Dealing with a Dysfunctional Body Corporate Committee

Let’s face it, sometimes our dream home comes with a not-so-dreamy body corporate Committee Members. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Committees with the years that are on-the-ball and on the page about achieving a common objective.    

Whether it’s a communication breakdown, questionable decision-making, or a persistent feeling that things aren’t quite right, a dysfunctional body corporate Committee can leave Victorian strata owners frustrated and powerless. 

The good news? The Owners Corporation Act 2006 empowers you to take action against a dysfunctional Committee. It gives you tools to address financial transparency and unfair rules head-on. Be equipped with the knowledge and practical steps to rebuild a functional committee that serves the best interests of your entire strata community. 

What Are the Signs of a Dysfunctional Body Corporate Committee 

Have you ever felt like your voice isn’t being heard by the Committee? Maybe you’ve noticed a decline in the overall maintenance of your building, or perhaps there’s a constant sense of tension between residents and the Committee. If so, you might be dealing with a dysfunctional body corporate Committee. 

Here are some red flags that your Committee may be off track: 

  • Poor communication to owners: The Committee rarely communicates, leaving you in the dark about important issues. 
  • Financial fog: Annual budgets are vague, special levies appear out of nowhere, or you can’t get clear answers about spending. 
  • Maintenance neglect: Common areas fall into disrepair, and legitimate requests for repairs are ignored or met with excuses. 
  • Bullying or intimidation: Committee members engage in personal attacks, belittle differing opinions, or create a hostile atmosphere. 
  • Unilateral decisions: Decisions are made without consultation or input from owners, often benefiting a select few. 

Understanding Why Committees Go Off the Rails 

A well-functioning Body Corporate Committee is the backbone of a harmonious strata community. However, even the best intentions can get derailed.  

An example is when a Committee where members with clashing personalities constantly butt heads, decisions stall due to a lack of understanding of the Owners Corporation Act 2006, or roles and responsibilities remain ambiguous. These scenarios are not uncommon and can easily destroy a Committee’s effectiveness. 

Several factors can contribute to a dysfunctional OC committee: 

  • Personality clashes: Strong personalities or conflicting personal agendas can lead to disagreements and an inability to reach consensus. 
  • Lack of experience or knowledge: Committee members who are new to the role or unfamiliar with the complexities of strata management may struggle to make informed decisions or understand their responsibilities under the Owners Corporation Act 2006. 
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities: When roles are not clearly defined, it can lead to confusion, duplication of effort, or important tasks falling through the cracks. 
  • Poor communication: Lack of open and transparent communication can breed mistrust and resentment among Committee members and lot owners. 
  • Hidden agendas: Personal interests or biases can cloud judgment and lead to decisions that are not in the best interests of the Owners Corporation as a whole. 

The Importance of a Healthy Committee Culture: 

A healthy Committee culture is essential for the smooth functioning of an owners corporation. It fosters open communication, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to the community’s well-being. A positive Committee culture promotes collaboration, effective decision-making, and timely resolution of issues, ultimately enhancing the living experience for all residents. 

In the context of the Owners Corporation Act 2006: 

The Act emphasizes the importance of good faith, transparency, and accountability in managing an owners corporation. A dysfunctional Committee that fails to uphold these principles violates the spirit of the Act and may also breach specific provisions, such as those related to financial management, dispute resolution, and the conduct of meetings. Understanding the causes of dysfunction is the first step towards addressing the issue and restoring a healthy, effective committee that operates in compliance with the Act. 

Taking Action: Strategies for Improvement 

Identifying a dysfunctional Committee is one thing, but what can you do about it? Fortunately, the Owners Corporation Act 2006 (OCA) provides several avenues for lot owners to address their concerns and push for positive change. 

Example Scenario: 

Back at Bayside Towers, a group of concerned owners has decided to take action. They start by meticulously documenting instances of the committee’s failings, including neglected maintenance issues, unexplained fee hikes, and unresponsive communication. 

Armed with this evidence, they implement the following strategies: 

  1. Attend Meetings: They make a point of attending all general meetings, voicing their concerns constructively, and asking pointed questions about the committee’s decisions and actions. 
  2. Raise Concerns in Writing: They formally raise their concerns in writing to the Committee, citing specific sections of the OCA that may have been breached. This creates a record of their complaints and puts the Committee on notice. 
  3. Request Mediation: If the issues persist, they request mediation through the Owners Corporation Manager or seek assistance from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). Mediation provides a neutral forum for all parties to discuss their concerns and work towards a resolution. 
  4. Call for a Special General Meeting: If all else fails, they gather the required number of signatures from lot owners to call for a special general meeting. At this meeting, they propose motions to address the committee’s shortcomings, such as removing certain members or appointing a new manager. 

Following Proper Procedures: 

The OC Act provides a clear framework for lot owners to exercise their rights and hold the Committee accountable. It’s crucial to follow the correct procedures outlined in the Act, such as: 

  • Section 72: Giving proper notice for meetings and motions.  
  • Section 77: Ensuring quorum requirements are met. 
  • Division 6: Adhering to voting procedures. 
  • Section 144: Keeping accurate records of all communications and decisions. 

Seeking External Help: When to Call in Reinforcements 

Despite your best efforts, sometimes a dysfunctional body corporate Committee reaches an impasse that can’t be resolved internally. This is where external assistance can be invaluable in restoring order and functionality to your strata community. 

When to Seek Help: 

Consider seeking external help in the following situations: 

  • Deadlock: When the committee is gridlocked and unable to decide on critical matters, preventing necessary actions from being taken. 
  • Serious Breaches: When the committee has violated the Owners Corporation Act 2006, such as misappropriating funds or acting in bad faith. 
  • Escalating Conflict: When communication has broken down completely and disputes have escalated to the point where a neutral third party is needed to facilitate dialogue. 
  • Lack of Expertise: When complex legal or financial matters are beyond the committee’s capabilities and require professional guidance. 

Types of External Assistance: 

Several types of external assistance are available to address body corporate disputes: 

  • Professional Mediators: Mediators are trained professionals who can facilitate communication and negotiation between parties, helping them find common ground and reach a mutually agreeable solution. 
  • Legal Advice: A lawyer specializing in owners corporation law can provide expert advice on your rights, obligations, and the best course of action to take. 
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV): CAV offers a range of resources and support services for owners corporations, including dispute resolution and information on the OCA. 

Government Bodies: 

In certain circumstances, government bodies may intervene in body corporate disputes. For example, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) can make binding orders on various matters, including financial disputes and breaches of the OCA. 

Remember, seeking external help is not a sign of weakness but rather a proactive approach to resolving issues and protecting the interests of all lot owners. By accessing the right resources and support, you can overcome even the most challenging committee dysfunction and create a thriving, harmonious strata community. 

Working Towards a Solution: Building a Functional Committee 

Nobody thrives in a dysfunctional environment – least of all, a strata community. The good news is, with a shift in focus and a commitment to working together, even the most troubled body corporate committee can find its way back to smooth sailing. 

Remember, open communication is key. Encourage dialogue among owners, listen to diverse perspectives, and seek common ground. Collaborate to develop solutions that address the root causes of dysfunction, whether it’s establishing clear roles, improving communication channels, or seeking external expertise. 

Consider utilizing resources such as: 

  • The Owners Corporation Act 2006: Refer to the Act for guidance on your rights, responsibilities, and the proper procedures for addressing committee issues. 
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria: Access their resources and support services, including dispute resolution and information on the OCA. 

If your committee struggles persist despite your best efforts, it may be time to seek professional assistance. Strata Management Consultants specialises in helping owners corporations navigate complex situations, including dysfunctional committees. Our team of experienced professionals can provide expert guidance, facilitate communication, and help you find a qualified and experienced OC manager to restore effective management to your building. 

Don’t let a dysfunctional committee compromise your quality of life and the value of your property. Take action today and work towards a brighter future for your strata community. Contact Strata Management Consultants and let us help you achieve a harmonious and well-managed living environment. 

The contents of this article or website are only intended to provide a general overview of the topics discussed. The author of this article makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information and the information is not intended to constitute investment, legal or professional advice. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. This article does not contain references to any specific company, organisation or individual, unless expressly specified.
Posted
July 05, 2024
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