Last week, I came home to find a sheet of paper had been slipped underneath my apartment door while I was out. It was a letter informing me that action was underway to remove the current strata council members and to replace them with new ones. I was really disappointed to read this for two reasons. First, I think my strata council has done a pretty good job since the completion of this building three years ago. Council members are knowledgeable and are always there to answer my questions. Second, I really dislike having issues of this nature. I pay good money each month in strata fees and I just want my building taken care of. I don’t want any stress about it.
The letter told me to attend a meeting which would divulge additional details to any owner that wanted more info. I, of course, attended that meeting. I will summarize what I found out. It turns out that for a building that’s now three years old, the original deficiencies still have not been addressed by the builder. Strata had been begging the insurance company to come to the site, do an inspection, and get going on the claim. It’s up to the insurance company to act as a go-between for the strata council and the builder in determining what can be fixed under warranty and what can’t. Unfortunately, the insurance company did nothing for three years about this process. Meanwhile, engineers have inspected the building and have given strata reports on existing problems and problems that could get worse if they don’t get addressed. Strata also has their hands tied because they can’t start repairs because they just can’t bill the builders later. Any repairs that are done without the claim being settled means those repairs were done outside any future settlements and you can’t force the builder to pay for them.
It got to the point that time was going to expire on some of the legal rights that the owners could have, namely legal recourse against the insurance company, should that be required. Strata made a decision to file some legal paperwork that gave the owners a chance for future legal action. That legal option also stopped the clock on some of the rights from expiring. I, along with many other owners, had no problem with strata doing this. It protected us and our substantial investments from some huge possible headaches in the future.
Sadly, a group of owners did not agree. Here’s where it gets murky and an odour of conspiracy arises. My building contains a large number of non-resident owners. These people bought into the building as an investment. About fifty or so of these units hired on a property management company to help maintain their units and help rent them out. These absentee owners also have given their votes on strata council issues to one dude who works for the property management company. This dude can tell those owners whatever he wants and he can vote for them on their behalf. He can make decisions on his behalf. It is this huge block of owners (via proxy), led by dude here, who have started this action to remove the council. Here’s where it gets really nasty. The property management company is affiliated with the company that built this apartment complex. You can easily see the huge conflict of interest here. The property management company, which is essentially a subsidiary of the construction company for the building, is trying remove council so they can install some sorta puppet council which they can control. If they are successful, they can then control how vigorously they pursue the deficiency claim with the insurance company. If the new puppet council just lets the claim die, the builders are then off the hook for thousands and thousands of dollars of deficiency repairs.
If one needs to find an analogy in history, the Vichy government from World War Two springs to mind. It is my suspicion that the property management company has deceived the owners that have under their control. They have told them lies and are using their proxy votes to abuse their power to benefit the builders. I also suspect they have already chosen puppet council members to be installed as soon as the special general meeting has concluded. Oh yeah, I need to mention that this action is all coming down to a vote between all owners in a special general meeting that will take place in mid-March. The evil block of proxy votes currently has the upper hand in terms of numbers. Theoretically though, there are enough independent owners to vote down this action and send these morons back to Berlin. The challenge for us, the Allied forces, is to get the word out to enough owners to get them to vote on our side. We’ve had two meetings so far. Each time, we get more and more new people who get educated about what has happened. There are just a few weeks left to rally enough owners to defeat the other bloc.
This isn’t just a small debate over who should pay for some paint on some balconies. The reports are forthcoming but there could be potentially millions of dollars worth in repairs that hang in the balance. If we lose, the repairs will have to be paid by the owners in special assessments. If we win, the right thing will happen and the builders will fix the things they should have in the first place.
I’ll keep everyone posted as we approach that critical vote.