It is not often that you get to witness the complete railroading of an owner in a strata, but I got to see it last night. I witnessed in its full glory why so many people despise strata corporations. Namely that a group of owners with an agenda can, through a campaign of misinformation and proxy solicitation, completely screw over other owners.
Special general meetings can be called at any time by a strata council with a 20 day notice period. All the notice has to contain is the wording of a proposed bylaw or resolution along with the time and place of the meeting. There is no requirement to include any background information. There is no requirement to justify the meeting or the proposed resolution. The council can simply call a meeting and have a vote.
They also have all the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the owners. Once the vote is called they can start campaigning for proxies.
“Hi Marge, it’s Doogie over here at the building on the strata council, we’re having a meeting in a couple of weeks to fix a couple things in the building and could use your vote-I dropped off a proxy form, do you mind signing it and I’ll get it later…..what’s it about, oh well there have been lots of problems with, (insert whatever fiction you’d like), and this meeting will fix that. Sound good? Ok, thanks.”
Let’s say you’re the target of this meeting. Let’s say that you have had no complaints filed since you have owned in the building, zero, zip, zilch, not a whisper of an issue. Let’s further say that there is no mention of any issues or complaints in any of the minutes of the strata meetings. Let’s further say that you’ve been in regular communication with the building manager and they also have said nothing about anything, ever. But you are now the sole target of a new bylaw being sought by an activist council.
What can you do? Well as it turns out very very little. Council has all the contact information for owners, and they’re using it. You’re not allowed to have anything other than the mailing addresses of owners, which you have to ask for from the property manager. Who has 2 weeks to give it to you. So assuming that you actually request that information the day you get the notice of the SGM that leaves you 6 days to then try to cross reference, reverse directory, facebook stalk and otherwise try to identify contact information for owners so that you can plead your case to them before they assign their vote to a council member who has presented only their version of the truth to them. An uphill battle indeed because by the time you do reach an owner, the well has been poisoned.
Which leads me to last night where a strata council passed a punitive bylaw with respect to one owner because they had gathered almost all the votes in the strata. There were only a handful of owners outside of the council group and they too had already been well versed in “the problems”, which until this meeting existed solely in the minds of certain council members. The meeting itself was a pointless exercise as council had gathered all the votes they needed through their concerted campaign and the owner never really had the opportunity to try to reason with other owners, as they were at the meeting only in proxy form, not in person. We tried, but let me tell you I’m glad I was wearing flame retardant undergarments last night!
Here’s the thing. If it can happen to the owners of this unit, it can happen to you.
How can you protect yourself and your asset from something like this? It’s not easy, but you can get yourself on council and try to be a reasonable person. You can gather as much contact information for owners as you can from the day you buy into a building so that you have a hope of communicating with owners immediately should such a putsch attempt be made. You could write your MLA to get the notice period expanded and to either allow dissenting owners to have complete contact information for owners or have strata councils prohibited from seeking out proxies using their unfair contact information advantage.
Or you can just shake your head at the complete lack of fairness that strata corporations seem to be able to exhibit without remorse or compassion, as I did last night.