News In Brief

How to deal with pending disputes

Feeling aggrieved or annoyed?

You have worked hard for this body corporate and done a bloody good job. Why is that committee person singling you out and questioning your work? We all know he is an idiot and is just on a power trip. There is no way he is going to walk over me!

Been there?

Starting to wake up at night thinking about that person? You have a pending problem!

Where to from here?

As QCAT member, Patricia Hanly, stated at a recent conference I attended, “All disputes that end up in QCAT start from a simple breakdown in communication”.

It’s going to go one of two ways. You may not realise it at the time but you are at the crossroads. You will either sort it out with the particular person and nip it in the bud or you will head off to your solicitor to get stuck into them legally.

The five things not to do:

1. Don’t let it get personal – Whatever you do, don’t make it personal. Nearly all committee members are unpaid and unskilled in the laws of strata. They put their hand up to be on the committee, with good intentions. They don’t get paid and they want the best for the building. We are all individuals and we all have different ways of communicating. Just because you don’t like the way something was said to you, don’t let it become personal. The wounds will never heal.

2. Don’t let your mind run wild – Take a deep breath and think – Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Have I misinterpreted what was said to me? Just because I didn’t like what was said or how it was said, is it really a big enough issue to let escalate? Put it all into perspective.

3. Work on the “king maker” – Most committees have one or two personalities who dominate discussion. They influence others’ decisions. Focus on them and do what is humanly possible to ensure that you maintain open and frank lines of communication. If that fails, ensure you then work on the other committee members so they at least understand what the issues are and why you have a problem. If that doesn’t work, it is probably time to reassess your position. Maybe you are in the wrong.

4. Keep your owners onside – I have always said that you can do anything in strata if you have the support of 51 per cent of those owners who vote at general meetings. It is not a big threshold. If you can’t achieve this, it is time you moved on.

5. Don’t hang around when it is time to go – If all else fails, don’t leave it too late to cut and run. If a dispute turns nasty, an awful lot of correspondence is going to end up on the body corporate records. This will be detrimental when you go to sell. All solicitors acting for buyers of management rights obtain a body corporate inspection of records search. They specifically look for issues between the manager and the committee. It will act as a red flag to a potential buyer and can easily cost you a sale.

Summary

  • Communication is king.
  • If you have an impasse with the committee, work on the owners and have decisions made at general meetings.
  • Exhaust all avenues of discussion and negotiation before going down the legal route.

 

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke is managing editor at Multimedia Publishing.

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