Today’s Condo Smarts column in The Province newspaper(February 27, 2011) is titled, “There are Perils To Sitting on Strata Council”. The article was written by Tony Gioventu. I admit to reading every article Tony submits. He’s been playing the strata game for longer than I have and I bet he doesn’t collect the golden pension those other notorious public service individuals collect. So, I give him his due but I always remember payola can take many forms and sometimes I think Tony must walk a very fine line with his advice in order to appease everyone swimming in his particular strata swamp.
Today’s column by Tony fueled some frustrations on my part because I believe the question raised by the Glen Ayers Strata Council went beyond a simple regurgitation of the assumption that all volunteers are honest and operate in good faith. It was damn smart, prudent and reasonable to circulate information about Strata Council liability to the Glen Ayers Strata Corporation. Being entrusted by fellow owners with the administration of funds is a BIG thing. It is not something to be taken lightly. Of course, I believe complacency is right up there with apathy and there is nothing more dangerous than ignorant volunteers shepherding apathetic owners.
Volunteers controlling thousands of dollars requires, as Tony spells out, “…….no stealing; no fraud; no personal interest first; no collusion with third parties; clear disclosure of conflicts; removing yourself from council meetings if there is a matter in which you have a direct or indirect interest in a contract or transaction with the strata, or a matter that is subject to council making a decision that materially conflicts with your duties or interest as a council member.”
Sounds to me like the Glen Ayers Strata Council are an honest, reasonable and fairly diligent group of volunteers. Way to go guys – you give me hope!
But here’s the thing: just because you did not offer up your time to sit on the Council doesn’t mean you have the right to stop expecting accountability from those owners who did. You can also be sued just because you are an owner which should give you pause. What? This means that it is necessary for you armchair strata owners to know as much as, if not more than, the owners on your Council.
Strata ownership is an interactive relationship that is ongoing. As an owner you should be reading Minutes and taking notes. You may either write to your Council for clarification, take some time and educate yourself or do both. I lean more towards educating myself and then requiring clarification from my Council. Like Tony says:
“The better the education and resources you can provide for your strata council, the better it is equipped to deal with the day-to-day operations.”
Except when your strata council talks like they are educated but NEVER, EVER confirm their knowledge in writing. Talk is cheap and good for plausible denial especially for BIG TALKERS with BIG EGOS and no knowledge.
My corporation affords our Council members access to the resources offered by CHOA through membership dues. Every budget has a line for CHOA dues. My Council never makes use of the money because – cue drum roll please- my Council represents a super division of strata owners: Superior Strata Volunteers.
In addition to CHOA (Vancouver Island has its own association, VISOA) the government has Strata Guides and the Strata Property Act available free and online for anyone to access. Mike Mangan has just released the third edition of “The Condominium Manual” which is also available through his website. And don’t forget the library where you can access any number of publications or reference materials with which to educate yourself.
I’ve done all of that on a fairly regular basis but, sadly, my present Council (as well as the three preceding Councils) do not value-or perhaps more accurately- require education. They are Superior Strata Owners. They “know-it-all”. They are the Masters. Yet, there have been instances where the superiority of my Council has caused problems. Let’s see:
Failure to read bylaws allows Council to help themselves to cash without permission and for their own benefit. Failure to read and understand the bylaws allows Council to pander to themselves at the expense of other owners. Failure to read and understand the Strata Property Act allows my Council to circumvent the law and run my corporation in the Soprano style- Badda Bing! (It might be prudent to interject here that the “licensed” property manager is about as important to the integrity and good faith of our Council as the garbage trucks are to Soprano.)
“As council members, there are simple steps to keep yourselves out of trouble. Comply with all enactments of law, including the Strata Property Act. Comply with the bylaws and rules of your strata, and enforce them fairly and equitably against all owners, tenants and occupants, including council members.”
I write to Council through the property manager. I’m ignored which means my questions aren’t answered, which means my Council is probably not acting on the up and up. Perhaps, it is simply that the Council members do not believe they have to be accountable to anyone or anything. That fact concerns me. As long as the law and the government blow sunshine up the nether regions of the dishonest, unreasonable and decidedly absent good faith of volunteers by pretending all volunteers are honest and ethical all of the time, nothing will change. Wow, all of a sudden I’m thinking about the Basi-Virk situation. WOW!! Segue….
Newly ingratiated Premier,Christy Clark spouts off about family. Forgive me Christy but my family is negatively affected by the lack of supervision required for volunteers managing money – my money-within my strata corporation. You, Christy Clark, never responded to my written questions( submitted in good faith I might add) which I’m afraid makes you no better than my Council. I fear you will most likely do whatever you can to ensure Gordo’s shoes fit your feet. Just be careful – there is definitely smelly stuff on the bottom of those shoes.
To the Glen Ayers Council: You guys take the job of Council seriously. It is an important obligation you purchased when you bought your strata unit. Sure you can be sued if you behave like a lawless bunch of elitists. It appears you guys have done a fine job so far at the honest, good faith trough. Congrats! To your owners I ask:What’s to be afraid of? Participate in a well run Council. The opportunity doesn’t present itself often. You owners are fortunate to have had a decent group of volunteers and should step up and give them some relief.
Condo Smarts: Perhaps you could suggest CHOA do some database clean-up and determine if corporations paying memberships are actually utilizing their services or wasting owners’ money. Maybe allow for individual owners to have the same access to CHOA as the Superior Strata Owners After all, it wouldn’t be honest or good faith practice to take money for nothing now would it?