3.1 Skills and expertise | Owners Corporation Network

3.1 Skills and expertise

An executive committee, if possible, should contain people who will bring something more to the group than just a desire to protect their own interests. As long as there are no conflicts of interest the following skills are worthy of consideration (some of the below taken from Apartment Living 2004 by Sue Williams).

A 7 year incumbent executive committee chairman, who was also acting in a paid back office manager role, was not even aware that his 100+ residential building had by-laws! However, he did talk extensively about the ‘rules’ of the building, rules that he had unilaterally decided and instructed front desk staff to enforce. It came as a great shock to him when some of these ‘rules’ were questioned and he discovered that there were by-laws and an Act that he was supposed to follow. Unfortunately, for 7 years it seems none of the other 5 or 6 executive committee members were aware of the by-laws or legislation either. The building had stumbled along because the strata manager and building manager ensured most basic legal requirements were met. However, many ‘individuals’ rights had been trodden on extensively over the time.

A building or engineering professional is a good person to have on board because a big budget item is maintenance of the building. Many new blocks will contain a number of defects, which may cost into the millions to rectify and which have a deadline to be discovered and reported to the developer and/or builder.

An accountant or someone skilled or comfortable with budgets and money can be beneficial, as the annual budget of many new large apartment blocks can easily run as high as $3 million. Many people have never administered budgets of anything like as much money in their lives. That cash has to be spent wisely, and for the benefit of all owners.

A business professional is a good person to have on board. Someone who has dealt with a wide range of business issues will have the transferable skills needed to be able to deal with the issues arising in a strata building.

A lawyer can be a useful asset to any executive committee. Executive committees can get into any number of legal arguments with owners or subcontractors, developers or builders. Sometimes even the most unlikely issues can end up with legal threats being made by owners who have moved to apartments from houses and have no idea of the demands and obligations of communal living. Having someone who knows the basics of litigation and legal tactics can be very helpful to assist with by-law interpretation and to point out the need for new or different by-laws.

An administrator can also be a great boon. Meetings, particularly general meetings can be complex affairs, with motions, amendments and voting. It really helps to have someone who is experienced in meeting protocols, and who can deal with issues with confidence, and move along meetings to keep them to a strict timetable either as the chair or assisting. A competent strata manager should be able assist in this area.

A communication, negotiation or relationship expert. This could be the most vital and useful skill of all. No matter the quality and expertise of the individual members of an executive committee, if they don’t get along or progress decisions – then it will be a disaster. This skill can often be implicit – gained from years of dealing with people, decisions and disputes - or some people are just good ‘people people’. Or it could be explicit where a potential nominee has mediation skills, conflict resolution, personal development, therapy or psychology training.

Notwithstanding the above list, there may be executive committee members who are ideal candidates without these skills. They may be passionate about the building, or fixing issues and willing to do the work, to make the best decisions for the building and its owners and residents.  They may also have the time to spend on various matters. Time and passion are extremely valuable commodities. They may be retired, working part-time, a stay at home mum or dad (although this does automatically not mean they have any time) or just plain passionate.

Even if you have a professional building and property manager they are just ‘service providers’. All these skills are ideal and valuable it is up to you – the executive committee – to monitor, make good decisions and set the direction for you building.