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Ignorance of the law is no excuse

I encourage strata committees of the importance of being familiar with strata law and the myriad of legislation governing this area.

Whether they be large or small, both strata schemes and company title buildings are run by well-meaning, talented people and on some occasions not so well-meaning and not so talented volunteers.

Part of my practice is taken up with appointments as a compulsory manager where the Tribunal has determined that a scheme’s management is dysfunctional. On the other hand, I have come across schemes which are in fact dysfunctional, but for one reason or another, a compulsory manager has not been appointed. My observation is those schemes are often led by a group of autocratic committee members who ignorantly determine they know best.

I don’t know if it is the same for you but it is also my experience that 10% of people one comes into contact in one’s professional career cause 90% of the problems.

The other day I was having a coffee with someone who for many years has been intimately involved with strata. They are a supplier professional services not a strata manager or an owner. He said to me “running of strata schemes is akin to group of directors with no qualifications or experience running a company without knowledge of the law governing the company and its business or the business of that mythological company.” That got my attention and was food for thought.

I confess there is a low entry level to practice as a strata manager and this often accounts for questionable knowledge and by extension questionable services. There is no entry level for those who sit on committees. I must say I have been blessed because the committees I work with have been run by very experienced people who are all happy to learn.

Compulsory managements are where I have had insight into dysfunctional management.

I am currently a compulsory manager of a scheme where compliance with the law was regarded as hurdle rather than aid. There were strata managers involved but they acted not as independent and objective professionals but rather as a conduit of the views of the committee who regarded the scheme as their fiefdom and decided how things would be run rather than how they should be run. Any opposition to their intrenched views was met with “fire, hell and brimstone.” Because some owners are contemplating suing for loss and damage it is highly likely I will have to consider standing in the shoes of the owners corporation if the past committee or specific members who ran the scheme abysmally should be sued to meet the cost of those damages. There are consequences for what we do and do not do.

Those in the know will undoubtedly recall the famous quote by President Lincoln “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

In my other article I discuss the provisions the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (Information) Regulation 2021 which commences on 30 June 2022. I commend committee members particularly chairpersons and secretaries to know this amendment because even if you have a strata manager, the buck stops with you to ensure compliance. Do not try to bluff your way through ballet because non-compliance attracts penalties. Who needs that when one has volunteered? We will be assisting all the Strata Committees of the schemes we manage to meet their legal responsibilities flowing from the amendment.

As has been my mantra, if you decide to serve on a committee, treat it as a steep learning curve being across all aspects of the law, so you have a good working knowledge. If you do that, it will minimise any chance of you coming a cropper and make that sometimes thankless job rewarding. Remember the other adage “ignorance of the law is no excuse” and “knowledge is power.”


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