Posts Tagged ‘Office of NSW Fair Trading.’

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

April 8, 2016

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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.

The ‘Meeting’ , Final Body corporate.

November 5, 2015

photo Gerard

 

The good readers might remember the issue of the painting of our housing compound. There are eight housing units which are called somewhat grandiosely ‘villas’. I have been pulled up a couple of times when referring to our homes as units. They don’t take kindly to calling a spade a spade. A villa in Holland is usually an imposing residence of grand proportions, perhaps with a sign at the gate for tradesmen to go to the back entrance. Delivery boys of groceries and the weekly gardener have to overcome their fear of a huge growling dog at the back entrance. The owners of villas are hardly ever seen. They glide about in sleek black cars and are rumoured to own bordellos in Porto Rico and even Spain.

I have been somewhat neglectful in attending Body Corporate meetings, and like Milo, have low boredom tolerance, having reached a stage where I too could easily take up barking at the ducks hidden between the reeds. The Body Corporate in Australia is a  defined entity that regulates shared ownership of the common areas around the housing units that people share. About six months ago I noticed some activity around the place and was told that the whole estate was going to get painted. I was surprised that nothing appeared about this from the minutes of the last meeting. The meeting date had been changed. We could not attend because we were in Bali.

I queried why there was no mentioning of all this beforehand and was somewhat alarmed about a single painting contractor from Melbourne being awarded the job. The reason given was that he would carry the shortfall in our saving/sinking fund for over five years. I then wondered why not more quotes had been obtained and why a contract was given to a painting contractor a thousand kilometres away. I also queried that it might be prudent to wait till enough was in the kitty to pay for the paint job. The odd thing was that the residents rallied behind the Melbourne quote, mainly because of the debt being paid into the future. Now going into debt has never been my forte. Indeed, the opposite. I don’t ever buy anything without paying upfront. The exception being the occasional mortgage taken out to buy our home. Our credit cards never earned the banks any money. Never!

I tried to get answers but was stone-walled. After not getting responses from either the Body Corporate or other owners I went and asked for some guidance on rules from the overseeing governmental body ;the NSW Fair Trading Commission. By then the hostility was getting thicker. People ducked behind closed doors, the venetians were stirring and whispers were being overheard behind the Magnolias, roads in avoidance were skilfully being crossed. One owner started skipping. A strange and hostile neighbourhood was showing its slip.

The law was on my side and I had it in black and white. H and I turned up at the Extraordinary Meeting of the body corporate. I came prepared. I took my portable laptop. At the meeting I unfolded in a significant manner my light blue laptop.  I took the chair and as I had practiced a few phrases, such as “responsible governance, due diligence, contravention of corporate laws, accurate recording of meetings” together with a calm demeanour (but not without a few authoritative coughs in between), let fly.

There was a silence. You could cut the air. The other owners and the hostile manager all looked around. There was nowhere to hide. They all turned into mice.  See how they run, … see how they run!   They all ran to…..

A feeble attempt was made to still go with the Melbourne mob. Previously I had posted an e-mail with details of an $80.000,- underpayment made to its painters by the Melbourne mob, that was dealt with through an industrial Court, hardly a recommendation.

This is were I held my trump card. I had in black and white that no maintenance could be done without having the money up front. The meeting decided to go with the cheaper quote that I had obtained. An extra levy of $1000.- per owner had to be raised. They all filed out in silence. The cheaper quote was for a local painter for $ 29.990.- compared with the $43.995.- from Melbourne. Not a single ‘thank you’. I smell a bit of a ‘hand-0ut’ to the Body Corporate  from the Melbourne mob.  Milo smelled something too and it wasn’t a pig’s ear.