3.2 Politics and motivations | Owners Corporation Network

3.2 Politics and motivations

It is insightful to compare a strata building's executive committee to a quasi-political process. Strata executive committees can be viewed as a 4th tier of government (behind federal, state and council): being elected, levying taxes (levies) and making laws (by-laws). As we all know, politicians do not have to have specific qualifications to run or be elected. Similarly and unfortunately too, there are no requirements under any Acts for executive committee members to be vetted, qualified or trained. Anyone - resident or non-resident owners, apartment renters, building staff, strata managers, real estate agents, developers, relatives and friends can be nominated and subsequently voted onto a building's executive committee - for better or worse.

A developer appointed, long-term building manager also served in the long term role of chair. Without explicit approval, this building manager employed his son's maintenance company to do gardening duties and also separately paid $60 three times a week for the use of his daughter-in-laws car (who lived and worked with the building manager in the building) to tow a rubbish bin trailer 50 meters. The once off annual cost of these payments could have purchased a vehicle and saved $10,000 p.a. ongoing.

There can be an extremely wide range of motivations, interests, knowledge and skills both within and between different executive committees. In deciding which candidate or group to vote for it would be expedient to first understand what motivates particular candidates for nominating to the executive committee. A brief list of possible motivations can include:

Possible motivations for being on an executive committee

Embrace (with hope)

  • Community service/expertise- those who recognise there is a gap in the expertise of the executive committee and wishes to help fill it.
  • Taking care of investment or building amenity- conscientious and concerned with their and others investments or the building they call home.
  • Money conscious- those who wish to keep an eye or have strong opinions on spending.
  • Changers / visionaries- great, as long as they have visions for a better building for 'all' and not just for them. Best to pair them with community service and expertise types.
  • Problem identifiers and fixers- Or depending on whether you agree with what they have identified as a problem, they may also be called "complainers", "scare-mongers" or "interferers".
  • New kids on the block- New owners who are asked to or wish to get involved without any clear 'political' motivation.

Beware

  • Incumbents/no-one else- have served before and there isn't anyone else offering to do the job.
  • Business as usual- happy with the way things are and wary of 'new agendas'.
  • Political pawns- many well meaning people have been persuaded by another person to support them without understanding their real agenda.
  • Developer's puppets- these are usually voted in at the first AGM. They are often non-owners such as the developer's lawyers, a developer appointed Building Manager or can be lot owners with vested interests or contracts with the developer. (e.g. a live-in building manager / estate agent). Needless to say, these are to be avoided where possible.
  • Service providers- this is extremely common and fraught with conflicts of interest. They comprise mainly building managers or their staff.
  • Tyrants/fiefdoms- again, surprisingly common but often unrecognised for years. Usually settles in the chair position and will be protecting some sort of vested interest (payment for service or psychological need). These types build intricate webs of loyalty and fear with both apartment owners and staff. The building is 'their' domain and they react very strongly to any persistent challenge or questioning. Lessees and external agents are seen as unimportant. They protect theirs and others secrets and usually have a 'catch-cry' or two that justifies their positions and wards of potential usurpers such as "security", "low levies", "scaremongering", "unprofessional", "years of experience", "out of my own time/pocket", "building policy". They are usually extremely inflexible and opinionated. For those unfortunates in the know or at the pointy end of disagreements, the building atmosphere can be like walking around on egg-shells.
  • Vested interests- similar to service providers, but can also include those with a commercial lot within the strata looking to get a Development Application stamped with the owners corporation seal or specific by-laws passed.
  • Fillers- happy to serve, can be easily persuaded to go with the flow, similar to political pawns but not as enthusiastic.
  • Status / perks- yes, believe it or not some nominees can envisage significant perks of serving on an executive committee. These can include parking or facility preferences, respect, preferential service, acknowledgment, inclusion in the community.

Of course, many executive committee members will have more than one motivation but there is usually one key underlying driving force.