The Strata Post Office

What do you think of when you think of the post office? I think of many things in a rather random way. I think of stamps and unions and crown corporations – corporations – I knew there was a strata connection!

Today I read with interest a reader’s ridiculous navigation through her strata corporation’s comical antics with regard to verbal,written and digital communications. Actually this is the strata council hub – its success or failure with communication. By its correspondence or lack of it any individual can get a snapshot of the strata corporation.

Readers already know of the bafflegab my swamp prides itself on not to mention the unprofessional standard of its property management. It’s important to always remember that these days property management takes all of its direction from Council in order to lay liability for missteps and misspeaks at the feet of “volunteers”. Nice position eh? My guy is a disgrace to his profession and his broker is not talented enough for Wall Street but most likely aspires to Gecko status. That soapbox another day….

Back to correspondence.

My Council has a strategy for communication and it’s quite clever because it is neither predictable nor consistent; reasonable nor sensible.

One Council member speaks edicts to owners outside of Council that are neither discussed nor agreed to by other Council members.

Every corporation has a social committee for consensus building and discussion – real or imagined. My swamp Council members like to have parties where they discuss corporation business and even individual owner issues with the every owner in attendance except the owners being discussed. In that setting decisions are made in my swamp – all the time!

The problem with all the verbosity is that the information isn’t qualified properly. This allows individuals to spin it however they see fit in the moment. Strata owners hang on every word at these swamp shindigs based upon their votes at annual general meetings.

Some owners prefer to follow business acumen and write to the Council with concerns or complaints or permissions. I believe there may be an expectation for a written response on the part of these strata owners but I’ve been known to aim high in the expectation department. I might presume some of these owners will get a phone call response because, of course, Council then appears to have addressed the correspondence.

Problem is there is no proof- no written accounting a discussion even took place. Down the road Council memory can be strangely short term and owners will be left dangling with, “I don’t recall” or better yet, ” We didn’t advise property management to say that.”Worst of all, an owner will be admonished for not ensuring they put their concerns in writing  or required Council to do so. Either way the buck gets passed and the concern or complaint is lost in the murky depths of the swamp.

Of course, property management is supposed to be Council’s conduit for communication. Councils with agendas don’t like to deal directly with owners in any form. Better to dump it at the property manager’s desk. Believe it or not,some corporations actually have bylaws requiring all correspondence be directed to the property management. Seriously?! Owners voted for that? I hope they required Council and property management  respond to all correspondence directly and  in writing  through a  bylaw as well. Problem though is property management only does what Council says in order to avoid liability for misspeak.When you send a letter to the property manager it is supposed to be forwarded to the Council. When you send a letter to the Council it is supposed to forwarded to the property management. I believe it’s something like an evidence chain-a document chain so to speak.

Documents between strata owners and Council are important and must be kept for two years. Pity when Councils feign ignorance about receiving documents. Sometimes Council cherry- picks through correspondence and then use the minutes to respond to only those items they wish to acknowledge – those are generally items that launch Council pats on the back. For example: Council did its due diligence or Council works so hard or Council is so hard done by that it must seek legal advice despite a lack of earmarked funds. It needs to said here that a complaint about Council or an errant council member will never make the minutes. Sometimes unscrupulous Councils keep correspondence for themselves and never turn it over to property management when contracts change. Bet you never thought that could happen eh? It does….

Every Council has a powertripper. In mine it’s the same individual who misinterprets bylaws to suit her own agendas and then explodes with verbal diarrhea because she loves the sound of her own voice. Once this person actually wrote all over owner correspondence with her own musings and decisions and returned it that way to the writer. Council had no knowledge of her “I am the decision-maker” status but did nothing when it was brought forward. This Council member also creates fabricated correspondence that she conveniently loses as proof she had owner support for large decisions. Property managers are threatened to let her do what she wants ….”or else”. Really nice gig.

Until owners accept the fact that strata corporations are a business and must be run properly individual owners with knowledge will always be treated with derision and as a result isolated and ignored.

But here’s the thing: write anyway when you have something to say. You create a trail of proof  and one thing I do know is lawyers and judges and politicians like a preponderance of evidence. A silent Council does not bode well for a reasonable standard of care. A licensed property management firm that would willingly fail to communicate with members of the corporation that pay for the service speaks poorly of the brokerage house and the Real Estate Council. If professionals require a license to charge for their service and a requirement to be accountable to a governing body then at the very least inept Councils like the one playing politics in my swamp require an authority they MUST be accountable to in order to ensure equitable and reasonable governance.

My readers who are stymied by “he said, she said”, “I don’t recall”, “so and so didn’t have authority to tell you that” or simply ignored take note: some individuals in your strata get on Council because you won’t serve and you won’t dissent because you want to be perceived as a “nice” person. When it starts costing you money or effecting the peaceable enjoyment of your home I’m sure you’ll step up. Problem is your previous ambivalence will have a habit of getting in the way of your present determination. Prepare for that and change your attitude now.

Most of the people who serve on Council manage to float despite their lack of skill, intelligence or wisdom. Take heart strata owners because turds can float especially in a thick and murky swamp!All you need sometimes is a good flush…….

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2 comments on “The Strata Post Office
  1. Advocate says:

    The only answer to misconduct by a strata council member is to make that person personally subject to a fine (under amended legislation). Such is the case, to a limited extent, in Alberta and Ontario.

    Like

  2. Elise Vanderveen says:

    I love your blog. I laughed out loud at this entry. I am going through the exact same thing with my council. I was so angry that the council was not addressing my correspondence I wanted to deliver it directly to the council meeting. All our mail goes through the management company. I honestly believed that the property manager was not giving all my correspondence to the council. He has a special relationship with one of the council members who has been harassing me for years. I felt he was protecting her from her fellow council members for complaints about bylaw infractions and impropriety as a council member . So I wrote to the council directly through the management company and accused the property manager of not passing on all my correspondence to the council. I did this not because I felt they would address my correspondence but to leave a paper trail of the misconduct. I plan to use the civil tribunal to address my issues when it is up and running sometime this year. The result of this was my 60 pages of correspondence was acknowledged in the minutes and a letter was sent to me but dealing with my issues was put off till the next month due to the sheer volume of the correspondence. I of course responded with correspondence to the council with concerns about the lack of dealing with my issues in a timely manner. I will not be ignored. If you do ignore me I will document that you ignored me. If you only acknowledge certain correspondence I will respond to your answer and point out you left out addressing all my issues. I have resent my correspondence that council ignored the previous month because how can an owner be sure that the council received it if they refuse to acknowledge it has been received in the way of minutes or action. I even wrote a letter to all residents and delivered it door to door so everyone was informed that council was keeping vital information from them and issuing illegal fines.

    I have been at this for almost 6 months pointing out violations of the strata property act, the bylaws and property manager incompetence. At first you are outraged because you expect them to respond however they are adept at evasion and pull out all the tricks they have. They hope you will give up. My advice DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!!!
    If you talk to the property manager and he tells you something wrong, document the whole conversation. If your council members break bylaws, document it. Even things you cannot deal with at the moment document with photos and dates and times. You never know what will be relevant later. By the time you are having a problem with your council it most likely is just a symptom of a bigger problem within your strata.

    Hope it helps.

    Like

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