Participate! Attending your strata meetings

By Chris Irons

Strata Solve recently had a client put to us an interesting question: who would ever want to attend a body corporate meeting?

We suspect there are many, many people who feel just like that. Finding thrills in talking about insurance, budgets and other glamorous-sounding ‘statutory motions’ is, to say the least, an ambitious challenge. And yet, we suspect that client was overlooking a crucial aspect of body corporate meetings. Namely, they exist for the express purpose of making decisions and getting things done and without them, your strata scheme and the value of your investment in it, will suffer immeasurable loss.

‘Attending’ a strata meeting can mean several things in this day and age, incorporating – depending on the circumstances – postal votes, electronic voting (including voting via an app or virtual attendance by platforms such as Zoom) and in-person attendance. There are also different attendance eligibility criteria for general and committee meetings. The past few years have given the world an insight into virtual participation in every facet of existence and this is very much true of strata meetings. We think electronically held strata meetings are becoming the norm now. Even so, there remain instances where in-person attendance at a strata meeting is desirable, if not essential, alongside virtual attendances.

One of the services provided by Strata Solve is to attend meetings, virtually or otherwise, on behalf of a client. We have attended committee and general meetings under different authorities and for different motives – and we can tell you, we have seen, heard and experienced some sights in doing so. Having Strata Solve attend a meeting for you, or with you, can be an essential strategic step in protecting your strata assets and asserting your strata rights.

In this Deep Dive, we will look at what those strategic steps look like. You will hear from Strata Solve about the unexpected value of silence and simple presence. For now, let’s return to our earlier thread about why you – or your expert representative – should be attending strata meetings.

Strata Solve never ceases to be amazed at the inertia and apathy of lot owners who invest hundreds of thousands – and more – dollars into their strata investment and yet fail to participate in the management of their scheme. Queensland’s body corporate legislation is very much about the concept of self-management: schemes will manage their own affairs, with the assistance of external experts (strata and onsite managers, for example, along with strata consultants, naturally…) and the tools provided by government (in the form of the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management). We can argue at length about whether this concept remains valid into the 21st century (hint: no, it does not, in most cases). We can vehemently rail against the idea of volunteers with no expertise having the final say over what happens in a body corporate. None of this gets you anywhere because the current system is the one we must work with. In other words, committees, based on eligibility criteria, will make decisions on behalf of the broader body corporate, with the broader body corporate making other decisions as required.

Owners have no choice about whether they are a member of the body corporate – once you buy a lot, that’s it. You’re in. The choice owners have is whether they wish to participate. Feasibly as a lot owner you could own your lot for decades and never once return a voting paper or otherwise cast a vote. Your call. We say that’s a fool’s game. Not only is participating in body corporate meetings an essential means by which you protect your asset, it is also how you can exert influence on your fellow participants. To put this another way: even if you do not get precisely what you want when attending your meeting, your attendance may set the scene for getting what you want at a later stage.

So, you could, for example, attend your scheme’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), cast your vote and, crucially, participate in any discussions which occur around the vote (assuming discussions occur – that’s a separate issue). Whether your preferred outcome succeeds or not, the point is you have strategically positioned yourself in eyes of other owners. You (or your representative) have spoken hopefully constructive words about your scheme’s issues and demonstrated a working knowledge of what is going on. That positions you as an influential person at the scheme. Perhaps at the next AGM, if you nominate for a committee position, you will be voted in. Or at the next AGM, or an extraordinary general meeting, you have several motions you want to see passed. Your prior strategic positioning will see you in good stead to get the outcomes you want.

Some people reading this might be uneasy, indeed appalled, at the idea of this kind of Machiavellian approach to strata operations. To that we say: welcome to reality. Strata is very much like politics. If you have the numbers, you win the day and you get the numbers not through luck, or fate, or happenstance. You get the numbers through positioning, active campaigning and establishing networks and alliances. In schemes where elections and motions are strongly-contested – mostly larger schemes, although you will also find this in several smaller schemes – your ability to strategically position yourself is all-important. It can mean the difference between increased or stagnant property values.

When Strata Solve is engaged for this type of work, it is not simply the case that we show up and do what we are instructed to do with votes. We look at the broader context and establish with you what it is you are actually wanting to achieve. We look at the key players at the scheme and try to understand what is driving them – so that we can then anticipate what they might do and be prepared to deal with that. It is a holistic approach to attending strata meetings on your behalf.

In out next instalment of this Deep Dive, we will look at the tactics which come into play with attending strata meetings. Be sure to register to get updates on this and other Deep Dives.

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