Whether you live in a brand new apartment or an old inner-city building, the dramas and bullying of some owners corporations can be enough to make you want to pack your bags.

You need to ensure your owners corporation (formerly known as the body corporate) works in the best interests of your investment. For this article we spoke to Sue Williams and Jimmy Thomson, authors of the bestselling book Apartment Living -“ The Complete Guide To Surviving And Thriving In Apartments.

1. Get elected onto your owners corporation

When things aren’t being run the way you’d like them to be, the only way to gain any real power over the situation is to get elected onto your owners corporation. Another option is to befriend one person you can trust on your owners corporation to channel your issues and ideas.

2. Run an effective owners corporation

The best way for most owners corporations to function, particularly in large buildings, is to split their members into several sub-committees. We’ve seen firsthand how this approach can streamline the decision-making process and stop meetings going on for hours.

Consider dividing your executive committee into a building and maintenance subcommittee (maintenance and capital works), a security subcommittee (concierge, security, keys and building access) and a facilities subcommittee (overseeing such things as the gym, pool, gardens and any other common areas), to name a few.

3. Good mix of skills

Any owners corporation should include people who will bring something more to the group than a desire to protect their own interests. Good people to have on your committee include a building professional, an accountant, a lawyer and an administrator.

However, be careful with electing influential people who feel as though they need to make their mark. Don’t be surprised that if they get elected onto the owners corporation there will be a lot of huffing and puffing and chest beating.

Often the best approach here is to point out that their attitude is undermining the smooth operation of the committee or even get the owners corporation to agree to disagree so that you can get on with the business. Alternatively, a professional mediator can be engaged to help resolve complex issues that have no immediate breakthrough.

4. Staying power

It’s vital that each person is sounded out during the selection process for their seat on your owners corporation. The aim is not so much to elect an owners corporation that is made up of similar people with similar views, but to ensure they are willing to discuss issues openly and fairly.
In addition, you need to know that all the people on the committee are unaligned owners wanting the best for the building and their investment. This means that you want to minimise the influence of any members with direct financial, professional or personal links with the developer, builder or other sub-contractors of your building.

Once you have been elected, you can use resignations and departures to strengthen your team by encouraging able and energetic people onto the committee and excluding the self-interested, the lazy and the complete bullies.

5. Be a voice of reason

Too often you see schoolyard-type bullying and intimidation tactics being used in owners corporation meetings to get decisions steamrolled. The best advice is always to stay calm and rational in your communications and avoid at all costs getting overheated.

Always keep your complaints short and to the point, and try not to make them personal. This approach will ensure you are seen as reasonable and logical by the others.

6. Communicate with other owners

Make sure your owners corporation retains the confidence of all owners by communicating regularly through newsletters and posters on the notice-board. If tricky issues come up, like a fire order, consider holding a meeting for interested owners who would like to be briefed on the problems and the potential solutions.

7. Making your owners corporation listen

The easiest way to get your issue listened to is to write a letter to the executive committee outlining your concerns and your ideas for the action required.

If you are getting nowhere with your owners corporation and you are now being labelled as a trouble-maker, the next thing to do is go to your local Office of Fair Trading to register a complaint against the owners corporation.

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