How to move from Strata chaos to calm

The quality of the appointed Strata Manager is the most critical ingredient to a smooth running Strata Committee. The performance of a Strata Manager is often judged on the basis of whether they give individual owners what they want. If they allow them to do have a pet, do a renovation, pay for items that aren’t strictly strata related etc. they’re commended as being great. However, if they block a renovation, reject the approval of paying for expenses that aren’t strictly strata related etc. they’re attacked for being painful and unco-operative.

What owners need to understand is that the fundamental role of the Strata Manager is to remain neutral and act in the best interests of the building. They must also ensure that the owners abide by the requirements of the Strata Schemes Management Act. Sometimes this may result in a benefit to the individual owner, and sometimes not. It is also not the Strata Managers role to have the ultimate responsibility over the decision as this belongs to the group of owners.

Having a Strata Manager that takes a neutral position and has the strength of character to push back and confidently tell people ‘no’ in a polite manner is a critical for the smooth running of your strata committee. A neutral and confident Strata Manager that acts in line with legislative requirements and in the best interest of the building creates calmness. Everyone understands the boundaries and what is acceptable. Treating everyone in an equitable way also avoids outrage and chaos that can be created when people feel that they are being treated unfairly. It also ensures that the building is meeting legislative requirements. Whilst cutting corners may not appear to be an issue at the time, it can become a major issue in the long run.

One of my first experiences of strata management was staying on site at a country property for the weekend that we managed. One by one, word got around that Peter the Strata Manager was on site. We had a revolving door of visitors that evening, each visitor conveying their argument about why their individual interests should be at the centre of the direction of the Strata Committee. I was curious and perplexed about the situation that evening. How on earth was Peter going to please all of these individuals with different motives? Even if he was able to achieve this, I couldn’t help but think of the fleetingness of it all. Whilst in favour one day, things could easily swing the opposite way the next if another decision didn’t go their way. Luckily Peter being a great Strata Manager, saw straight through their tactics and politely listened, but was careful not to add any personal opinion and remained neutral. I wiped the sweat beads from my brow, observing it all.

Whilst it can be tempting to try and influence the view of the Strata Manager to suite your interests, the best outcomes are always achieved when the Strata Manager takes a neutral position. This can be a difficult pill to swallow. For example, you have an insurance claim, that strictly speaking isn’t strata related but surely they can just put it through the strata insurance (who would know and who really cares)? However, putting a claim through the strata insurance as with any insurance increases premiums, which has a financial impact on all owners. Whilst it can be difficult to hear ‘no’ when you really wanted to hear ‘yes’, in the longer term you will be grateful for a firm Strata Manager that is able to be fair and equitable for all. Rather than judge the Strata Manager in that moment purely on the basis of the outcome of the issue that didn’t go your way, consider whether they were acting in line with the legislative framework and in the best interests of the building. Also remember that if another owner was trying to do the same thing, you would most likely be grateful for a Strata Manager with a firm hand. A confident and neutral Strata Manager will not only ensure the smooth running of your building, it will also prevent other owners from taking unfair advantage.

The most critical quality for the smooth running Strata Committee is having a neutral and confident Strata Manager that acts in the best interests of the building and within the legislative framework. Whilst the short terms outcomes of this may or may not benefit you, the longer term benefit is clear. When you’re looking for a new Strata Manager, avoid the in-fighting and chaos by appointing a manager that has these qualities.

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