We often hear complaints from apartment owners about how they are unhappy with decisions made by certain people in their strata community, for example the chairperson of the committee or the community manager. Often these complaints indicate a misunderstanding of how decisions are made in an owners corporation/body corporate.
It is important to understand the decision making process in your community, so if you are unhappy with decisions made, you don’t feel powerless. You, the owners, make up the strata community. And you, as owners, make decisions for the community in two ways:
1. Day- to-day decisions are made by the committee (which is made up of owners elected by other owners);
2. More significant decisions are decided at the annual meeting of all lot owners (the AGM).
Allocating decision-making power to a small number of representatives enables everyday decisions to be made easily without the hassle of getting all owners together. The committee deals with many decisions on behalf of the community such as authorizing maintenance or giving approvals for requests in line with by-laws.
There are limits on the decisions committees can make. State legislation outlines some decisions the committee cannot make.
Additionally, the strata community can decide at a general meeting that some issues are reserved, that is, they must only be decided at a general meeting of all lot owners.
The general meeting is an opportunity for all owners to have a say on important decisions affecting their community. A number of significant issues are raised at general meetings, and owners should take the opportunity to exercise their vote at this meeting.
Committee elections are held at the annual general meeting. As the committee is responsible for a large number of decisions throughout the year, it is incredibly important you attend and vote on the nominations. If you have been unhappy with the committee and decisions made, this is your opportunity to make a difference.
The annual general meeting agenda will also include a number of essential financial decisions. As any financial decisions will have implications for you as an owner, you should make the effort to attend and be informed.
Owner Input – Apartment Owner Motions
You might still feel like your input in these decisions is minimal, or at least restricted to a select number of issues. A large number of apartment owners are unaware that they can put forward their ideas to the committee or the general meeting.
An apartment owner can submit a motion to be considered at either a committee meeting or the annual general meeting.
Motions must be carefully written so that owners can respond with a simple yes or no answer. For example, instead of proposing ‘that the committee investigate ways of fixing the roof’, you should propose that owners ‘accept the attached quotation from AAA Engineers to report on alternative methods and costings for fixing the roof’.
Apartment owners should also be aware if their proposal has to meet any legal requirements under body corporate/owners corporation or other legislation (such as building regulations). The economic consequences of the proposal also need to be considered – are there sufficient funds in the budget or will a special levy be required? Lastly, apartment owners should ensure their motion is realistic, achievable, and something that other owners are likely to support.
The Community Manager
So what is the community manager’s role in decisions of the strata community? Unless appointed with specific and legal power (which does not happen frequently and requires particular preconditions to be achieved and agreed on by owners) the community manager has no decision making power. Their role is to assist in the administration of all the decisions made by the committee, and to help them implement decisions that are properly made. The community manager’s role is to be an advisor, an administrator, an accountant, and a secretary.
Understanding how decisions are made in your strata community is the first step for apartment owners who want to make a difference. It is really important to be proactive within the community to ensure that if you’re not happy with something, you can change it. If you’re not on the committee or voting at the annual general meeting, then you’re leaving others to decide important aspects of your community.