Let’s all get on the same page…

In the past few months I had had discussions and meetings with various disgruntled managers of management rights in NSW who tend to use me as a sounding board for their grievances.

This is no surprise as I put myself about as an unpaid mediator and friend to the industry and I welcome such approaches. It is only through experience and negotiation that we can make this industry stronger and better. So this is a role I am happy to accept and develop.

While recently away on holiday, one particular disaffected ex-owner from Byron Bay asked me if I could help organise and bring together a group of similarly aggrieved ex-managers who have suffered unfairly at the hands of some rather dictatorial owners corporations and executive committees. Some of these ex-owners were effectively “pushed out” the back door and they still feel, rightfully, very badly maligned. He felt that these aggrieved owners should join together in one voice perhaps organised through me.

Well I will answer this request as I did to this particular owner over the phone. I am totally against establishing any “renegade” disaffected managers group; bad enough we have to deal with a number of similarly disaffected “redneck” owners associations; we certainly don’t need to add more fuel to the fire from our side of the fence. It’s counter productive and will achieve absolutely nothing. By this I do literally mean nothing!
With all the best intent in the world no group we could ever hope to muster would achieve any change to the established strata legislation that allows bullying and bullying tactics to prevail in strata governance. It’s inherent and it’s endemic – we ain’t gonna change it!

ARAMA, however, is the relevant body to represent such issues for any disaffected managers who feel they are or have been unfairly treated. There is no room or need for another group whose sole mandate or raison d’être would be based on retribution! If, as I have had told to me on numerous occasions, ARAMA is found wanting in this (or any other industry) regard, then ARAMA needs to be challenged (from within) and made to represent its members and the industry as required. That is what ARAMA exists for. There is no other logical or viable avenue for recourse save through our own elected industry representation. So contact Trevor Rawnsley or Bill Kemter at the ARAMA national level and make your voice heard. ARAMA is the industry body that can influence change at a state and national level and it is, I believe, already doing so.
As to the question in hand concerning the unfairness doled out to some managers I want to elaborate with the following comments and observations:

Owners corporations and executive committees and their individual members are not always fair or devoid of prejudice and other human failings that often cloud their decision making capabilities. There are well known “power vacuums” and relative dictatorships that rely on subtle as well as overt bullying. Some managers (me included) have fallen foul of some of this personal vendetta style of bullying. I need to make it clear right now that experience has taught me that “it comes with the territory”. We need to learn to live with and work around it or we need to declare out and out war and get rid of those responsible for it. There is no middle ground. So here is the plan of action; the do’s and the don’ts:


Try at all times to work with your executive committee. Be helpful, diligent, amenable, knowledgeable and influential. Try to obtain an executive position on committee yourself (NSW allows this, whereas Queensland doesn’t, so in NSW use this advantage, don’t sit on the sidelines). If possible be the secretary or treasurer for a chairman you get along well with.

Write monthly newsletters to all your owners. Write a second one if you wish to all your rental owners as well. Keep in touch. You are the voice and the face of the building so make sure you enhance your esteemed position. Tell your owners what is happening in your building, in your neighbourhood and in your real estate market. You do want those owner’s listing when they sell don’t you?

Run an interactive website for your building. If you don’t have a website… shame on you! Link in to Facebook and get people to “like” your building. Get those newsletters also on the website. The website is yet another face to your building, so make sure you own it and run it. One manager I know is running a women’s community group for her building to get people to meet and share coffee etc some mornings… we need more of this.

Be knowledgeable. Knowledge is power! If you can learn more than anyone else on committee about the Strata Act and its implications then you will be revered, respected and appreciated. Frankly very few EC members know anything about strata law issues and the numerous requirements under the act. A few months of regular intensive reading will position any resident manager with half a brain, as the unofficial knowledge repository of his building; a great place to be, believe me! (Perhaps buy Alex Ilkin’s NSW Strata and Community Schemes Management and The Law. It’s the informal strata bible)

Join the Owners Corporation Network based in Sydney. You only need to own a strata-titled unit or office to qualify for membership and the fees are $55 a year. These guys are not the enemy! They run a Forum site that I subscribe to and every day the members from a number of strata buildings (usually around Sydney) discuss in forum format a whole range of issues. Just stay silent and listen (or read of course) – there is so much information being discussed between members about various legal and non legal topics but most of what is being discussed is bloody helpful to a RUM (like, how do other buildings handle misuse of visitor parking spaces… this kind of thing). This is pure gold, so be part of it. You will gain so much insight into strata you will be amazed and you might make a few friends (even if you are one of those RUMs they claim not to like!)

Do not argue. You will occasionally fall out with certain individuals in your building but try always and all ways to reconcile. I don’t care if you are right or wrong, it is better to lose a few battles and win the war if winning the war means keeping your job and sleeping at night.
Do not defecate in your own nest! Guys do not take on the owners corporation over wage issues, duties issues, hour’s issues and billing issues. These are taboo! I have seen managers lose respect and control in a week after refusing to do something they are not paid fo, or for charging out for an out of hour’s service that is not in the caretaking agreement. Yes, I know you have every right to do this but just don’t! Okay! If you can work the issue to your favour or advantage by careful solicitation, fine, but never make anything an issue unless you want or expect total warfare. I have been there and done that… you want to know what happens (even when you are right): They (the committee or as individual members) turn on you. And when they do it gets personal, it gets spiteful and it gets ugly! My wife refused to go back into our building; we had ten spiteful emails every week. They played “tag team” between a few vengeful owners to get at us. Walk round your building and tell me that you cannot find something to report or that needs doing; there is always something! Well these guys find it and then make a continual stink about it. This is the start of the slippery slope and it leads to one place only: either they win (and you leave) or you win and you do what John Mahoney wrote brilliantly about a few months ago, vote out your committee at the next AGM or EGM and install a new committee you can work with.

I did the latter and I won but never again. I have learnt from the experience. I hope all you disaffected RUMs out there do too.
In summary, (and I mean no disrespect in this) if I look back on all the managers I have ever supported or helped in trying to save their management rights they have all, to varying degrees, done something wrong on this list. Myself included!

Good luck, we all need it.

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