With the long awaited changes to legislation ... and the ... new term of reference “Strata Committee” when referring to elected committee members, I have put some thought into what makes a good committee member.
Having dealt with so many committees over time, I feel that I have seen it all.
There are committees and members that fall into several different categories i.e. the bureaucratic, the effective, the ineffective, the controlling, the easily led, the distrusting, the morally corrupt, the self-interested, the lazy, the agile, the ignorant, the apathetic, etc (It could also be said that many strata managers sit in much of the same categories!!).
It's an ideal world view I know, however there's nothing stopping everyone aiming for the best, rather than expecting something second rate.
A good strata committee should:
- have a view to creating and maintaining a sense of community within the scheme;
- meet as regularly as need be and make important decisions at properly convened meetings;
- form sub-committees as required and leverage the skillsets other stakeholders may have;
- establish strong working relationships with their respective service providers (i.e. strata managers, facilities providers, tradespeople, etc);
- maintain a strong relationship with residents, involving them where possible. This will ensure transparency is upheld;
- do things for the benefit of owners and occupiers alike;
- do their best to communicate with owners and occupiers (newsletters, minutes, websites - there's no perfect way of doing so but an attempt should be made);
- maintain independence when representing the group of owners trusting you to do so;
- have a long term view. A good committee member should operate to create and future proof his or her legacy;
- aim for continuity;
- be aware that the best results don't come from sidelining.
The skills that make a good strata manager are varied - the skills that make a good committee member more varied again. It's generally an unpaid but very important role that should be taken seriously and considered by more people that might be able to contribute in a positive and meaningful way. Here's my thinking to a few useful skills:
- Financial literacy/interest. Financial statements of an owners corporation are generally simple and can be understood with a cursory accounting knowledge. Make an effort to understand where your money is going to and analyse the cost benefit versus value. Be worried if your strata manager is unable to help you understand the accounts in circumstances where they are not clear.
- Attention to detail - you don't need to be too details oriented and get lost in detail, however, you should in a committee role look to ensure that you're not missing anything important and likewise maintain oversight on your service providers.
- Communication is key – ensure your communication is of quality > quantity. Don't go blind on paperwork and bombard interested parties with numerous emails. It is less efficient and can be time consuming. If something is unclear in the first instance, have a discussion over the phone (or other electronic means) or in person if need be.
- Procedures - strata schemes are governed by legislation. Decisions need to be made within the parameters of the legal framework however, procedures should be established to ensure efficiencies and precision is maintained.
- Willingness to contribute. Don't put your hand up for the committee unless you are willing to contribute. Don't rely on service providers for everything either unless you're paying someone to perform the functions in which you are reliant (e.g. the strata manager is rarely going to be onsite and therefore, a good committee will be expected to provide its eyes and ears as much as possible).
- Don't be fiscally irresponsible – a committee’s job is to spend money to properly maintain the common property. You are not acting responsibly by conserving spending at the cost of your collective asset.
Finally - put some faith in your strata manager. If they fail you and can't provide you the help/advice you need (within reason and within the ambit of their respective skill set), look for someone/a company that might be better suited.
... Ultimately, the responsibility for all duties conferred on an owners corporation rests with the lot owners. The Act doesn’t allow an owners corporation to delegate everything.
STRATA COMMITTEES SHOULD:
- engender a sense of community
- regularly meet at properly convened meetings
- form subcommittees
- have a strong relationship with Strata Manager
- have a strong relationship with other owners
- COMMUNICATE to owners and tenants through newsletters, blogs
- maintain independence
- aim for LONG TERM BENEFITS to the scheme
- not promote self interest
- be consistent in decision making
- make decisions, don't sit on the fence.
- be financially literate and fiscally responsible
- be precise and attend to details (eg in contracts with tradies)