hello again Amanda!
I appreciated your and ts1904 respnses to my post.
Since hearing from you I emailed my strata manager asking about the next AGM and have been advised that the committee didn’t want to do this electronically but to expect it will likely happen onsite within the next month or so. I asked how to nominate for the Strata Committee and this can be done either at the AGM or in advance using a nomination form which I have. I thought I might email my nomination this coming week.
I’d welcome your suggestions for whether to submit this prior to the AGM or on the day. Strategy is not my strong suit! Any other pointers also eagerly anticipated!
MomentpMay 25, 2020 at 7:00 am #229438Amanda FarmerExpert
Hi Momento, do you expect there to be any pushback for your committee nomination?
How many do they usually have on the committee?
Whether you need a ‘strategy’ or not really depends on whether you think you’re going to need to gather support for your nomination. Most buildings (I find) are more than happy to have a new person put their hand up to serve on the committee. However, some others can find that prospect a little threatening and you may need to start ‘campaigning’ shortly before the AGM, for the best chance of success.
Amanda.June 1, 2020 at 7:15 am #230126MomentoMember
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were to be push-back for my committee nomination. I emailed the Strata Manager Nov 2019 to introduce myself after purchasing my ‘pet friendly’ unit in October and indicated that I would like to join the Strata Committee, asking how to go about this. He replied a few days later saying he would let the Committee know so he could “get it formalised”. I have heard nothing further on this matter.
At the last AGM, March 2019, the minutes record that a motion was carried stating “the number of members of the Strata Committee be 4”. The next item documents that four people were elected as members of the Committee – including the previous owner of my unit (obviously no longer on the Committee) + the 3 remaining Committee members, one of whom has been living in our small apartment block the longest, and has been Chairman of the Committee for at least the last two years. He responded to my request 2-3 months ago to meet/discuss my pet application, the Committee’s refusal of my request and the lack of response to my request for reconsideration of this decision (accompanied by a lot of supportive evidence demonstrating that the Committee’s continuing to withhold approval was “unreasonable” according to the by-law), by arranging for a meeting with the other members of the Strata Committee (one member was unable to attend). I am yet to receive any response or feedback from this discussion, including my offer of a one week trial with another greyhound very similar to the one I would like to adopt.
In 2018 there were 3 members of the Strata Committee.
The department of fair trading website states that “If a vacancy opens up during the term of the strata committee, the owners’ corporation can appoint a person to fill the spot until the next AGM”. There is clearly still a current vacancy on the Strata Committee and it appears that they have chosen not to fill it. Although I have not received any record or notes of Strata Meetings, apart from minutes of the last AGM which were included in the Strata Report I bought prior to purchase, I have been told verbally by the Strata Committee that they did meet to discuss my pet application. I can only assume they also discussed my original request to join the committee.
I am emailing today an official ‘Nomination for Strata Committee Form’ to the Strata Manager, noting the last AGM minutes as above, current Strata Committee vacancy and a summary of our correspondence last November.
I am also considering whether or not it would be advisable to ask my Psychiatrist – who treated me for a severe depression 4-5 years ago, now thankfully fully recovered, and continues to see me on a regular basis for ongoing care – to write a letter stating that my mental health and well-being would benefit from a companion dog, considering I live alone and work in a very stressful job as a GP.
I’m also wondering whether to raise the matter of pet approvals informally at the AGM as we have previously discussed, or whether it would be better to put this officially on the pending AGM’s ?new agenda. I do have some concern that members of the Strata Committee may attempt a proposal to change the by-law to a less favourable position for pet ownership in our units, although I have no evidence for this. The agenda for the delayed AGM did not contain even a mention of pets.
I’m currently putting together my application for mediation with fair trading and will file this ASAP. A question – for item 5, ‘Issue description’, I have started this with a short summary paragraph/overview, and am wondering whether it might perhaps be better to use point form for the full details rather than written succinct paragraphs to explain the situation/tell the story as I have done.
Thank you for your continued suggestions and advice, much appreciated!
MomentoJune 7, 2020 at 2:32 pm #230575Amanda FarmerExpert
I am wondering if you are up to date on the recent ‘pet litigation’ that has come out of our NSW Tribunal?
You will hear me discuss this with David Edwards on the podcast this week. Be sure to listen in.
In my view, the recent findings of the NCAT Appeal panel are favourable to your situation. The Tribunal said that by-laws introduced to ban pets in a building that was previously ‘pet-friendly’ may be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive and therefore invalid. I believe your building will have trouble enforcing a pet ban (if that’s what they are planning) when they have, to date, been pet friendly and you clearly purchased on that basis.
Your by-law (as I recall it) requires the strata committee to act reasonably when considering your pet application. I agree that evidence from your psychiatrist is relevant here and should be taken into account by your committee when considering your application. Failure to take it into account would be evidence of unreasonableness.
In relation to your mediation application, as a matter of strategy I usually put very little into a mediation application. Because it takes so long to get to mediation, your situation could change between now and then. Because it is an informal process, you can always circulate more documents closer to the mediation date and/or table documents at the mediation. Just make sure your application is clear about why you are seeking mediation and what you want to achieve, but don’t let the collation of documents hold you up with the filing of the application. It takes so long to get to mediation, and you have already been waiting so long for your pet approval, I sense it is best for you to press on.
Amanda.June 9, 2020 at 9:59 pm #230642MomentoMember
Thanks for getting back to me.
I have now filed for mediation.
Also heard back today from the strata manager re my initial offer/request Nov 2019 to join the strata committee when, unbeknown to me, there was a vacancy. His reply was “I did ask the committee to amend it but didn’t get back the majority required.”
It will be interesting to see what response I get from the committee to my nomination at the pending AGM. Looks like I will have some campaigning to do!
Really appreciate your continued support with this process.
MomentoJuly 24, 2020 at 10:28 pm #233776MomentoMember
A quick note to let you know that 2 days after a date was advised for mediation the strata committee approved my request for a pet dog and asked me to withdraw my application for mediation.
Thanks for all your advice.
MomentoJuly 26, 2020 at 7:57 am #233828Amanda FarmerExpert
Yessss! Excellent news. Thank you for sharing that win, Momento.
Enjoy your new family member!
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