Strata laws need a sanity clause


Did the earth move for you on Wednesday?  Or was the long-awaited arrival of a raft of new strata laws just another day at the office?

To be honest, the enactment of the belated Strata Schemes Management Act (2015) was always intended to be a seamless transition.  And it’s not like we are having to drive on the right.

But as I sit here amid the crumbling ruins of the old laws and the green shoots of the new I have realised there is one clause missing from the new legislation.

There should be a catch-all provision that says, basically, regardless of the precise wording of the legislation, anything owners do that is clearly designed to circumvent the intent and spirit of the law – and has been done for no other valid reason – can be revoked at the Tribunal.

Take the proxy farming restrictions.  As of today, each owner can only take a maximum of 5 per cent of other owners’ proxy votes into a general meeting.

Now, in a building not a million miles from where I sit, the chairman – who is used to going to AGMs with 50 percent of the vote in his pocket – has issued a newsletter suggesting that owners should now nominate members of the strata committee as their proxies.

This might be OK were it not for the fact that over the years all the nine committee members have been personally appointed by him. Plus ca change …

Then there’s the new ban on rental agents who are not owners being elected to strata committees.  One flatchatter has discovered that a multi-unit owner in her block has made two rental agents “appointees” of his company.

They are now technically owners so they can continue to run the building to suit investors, to the exclusion of residents’ wishes.

If I were Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello, I would sit down with my policy wonks to devise a new umbrella regulation that blocked all the cheats, shonks, control freaks and power junkies and their grubby little games.

If they have done something that’s obviously for no other reason than to circumvent the new laws, then they should be banned from ever being on a committee.

With Christmas just around the corner, I call this the Sanity Clause.  But, as Chico Marx famously said, everybody knows there’s no such thing.

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