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PSST… Wanna be a Strata Committee Member?

Does anyone really want to be on a strata committee?  Why not and what’s to be done about it?  Does it mean the wrong people are running our strata buildings?

As an operational structure, strata and community title associations need owners [or their nominees] to volunteer as committee members.

And, whilst it makes sense that after investing significant amounts of their wealth into a strata apartment that:

  • owners would want to be committee members in the building,
  • there would be more volunteers than available committee positions, and
  • strata committee elections would be necessary.

So, many government policies, strata laws and strata processes and procedures are based on those assumptions about owner participation in strata committees.

But, my experience and anecdotal data suggest that a very different situation exists in the real world of strata committees that don’t follow conventional or rational logic.

So that strata committees are dominated by the following key features.

  • Low strata owner participation levels generally.  So, it’s hard to get meeting quorums and even harder to find strata committee volunteers at any time.
  • Low strata committee member activity levels.  So, that apart from a few diligent or self-motivated strata committee members, many of the actual volunteers don’t participate much or at all.
  • Long term strata committee appointees.  So, that appointed strata committee members tend to stay in those roles for a long time with good [and bad] consequences and giving the impression that the strata committee is a closed shop.
  • Single issue strata committee membership.  Where strata owners join strata committees to resolve or further a single issue that concerns or interests them [in good and bad ways], only to depart when that’s done.
  • Increasing compliance requirements for strata committees. So, that strata committees have more and more regulatory controls and responsibilities impacting them and their actions.
  • Increased exposures to liability, complaints and harassment. So, that membership becomes an increasingly thankless task.
  • Decreased strata committee powers.  So, that committees can do less and less autonomously without needing strata owner meeting approval [ie: responsibility without power].
  • Higher and increasing strata owner complaint levels.  With strata owners contacting strata committee members mostly about an immediate problem they have in negative [rather than productive ways] or with ill-informed and self-interested complaints.  Plus, there’s increasing reports of abuse of and threats towards strata committee members.
  • Inadequate resources to help them.  As there are very few tools or people available to help strata committee members understand or perform in their roles.

And all of these things have and are conspiring to discourage strata committee membership and participation as well as reducing their performance and effectiveness.

Take for example the recent article in SMH by Any Greenbank ‘This Sydney strata nightmare started as a power struggle — then the police were called reporting on the mayhem at a recent strata meeting that required the police to turn up to and warn strata attendees that they would shut the meeting down ‘if this thing does get out of hand’.  Sounds like that rather than a ‘lack of quorum’ that meeting suffered from a lack of ‘decorum’.

This kind of strata owner and strata committee status quo has emerged over a long time to favour and entrench the existing vested interests – which are not always what’s best for the strata building and/or the strata owners – and to concentrate decision making and power in strata buildings more and more narrowly.

Funnily enough, many law reforms proposals are worsening things like:

  • strata law reform proposals and suggestions to further lower strata meeting quorums and restrict proxies (leading to even lower levels of owner participation),
  • moves to increase committee member disclosure requirements, introduce committee training requirements, reduce committee power and increase committee accountability (making it harder to become and riskier to be a committee member), and
  • changes to increase committee sizes (making it easier for anyone to join a committee and enabling single issue members),

all while not allocating resources to strata owners and strata committees.

What’s actually needed to get better strata outcomes are more strata owners participating generally and participating in strata committees (and meetings) and that really requires more and better reasons for strata owners to want to join strata committees and better experiences for strata owners and strata committees. That’s not easy.

In 2022, I’ll be writing a series of articles with ideas for doing just that in strata buildings to improve strata committee membership, activities and outcomes.

But, it’s not all bad as this older article by Marc Bhalla in Condo Voice about his owner experiences as a committee member.  It’s worth reading to help reset negative perceptions about strata committees and start you thinking about strata owner and strata committee participation in different ways.

Article contributed by Francesco Andreone, GoStrat

Leave a Reply

  1. Justin Henry Burke Dabner

    I am on 3 Committees and have experienced everyone of your key feature bullet points. You are spot on!!

  2. Clare Lyon

    We have a committee made up of one family. They restrict the number on the committe so others cannot join and only do things that suit themselves including keeping fees donw to a level, were no money is available for beautification or improvement projects only for emergency repairs. We are in NSW. But l am sure you have theses isdues in Qld.

  3. AL O'Leary

    I have found the biggest problem is those who join Committees do so because they want an advantage, to know first about spending proposals etc.
    They know NOTHING about BCCM regulations or the law. They expect “someone else” to do all the hard work.
    They never respond to emails or provide any assistance to the secretary to arrange improvements or maintenance.