Many decisions in strata living involve a simple majority vote at a strata committee meeting or at a general meeting, or sometimes a special resolution at a general meeting. If a lot owner is unable to obtain a favorable outcome at the strata committee level they could adopt strategies to build a case, build support, escalate to a general meeting or apply for the intervention of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).
Each are discussed in-turn below, assuming the owner has correctly determined that the strata committee has the authority to grant that approval. In this regard, it is important to note that while the strata committee has broad powers under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (SSMA), certain functions can only be exercised by the owners corporation at a general meeting. So as a starting point, it is best to confirm whether the strata committee even has authority to determine your issue.
Build a case
An owner should gather and present sufficient information in support of their request. If the information provided is brief, incomplete, unhelpful or unresponsive to the issues or any items of concern that have been raised, this may decrease the chance of a favorable outcome.
Depending on the issue, this information may include a written explanatory note, photographs, plans or an offer to speak to at the committee meeting considering the request.
It can sometimes be helpful to ask the strata committee directly whether it has any concerns about the proposal that might or do stand in the way of it gaining support. This can assist in the owner determining whether they can amend the proposal to appease reasonable concerns, or potentially highlight and directly address any unreasonable concerns of the strata committee.
Whether the issue is considered at a strata committee meeting or a general meeting, an owner can try to build support ahead of the meeting at which the request will be voted upon. This may include reaching out to individual owners to understand their thoughts or concerns, see what additional comfort or clarification may assist and try to obtain additional voting support for the request.
Escalate to a general meeting
If an owner is dissatisfied with a decision made by the strata committee, they may be able to require the matter to be considered by the owners corporation at a general meeting. In this regard, it should be noted that in the event of a disagreement, a decision of the owners corporation will always prevail over a decision of the strata committee pursuant to section 36(2) of the SSMA.
Clause 4 of Schedule 1 of the SSMA provides that any owner or person entitled to vote at a general meeting, even if they cannot vote because they are unfinancial, may require a motion to be included on the agenda of the next general meeting of the owners corporation. So if an owner is dissatisfied with the strata committee’s decision, they can request that the motion be included on the agenda of the next general meeting for consideration by the owners corporation.
Rather than waiting for the next general meeting (which can sometimes be a matter of months), the dissatisfied owner may be able to compel the owners corporation to convene a general meeting. In this regard, section 19 of the SSMA provides that if one or more owners with an aggregate unit entitlement of at least 25% make a ‘qualified request’, then a general meeting must be convened as soon as practicable and not later than 14 days from receipt of a qualified request.
It is also worthwhile noting that clause 9(3) of Schedule 2 of the SSMA provides that a strata committee decision has no effect if before the decision is made, notice is given to the secretary of the owners corporation by one or more owners with an aggregate unit entitlement exceeding one-third, that the making of the decision is opposed by those owners. This can be referred to as an ‘opposition notice’. This is a method of effectively preventing a strata committee from determining a specified matter, then requiring a decision at a general meeting level to approve that matter.
The above parts of the legislation have the potential to permit an owner to prevent a strata committee decision and to require motions to be put to and decided by a general meeting within a short period of time.
Intervention of NCAT
If a lot owner is dissatisfied with the outcome of a strata committee meeting, then subject to there being legal grounds to do so, they may be able to apply to NCAT or a Court to have various orders made to improve the meeting outcome they are dissatisfied with. These may include:
1. A permanent or temporary injunction or stay against implementing or enforcing the outcome of the meeting.
2. An order to remove some or all of the strata committee members from office.
3. An order to appoint a compulsory strata manager if the scheme is found to be not functioning satisfactorily or at all, failed to comply with a judgment debt or order under the SSMA, or failed to perform one or more of its duties.
4. Any such order or ancillary order considered appropriate to resolve the issues in dispute.
There is no one size fits all response to what a lot owner can do when the strata committee votes against their proposal. Each situation will depend on the specific circumstances.
The above information is general in nature and may not be appropriate or relevant in all circumstances. However, offers some broad considerations for lot owners seeking approval from their strata committee.
For assistance with each stage of the process to ensure the greatest likelihood of an early and positive outcome contact Chambers Russell Lawyers. To discuss your property’s strata management needs or receive a FREE management proposal contact our friendly team. We also offer more helpful resources and community living news in our FREE newsletter.