The Bowral-Panama Connection. (The plot thickens.)


One often reads after a particular gruesome murder, “oh, they were such nice people,” followed by, “they kept very much to themselves and were so quiet!” Nothing like a gruesome murder has eventuated in our small compound, but I would not totally give up on the possibility. We are as nice and quiet as the best of them!

Readers might remember the little stoush with our body corporate when a Melbourne based painting contractor was almost engaged to re-paint the exterior of our set of eight ‘strata-titled’ town houses. ‘Strata-title’ is a bit like community form of ownership and Melbourne is thousand kilometres from here. All the owners were delighted with the plan. We were not. There was no money. The idea of re-painting wasn’t mentioned in the minutes of the annual meeting. Why engage a contractor so far away? Why just accept a single quote? Where was the money coming from?

I questioned it, but amazingly did not get much response from the other owners. The colours were decided and the painters were already walking around confidently. Scrapers and brushes at the ready, ladders taken from the vans. When I found out that the Melbourne contractor had agreed to take payments over a number of years, I really became the stroppy gander. I contacted the appropriate Government body regulating Strata Corporations. A stop work order was issued. The owners were cranky with us.

In the mean-time I took time off and obtained three quotes from local painting contractors, organized the copy of those quotes to all owners and the Strata management. Grumpily, an extraordinary meeting was called and even then the Melbourne contractor was to remain. It was only when I (triumphantly tapping away on my laptop) produced a letter from the NSW’s Dept. of Fair Trading that no work could be carried out without adequate money in the ‘sinking fund’ that they knew the game was up.

The acceptance of one of the local contractors was reluctantly accepted. The shortfall in money was to be corrected by raising an extra levy of one thousand dollar per owner. However, and this puzzles us. The rancour is still hanging around. The local contractor’s quote was twelve thousand dollars cheaper than the Melbourne’s mob and came highly qualified. I have to mention that after a Google search on the Melbourne contractor, it was discovered they were involved in a Court case of having underpaid their employees by over seventy thousand dollars. Hardly a good omen!

Now. It would be nice to understand the reason for the unfriendliness. I suspect that, like many Australians appear to suffer from, the going into debt doesn’t seem to worry most. Was it the coughing up the extra one thousand dollars that rankled? Was this, and the pointing out of this abysmal lack of due diligence by the body corporate AND the home-owners from ‘outsiders’ ( bloody Euro-sceptics) also oil to the fire of their discontent.

Anyway, some of the neighbours are actually renting from the stroppy owners and are a lot nicer people in everyday dealings with, ‘good morning, how’s your day? The local contractor is from Iranian background and great to deal with. Even so, we were put last by the chair-person of the body corporate committee ( a local owner) to get our place painted which will now probably happen towards the winter.

And … at the next annual general meeting I will insist on an independent audit of the books. I smell a rat.

But, who cares? We are nice and quiet, just normal really.


22 Responses to “The Bowral-Panama Connection. (The plot thickens.)”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    Oh, heavens. I’ve had to hold a friend’s hand through some homeowners’ association turmoil, and I thought at the time that sometimes renting really does have some advantages. There are negatives, of course, but when you’re in a good place, with good management, and have a certain ability to tolerate arbitrary rule changes, it works out.

    That business of one estimate does raise some questions. No-bid contracts have been a speciality of Houston government, and the resulting conflicts have provided a good bit of entertainment for people who enjoy low-grade political humor.

    I hope the color is pleasing, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, we were told of problems when buying into a community held property. However, the strata-property is a very common way of housing in Australia. It very much depends on the other owners to make it work.

      In our case, half the units are rented out by the owners and the rest are owned and lived in by single divorced women, whom, according to their tales of marital malfunctions, all had husbands with ‘slippery zippers!’

      The single divorcees seem at times wanting to rule this compound by stroppiness and rancour. Helvi and I are the only owners that are together and in the afternoon take to loud laughter and are often seen sipping a glass of wine at the front garden.

      They say; watch out for the wrath of a scorned woman. How about a bevvy of four scorned women? Or have I got this all wrong?

      Liked by 1 person

      • auntyuta Says:

        My goodness, we’re so lucky in our complex of ten villas, nine of them now owner occupied.
        One single woman, a night nurse, is the one who is renting. Two more single, working women are owner occupiers, Then there are four widows, who are also owner occupiers; the remaining three units are owner occupiers in retirement, except for one of the married women who is still in employment. As you may have guesses, Peter and I are one of the married owner occupiers. Actually, Peter and I are the longest remaining residents in our complex: We moved into our unit in September 1994. (I turned 60 in Sept. 94!) At the first Body Cooperative Meeting we had, Peter was chosen Secretary. He still occupies this position.
        I really wanted to say, that all our residents are very friendly people. I am good friends with all the widows. Come to think of it, it is really remarkable that there are no divorced residents in our complex. There are only three remaining men in our complex of ten, and none with “slippery zippers” as far as I am aware of! 🙂


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, watch out for the slippery zipper brigade or stroppy divorcees, Aunty. The best people here are the people who are renting. They care about the garden and at a minimum allow things to grow instead of forever hacking away at anything more than 10 centimetres high.

        I am sure things will calm down. People get a bean in their bonnet about issues, but with getting older, the benefits of forgetfulness will slowly cause memories to melt away. Benevolence will once again return. We hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yvonne Says:

    There was definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark, it seems. Maybe one day, you’ll uncover the whole story, and the reason for the strange reactions to the voice of common sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Yvonne. Common sense here is all entwined in bitter marital feuding, which is rife in our Strata Management. The Strata manager is also separated and has an errant husband. So, perhaps it is just a case of a Strata cesspit of personal turmoil expressing itself in a petty ways by venting unhappiness.
      We are normal owners, not psychiatrists.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sedwith Says:

    Happy to be renting right now. Big dive in cost for rental properties in Darwin and for a change the boot is on the other foot. They dont want to see payslips or bank balances anymore 😊
    Landlords are having to reduce their ridiculous profit margins and some agents even offering first week free! Its great to finally feel you have some equity in negotiation. Still some who refuse to lower rent and would rather not have a tennant but keep the negative gearing and the asking price up.
    Yep go the independant audit Gerard- rats are everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I do feel that the Melbourne painters were asked for a financial ‘cadeau’ in return for getting the job from our manager. It would explain the oddness of rewarding the contract to someone in Melbourne instead of a local contractor.That seems to be a normal way of doing things around this neck of the Strata woods.
      Yes, I think the world of ‘real estate’ is due for a correction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. rod Says:

    It seems very strange that these people would hold a cheaper estimate against you. Something is going on here, though I can’t imagine what.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I think they simply can’t face and take ownership of the fact that they were backing a corrupt scheme. This was made clear by ‘foreigners’ in a very non foreign enclave of Bowral.

      Perhaps, the fact they had to cough up an extra thousand dollars was unwelcome. Many people like delayed payments, even if it means extra costs involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    Definitely a stinking rat there Gerard. I remember you speaking of this before and think it is petty of these people to arrange for your house to be painted last. Clearly they are envious of you and Helvi’s happiness! But goodness me, I would have asked for extra quotes to compare, at the very least…. so dodgy….

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, but we will try and mend things as we are living here. The stroppy owners backed a Ponzi scheme and it can’t be easy to face that. We are all of advancing years and well past throwing bricks or kicking each other in the groin.
      Going into debt is what many people don’t seem to have trouble with. There ought to have been a budget worked out and money for painting saved up. Instead they had foolishly chosen to spend now and pay later. I put a stop to that. Even though the new quote by the local painter saved over twelve thousand dollar there still wasn’t enough money to proceed. That’s when the extra levy of $1000.- each came into play. They somehow blamed me for that. I suppose in old age, the expense was perhaps not welcome but I saved them over $1500.- each with the cheaper quote.
      Geez, this is now so boring. I do feel like giving a good kick in someone’s crutch. Shall I go, wade into the creek and strangle a duck?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Forestwoodfolkart Says:

        If it eases your boredom, Gerard! But poor duck! Unless you are going to eat it for dinner, but then you might find the local ranger throwing a brick at you for killing a protected species. AH…sigh… life is so complicated, regulated and restricted nowadays. But I think you are correct about people generally having no problem going into debt. It has become a way of life for them. Especially in Australia, we live on our credit cards and are always 6 weeks behind in paying for anything. The mentality is always focused on ‘the short term’ – never the bigger picture.


  6. roughseasinthemed Says:

    It’s one thing complaining, another actually doing something about it.

    When our freeholder suddenly gave the management of our block to a company – instead of doing it himself – we found our charges increased by some 35%. Naturally they had to go up as the management company was now taking a similar proportion out of the annual block income for their services.

    Their services included sending out reminders to non-payers every month, shuffling paper round their offices from one department to another, employing a cleaner twice a week, and … oh yes, getting a fresh water pipe installed for the cleaner (rather than salt) at a ridiculous price.

    They decided they would employ someone to survey the building to see what needed doing (duh, everyone in the block knows that) and, yes, establish a sinking fund.

    At which point I galvanised the management committee into action and we sacked the company and I took over. I don’t get three quotes but I’m not dealing with jobs costing $8,000 plus. I also don’t get paid. And my partner knows who the decent construction workers are in Gib. But since I took over, we’ve not increased the charges and out of the initial increase to fund company costs, I’ve been able to get maintenance, repair and redec works done that hadn’t been done for years.

    I sympathise with you. Construction contracts are in a world of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Good on ye. I saved twelve thousand dollars but are dealing with elderly fogeys whose mindsets are chalky and porous, but fiercely and obstinately unable to accede things were done badly.
      With time this might resolve itself.
      The maintenance of those community held properties are rich pickings for contractors. A leak is fixed with a $ 4- tube of silicone, a quick 10 second squeeze and a $ 300.- bill.
      No one cares or if somebody does, it quickly becomes a nightmare and an irritation that spins around at 3 am in the morning, tossing and turning on the matrass of so much strata title discontent.

      There is more to life than that. I pat Milo!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. elizabeth2560 Says:

    Body corporates can be quite tiresome.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Curt Mekemson Says:

    Oh no, Gerard, you have challenged the body politic and probably cost someones cousin a BUNDLE. I lived a condo for a while and became so disgusted with the politics that I ran for the Board. That wasn’t the bad news. The bad news was that I was elected. I insisted on holding the board meetings at my house and feeding everyone copious wine. For a while things got better. But condo politics are condo politics are condo politics. Now I am happily condo-less. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    We can do with the copious wine but not together with strata meeting people. I admire anyone that can deal with the mindset of home owners having breakdowns over a bit of flaky paint or a dripping gutter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    After all the problems of getting things painted up, it must be time again for the “slasher” to visit and eliminate anything brazen enough to be green. The surprising thing is that it’s the same everywhere. I wonder if Donald Trump might be of service?


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      After all the meetings and conniving, we are now getting a totally different colour on our villas. Donald Trump would be proud of our Body Corporate. Perhaps castor oil spread on a senokot sandwich for him instead?


  11. Patti Küche Says:

    Wow, that’s one smelly rat for sure . . .


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