14 Examples of Corruption, Coercion & Bad Behaviour in Body Corporates

corruption in body corporates
I know I spend a lot of time focussing on the negatives of body corporates, and clearly this article about corruption in body corporates is not going to be any different. I do have a purpose here though, I’m building a library of information to help people navigate occasionally murky body corporate waters.

To be fair, and to be clear, let me reiterate, most body corporates are boring.

They do what they need to, quickly, quietly with a minimum of fuss and enjoy the appreciation and good will of their lot owners.

Sometimes things do go pear shaped, lines get crossed and incorrect steps taken, and that’s understandable as well. The body corporate industry in Queensland is this swirling morass of complex legislation and case law to be applied to entities where the decision makers are predominantly lay people.

Mistakes and bad calls do get made.

But, I believe, in the vast majority of those cases there is no intention to defraud or infringe on any persons rights, notwithstanding that may be the result achieved.

In most cases.

Sometimes though, the things that go on are just plain wrong.

The behaviour of residents and lot owners toward each other can be atrocious and coercion and intimidation are tools employed with reckless abandon. The processes intended to serve the many can get corrupted to benefit a few.

In short, corruption, coercion and general bad behaviour happen. Let’s check out some examples.

Corruption in body corporates

Whether the problem originates from among the residents or from outside the scheme all the following are crimes and should be reported to the police.

1. Major crimes – there was a high profile case just recently on the Gold Coast when a woman fell to her death from a balcony, sadly a common enough occurrence in itself, but in this case the circumstances were considered to be “suspicious”. Numerous drug sale and manufacture rings have also been found in unit buildings and complexes.

Major crimes happen in body corporates all the time, and crimes, along with accidents do have a large impact on the community, who are, hopefully, only peripherally involved.

2. Stolen property – a body corporate community is as vulnerable as any community to break-ins and other forms of thievery with the added complication that the security that keeps others out may very well be keeping the thief in!

Body corporates are about higher density, and with higher density comes more crimes of opportunity such as theft.

3. Vandalism – graffiti, damage to common contents such as barbeques and furniture, even malicious destruction of property like security gates or gardens happens regularly, hence the proliferation of security cameras.

Vandalism happens for all sorts of reasons, from people outside the scheme making the most of an opportunity to “revenge” for some perceived slight or body corporate charge.

It can also be used as a tool to intimidate or inconvenience a lot owner as much as the body corporate itself, and the perpetrators and victims can be anyone from a tenant, lot owner, Committee member or even an Onsite Manager.

4. Physical violence – sometimes sharing spaces does not go smoothly and a conflict between two residents can erupt into physical violence.

Violent confrontations between Onsite Managers and residents are not unheard of, mostly because it’s the Manager’s job to police the bylaws. It can be tempting to let these matters go, especially if our own behaviour hasn’t exactly been above reproach, however physical violence should never be tolerated.

5. Embezzlement – the disappearance of some, or all, of body corporate funds is rare but does happen. This can be as simple as cleaning out the petty cash every chance you get up to an including doing a midnight bunk with the contents of the Sinking Fund.

The use of professional body corporate management will significantly reduce the likelihood of having funds embezzled though I have read of one case where the manager did it. I’m talking about the deliberate theft of funds here, which is different from a conflict regarding a charge, which happens quite often and is rarely sinister.

The most common form of real estate embezzlement is theft of rental funds by Letting Agents, which is by no means limited to body corporates.

6. Slander and Libel – talking trash about another person, particularly one we’re in conflict with, may seem like a good idea but could very well be a crime. We’re not allowed to say things that might impact on the reputation of another person, no matter how much we disagree with them or think they’re talking out their ass.

We’re especially not allowed to say these things in writing. Which is a shame since much of what happens in body corporates is helpfully recorded in the minutes and distributed to lot owners. Consequently cases for slander and libel proliferate.

7. Kickbacks and padded invoices – having works done in a body corporate is usually more expensive than comparable works on a house for legitimate reasons such as complexity and size of the buildings and more rigid processes.

Sometimes though it’s more expensive because the cost has been padded significantly. That can be because the workman involved is simply making a killing, which is why multiple quotes are required, or to enable paying of a “kickback” to a lot owner, committee member or manager who ensures the approval and payment of the invoice.

Kickbacks and padding may also happen when it comes to appointing contractors for the body corporate.

Coercion in body corporates

The definition of coercion is the act or practice of getting someone to do something by using force or threats.

The following are forms of coercion that rear their heads in body corporates often:

8. Vexatious complaints – A vexatious complaint is one intended to cause problems rather than address a specific issue. The complainant is using the law as a weapon to cause distress or inconvenience rather than seeking conciliation. This sort of behaviour is so common that it has its own definition in section 270 (1) (c) of the BCCM Act 1997.

Vexatious complaints are toxic and a waste of time and resources of both the combined lot owners and the complainant.

And it’s not just lot owners who do this either. Body corporate managers and Committees may be just as likely to undertake litigation as a way of shutting someone up, rather than taking a longer route that involves listening.

9. Misleading or false information – body corporate Committees are volunteers who meet regularly and rely on “briefings” to make decisions. If the information they’re presented is incorrect then there’s a good chance a wrong direction will be chosen.

The validity of information disseminated is very important. For the devious and dishonest among us that presents an opportunity to manipulate the situation.

Ironically though passing misleading or false information cases rarely start out as someone being blatantly dishonest, but evolve as the circumstances do. Feelings run high, the desire to “win” at all costs becomes paramount and hey presto, look at my supporting documentation.

10. Intimidation – the most common form of intimidation is verbal abuse. The most common form of intimidation in body corporates usually comes from the Committee or the Onsite Manager who use their status to threaten other lot owners to comply with instructions or bylaws.coercion in body corporates

Intimidation, rather than it’s more insidious little brother bullying (discussed below), is intended to get you to do, or stop doing, something. It’s using aggression, like being yelled at and called names, or threats, like promises to see you evicted, to force you to comply with the aggressors’ wishes.

Aggression should not be confused with assertiveness. Someone asking you to do something, then calmly setting out the reasons why, is not intimidation. It’s not intimidation to disagree either.

Intimidation is an attempt to force the issue by being bigger, louder, more connected or more obnoxious than the other party.

Bad behaviour in body corporates

Anywhere there are groups of people there is eventually going to be someone behaving badly. Ok, even I admit that was horribly cynical, but sadly fairly realistic as well.

11. Arrogance – or haughtiness, is acting disdainful and superior toward others. It breeds high-handedness and contempt and eventually a disregard for others opinions and in some cases their rights.

Body corporate managers are especially vulnerable to bouts of arrogance, since they are usually the people who know and understand the most about what is going on. Committees are also vulnerable, as are Building Managers and even search agents like myself.

Approaching any situation with disdain and superiority is going to have the effect of, at worst, actually causing conflict, or at best curtailing communication. Basically you’re scaring people off with your attitude, whether you’re doing it intentionally or not.

12. Racism, Sexism and other forms of bigotry – Racism and sexism are systemic problems and both are alive and well in body corporates.

Committees tend to be predominantly white, notwithstanding that some buildings are very multicultural. The Chairperson tends to be predominantly male, although I should also acknowledge that Committee members also tend to be predominantly older.

Many body corporate managers are women and they face ridicule, arguments and harassment that their male counterparts do not.

A person cannot be a racist; a system is racist, a person is bigoted. And lots of people are. Applications by some people may be held to higher standards than others, bylaw infringements are jumped on quicker and more robustly, correspondence is ignored and nominations overlooked.

Bigotry is arrogance taken to extremes. It’s the belief that you are actually superior to others and there’s just no place for that belief in an inclusive environment.

13. Bullying – a more subtle form of intimidation bullying is usually long term and can take many, many forms. When I lived in an apartment building I disagreed with a neighbour who chose to get retribution by terrorising my eight-year old any chance he could get.

In another place I lived I disagreed with the Onsite Manager who then made it his mission to stare in my windows for long periods of time every time he knew I was home.

Other forms of bullying may include consistent, persistent loud noise, name calling, terrorising pets or family members, spreading rumours, consistently parking in an inconsiderate manner or deliberately excluding a particular person from a group.

Pretty much any form of nastiness you can think of may well be used as a weapon to bully another person, usually with no other purpose than to cause pain and annoyance.

14. Inconsiderateness – whilst the other things I’ve discussed here are damaging to the community inconsiderateness is just plain annoying. When you own and / or live in a body corporate you are sharing an investment and space. Considerateness is the glue that makes that possible.

So, yes, you are well within your rights to sit on your balcony at midnight and have a couple of drinks with friends, but it is also going to really annoy your neighbours. Would it kill you to consider them?

Or, yes, you’re on the Committee, and you think the place needs refurbishment and you have the votes to make it happen. What’s wrong with considering the pensioner who might find it difficult to raise funds? How could we structure this a little differently to help them out?

And if someone comes to you and says, “excuse me, I think you’re being inconsiderate”, maybe shrugging and saying “OK, I’ll see what I can do” is a great way to respond.

The benefit of the doubt

Whenever something happens in a body corporate that seems unusual the cries of “OMG, corruption” echo around the scheme.

The thing is, if someone disagrees with you that is not corruption. Neither is the majority wanting to do something you don’t.

If someone makes a mistake, even a big one, that is not corruption either.

And if a Committee member’s best friend just happens to land a lucrative body corporate contract that doesn’t preclude said friend from being the best person for the job, or the cheapest for that matter. Equally it does look a little hinky so maybe some questions about the appointment are fair and not a big deal.

Before you go looking for conspiracies of corruption maybe it’s worth giving your neighbours and contractors the benefit of the doubt.

But, if things are bad, speak up. You don’t have to put up with it.

Just remember, one person’s, or even a groups bad behaviour, doesn’t tacitly give you permission to behave badly as well.

Do you have any stories of corruption, coercion and bad behaviour in your body corporate? Leave a comment and let me know.

THE BASICS OF BODY CORPORATES

A little knowledge can go a long way


I see so many stressful and frustrating issues in body corporate records that result from simple misunderstandings it hurts my head. If I could do one thing to help it would be to teach everyone the basic rules, so they can avoid all these dramas.


With that in mind I've put together a short eBook that sets out the basics everyone owning in a body corporate really should know. It won't make those big issues go away, but it will give you a firm grounding from which to communicate.


It's completely free, so please, download it now!

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Comments

  1. Michele Clifton says:

    I am writing to you after spending many hours looking for forums where owners in a body corporate structure have the same issues as I do, and what avenues there are for resolution. I live in a small complex, 4 lots, building format plan, and I have more issues than I can begin to write about, the latest one being the Committee members garaging off 2 of the 3 visitor car parks and making them additional living spaces for themselves. To ‘stay within the development approval conditions’, they introduce 2 car spaces on the shared easement, against the conditions of that easement, and one of the spaces actually obstructing my own garage.
    The BCC issued an enforcement notice, gave them a fine, which was paid for out of the sinking fund. The Committee then proceeded to spend $12,000 making an application for a DA change for parking on the shared easement, billed me for the cost of this. Again I reiterate one car space obstructs my garage, the condition of the easement is no obstructions at all, and the sustainable planning act 2009 requires consent from all owners to change the use of an easement. But, for their own personal financial benefits, they have proceeded with this application, using body corporate funds and ‘invoicing me’ for contributions to these costs.
    In addition to this, I am denied access to records, I am provided no notices of what is happening, I have never received committee meeting minutes and all maintenance on my property is denied.
    Previous actions to highlight the mismanagement have been:
    1. Refusing to repair my roof, leaving a skylight leaking for 2 years to such an extent my ceiling collapsed, my air conditioning units blew up, and water was running down live wires. On spending months making an Adjudication Application, I got the order the body corporate was responsible for all repairs. A year later, they actually did the repairs, to the tune of $18,000 (for what should have been a $2,000 repair). I had to contribute to those additional costs.

    2. Why was the above not covered under insurance? Because the policy had been taken out under false declarations – on both previous claims, on existing damage and even the construction of the building!!! The insurance renewal was denied due to the fraud and we now pay almost double in the annual premiums – which I have to contribute to.

    3. Falsified roof inspection reports, where I have to engage my own roofer to confirm the real state – but to no result. Instead the information is withheld from me, including ‘the body corporate own roof inspection report’ and financial records so I can not see what is being spent on their own roof repairs.

    4. I have gone to the Adjudication again, in March 2015 in regard to the illegal garages and visitor parking. The Commissioner at first ruled the BCC must do their investigation prior to any orders being given. 11 May the BCC issued the Enforcement notice. I am still waiting for the Order to be given 3.5 months later, $12,000 of wasted funds later …. still no order.

    5. Every request I put in to the Committee the response is no, go to the Commissioner if you disagree. This includes maintenance to a site boundary wall which is very clearly documented by the BCCM as being body corporate responsibility. The manager’s justification (Bob Paynter from KBW) is the boundary is on the boarder of my private courtyard, therefore, it is my responsibility. Again, very clearly shown by the BCCM that the face of any boundary of private property is still body corporate responsibility, for site boundary fences, no ifs buts or maybes – they are responsible.

    6. As per the above justification for not repairing the boundary wall, I have discovered that the committee spent $2,050 for a BCC fine on one lot for non compliance of a DA approved condition of 2 garages – they converted one to an additional bedroom. The fine paid for out of body corps funds. Of course that is 100% private property, supposedly nothing to do with the body corporate.

    8. The other 2 lots with the illegal visitor car parks converted to their own garages, granted as ‘exclusive use’ …. exclusive use makes the owner responsible for compliance, repairs and maintenance ….. oh until found to be non compliant it appears, the. they demand I pay for the fines and having it made legal … all for their own personal financial benefits.

    7. My request at the AGM in August for transparency, visibility and access to the records – denied, voted against and within a month from that, the limited access I did have via the Manager’s (KBW) portal was removed – I now have no visibility.

    8. I have never received a single committee meeting notice or minutes of a meeting.

    I stress again, we have a private paid for Manager who I believe enjoys bullying or victimisation, or is just so corrupt and blatantly arrogant with it. He breaches all of the code of conduct regulation requirements, blatantly lies (proved in writing on multiple occasions), and almost “plays games” on every request by generating unnecessary emails which he then of course charges for and constantly refers to ‘the volume of emails’.

    I am in a position where every bit of advice I get is to sell ….. but where is the effective governance to stop this behaviour and bullying where a person is “forced” out of what should be their home? I have worked hard to purchase my home, in an area I love, I am involved in the Community, but my life has become a living hell where this behaviour and corruption ties up most of my free time to try and protect my own financial investment.

    Please, if you have any avenues where these issues can be effectively addressed I would welcome any such information. My only channel currently is the Commissioner – where everything must be fully documented as evidence, hence why my body corporate refuse to give me such evidence, making it impossible to provide. As outlined above, waiting since March for an order, based on written evidence up to the point of submission makes an ineffective process. In my situation, within a month of the application, I have enough new issues or additional evidence that at least one more application is then required. But, to make a further application, 80% of the information needs to be resubmitted to paint a clear picture ….. this can never be effective.

    I look forward to hearing back from you – it appears no organisation wants to touch body corporate issues, the only true statement I have heard since my purchase of my home is ‘body corporate are a law unto themselves’

    • Hi Michele

      Well, that just sounds …well I want to say a very bad word. No wonder you’re so frustrated. It sounds like the Committee, with the help of the body corporate manager, are doing whatever they choose without any sort of respect to you. I wonder about the other lot owner? Where do they stand?

      Unfortunately the Commissioner Body Corporate is the only option you have for resolving issues, other than negotiation with the other lot owners. Issues within body corporates are civil matters and there isn’t anyone else who can take action but the lot owners affected. The Adjudicator is the court that you need to “try” these matters in, although some issues may be outside the Adjudicators jurisdiction in which case Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) applies.

      It is true that there are no restrictions about what body corporates can do, other than that they may not take advantage of other lot owners or otherwise break laws or contravene legislation. If you object to a decision made by the body corporate your avenue for redress is the Commissioner Body Corporate.

      To make an effective application to the Commissioner you must have a clear idea of what outcome you’re seeking as well as clear ideas of why the action is “wrong” in your opinion.

      Given what you’ve discussed here I think there is likely a number of issues the Adjudicator could help you with. Don’t give up. I know it’s a long and exhausting process. Unfortunately it’s the only one you have. The process is slow indeed, however, that doesn’t stop you from making multiple applications.

      Gaining access to the body corporate records should be as simple as booking a “search” with the body corporate manager. There is a fee payable, less than $20 I believe, however then they are required to supply you with the records. From there if you copy anything there will be a charge there as well.

      Finally, I know it feels frustrating to simply be told to move (as if moving is simple!), and I find it hard to resist saying that as well. I understand that you’re committed to your home but it sounds like your neighbours are committed to taking any advantage they can get. You may stop them on one matter but it is unlikely to make them turn over a new leaf. What a nightmare.

      • Thank you for your reply, even if just confirming what is already obvious – the Commissioner’s Office fails to provide accessible and effective governance processes of the Body Corporate and the Body Corporate Managers and Committee’s are a law of their own under these circumstances.
        Yes your are 100% correct – These issues started the day I moved in, with the leaking roof and after 2 years fighting that, we are now fighting over the visitor car parking – 3 lots non-compliant under the DA. So after this one, I am sure there will be another issue. The Committee are self serving their own financial benefits.

        My real question is “what is the justice that the government provides an Act or Regulation, but insufficient governance over it?”. No home owner should ever be put in this situation.

        If any of your readers know of forums or media contacts to make this type of corrupt body corporates more public, I would appreciate hearing. I wish I had been better informed of the lack of justice prior to my purchase.

        Thank you

        • Hi Michele
          You can try the Flat-Chat Forum.

          Just to reiterate: the lot owners are in charge here, in any body corporate. There is a framework that is provided by the legislation but it is up to the lot owners to police the issues themselves. When disputes arise expert Adjudication may be sought from the Commissioners Office. Vigilance and persistence are required to seek resolution because essentially it’s your idea against there’s.

          At the end of the day some people are corrupt and will take advantage where ever they can. Just as some people have zero redeeming features. The problem with that is those sorts of people glory in their nastiness. You may win some battles but unlikely the war.

          • Thank you, I will check out that chat forum.

            Yes, the issue I have, and the Commissioner’s Office has confirmed that this is a well known issue, we only have 4 Lots, hence it is very easy to get the “majority” to enable bullying and victimisation tactics.

            2 Lot owners are long standing there and used to be self-managed under a very corrupt owner who made himself Secretary and Treasurer. That was where the issues started but he insured that he gave “just enough” benefits to the other 2 owners, and honestly, the other two owners are far short of being the “sharpest tools in the shed”.

            I purchased and started questioning items (particularly what I suspected to be Insurance Fraud – and that was proved within months of the Secretary leaving). So I exposed the Secretary for his corruption so he did a “fly by night” and sold up and left very quickly (knowing I had almost criminal evidence against him).

            But he had “implicated” the other two Lot owners as they made up the “Committee”. The new owner came in, started to see logic with what I was saying ….. right up till I produced the evidence that the “visitor car parking” they had made Exclusive Use and garaged off. The new owner had totally failed in her due diligence on purchase of the property and had no idea there were not permits / DA changes to authorise this. She paid for and believe she had 2 garages and a visitor space “exclusively”.

            Hmmm, the new owner sided with the other two – all 3 “non-complying” of our DA and CMS by-laws – for which the Council has issued an Enforcement Notice.

            That is where the issue is – any maintenance I request, all 3 Object. The AGM is all done and dusted between themselves before we even hold it – they determine out of those 3, who will be Secretary and Treasurer. They have engaged a “corrupt” manager who is proved to be a blatant liar (I have written evidence of) – so he just denies me access to the records, claims invoices I request “have been archived” and he will go and retrieve them when I pay like $400 for his time to get them. ………

            But with only 4 lots – unless the Adjudicator appoints an Administrator, there is nothing I can do to stop this. I asked the BCCM Information Centre about applying for an Administrator and was informed “if you hold an AGM every year and are given minutes, then you can’t get an Administrator”.

            I have taken my chances on that and asked for one anyway within this outstanding application (since March 2015). My suggestion being that I may have an AGM and get minutes but surely proven Insurance Fraud, spending over Committee limits, refusing to provide access to records, breaching Development Conditions and By-laws – surely that needs to be considered.

            What can I say – I wait with baited breath for this order (I may be in a coma soon as I have been waiting with baited breath since May when the BCC issued the Enforcement).

            Again – thanks for reading my comments and providing feedback – at least I can hopefully voice my issues to provide “informed decision making” if anyone then choices to purchase into Body Corporates – I certainly wish I had seen more of these comments before I purchased.

          • Wow Michelle. That’s awful. I don’t know how you maintain you sanity let alone your sense of humour. Well done you.

      • To give an update on this Corruption and lack of Governance … as of yesterday my Property was totally de-valued and my lifestyle impacted by the “Committee” members, the 3 Non-Complying lots making application for a DA Change to allow 2 of the 3 visitor car parks to be garaged off as “their residential” (used 100% for additional living).

        This leaves one visitor park – the one adjacent to my own Townhouse – now approved to be THE ONLY visitor park for the WHOLE COMPLEX (3 townhouses – 1 original house making 4 Lots).
        The “visitor car spaces” were obviously original intended to be as the layout for each townhouse – one residential garage, and one open visitor car space. The space adjacent to my own lot has my outside light in and outside tap …. all off of my utilities. AND ENTRY TO MY BACK DOOR!!!!!

        Yesterday the Council approved for all Lot owners to use this car space as the only visitor parking.
        When a vehicle is parked there, you can only just walk down the side – you definitely could not carry groceries, or get a push bike out. This car space blocks access to my back door.

        The street parking is to the capacity – the Council regularly coming through at night and issuing infringements.

        Yes they just took away 2 visitor car spaces to a complex for the benefit of 2 Lot owners only, avoiding non compliance to a 3rd owner and 100% devaluing my own property and impacting my lifestyle to “supplement” the Committees financial benefits.

        Done on a vote of 3 to 1 – the Council did not even communicate with me, keep me informed and discuss the implications. I found the outcome out from PD Online !!!!!

        The Council’s justification “it is not our job to assess impacts or devaluing of property, it is only to determine if the request meets the Planning Act requirements”.

        I purchased my property, paying market value, based on having 3 visitor car parks on site in an area with basically NO STREET PARKING …. no consideration, totally ripped out from under me – because the Committee wanted the financial gain.

        The Commissioner – he sat on the Application waiting for the Enforcement Notice – then sat on it waiting for the Council’s decision on the DA Change application – now the Commissioner has no jurisdiction to overturn that decision or seek reimbursement to the Body Corporate for the “Stolen Common Property”, nor to myself for the taking away of facilities I paid for!!!!!!!!!!
        No mention of contribution adjustments either

        THIS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE – ALL IT TAKES IS THE MAJORITY OF BODY CORPORATE MEMBERS TO BE CORRUPT AND UNETHICAL ….FULLY SUPPORTED BY QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Oh Michele, you must be at your wits end.

          I don’t understand how the other lot owners are getting away with this. Changing common property including selling or granting as exclusive use requires a resolution without dissent. Clearly you dissented.

          I understand the council, it isn’t there place to make sure owners are following strata rules, but not the Commissioner’s Office as it’s most definitely their place. If they’ve been waiting on the decision from the council hopefully now they will take some action and hopefully the decision is to stop.

          • Too late for the Commissioner !!!!! While they sat on their arses waiting for the Council decision – it is now out of their jurisdiction. What a cop out of responsibility.

            The Commissioner should have demanded withdrawal of the application – the non-conformity was all proved by the issuing of 2 Enforcement Notices.

            Proved beyond doubt THERE IS NO GOVERNANCE OVER BODY CORPORATE -corrupt and free to do as they chose, only restricted by their own personal integrity and honesty.

            KBW are our paid for managers fully supporting the Committee in their corruption, total deflection and proven blatant lies – and I still have to pay for their time !!!!!!!

            Michele

    • I’d be finding a good lawyer and using my money to get a legal solution. Those in the wrong may shy away from lawyers which could be to your advantage. In the past I also found the Commissioner to be a wasted resource of Govt space, and even when I was totally in the right the Commissioner acheived nought!

  2. Who do you call if you have an issue with your Body Corporate Manager? Thanks

    • Hi Kelly

      Ah, that’s a problem. It will depend on the issue and whether or not you are on the committee. If you’re not on the committee your first port of call is to report to the committee. Then its up to them to decide if they choose to do anything. If you are on the committee you should discuss with the other committee members what, if anything, you want to do anything about the issue.

  3. Our committee breached a Restricted issue. This has resulted in conciliation, a new by -law, new CMS and huge legal bills. I advised the committee of its mistake but they chose to ignore it. Have been threated with defamation, but the committee could not supply where my statements where “incorrect”. The minutes are very scathing of me and the committee (individual members) are reserving their right to initiate legal action and pay for it themselves. Don’t feel at all threatened!!

    • Hi Helen

      I am amazed at your scheme. Its an annoying problem that those who stand up for themselves often end up being vilified. As a fellow person given to standing up for herself I feel you pain!

      • I am quite capable of standing up for myself. I know Body Corporate Policies and Procedures reasonably well. I was threatened with Defamation but no action taken when I challenged the committee and asked for evidence that what i said was incorrect.

  4. I would like to ask a question in my flat in Durban CDB I was owing three months levies which was about R2 800 and matter was then refer by BC to lawyers and the oustanding amount accumulated to R 7 200 for just two months after this matter was refer to lawyers.

    I then made a personal loan and pay R3000 and tried to make arragement and the BC told me that they dont do arrangements I have to settle the outstanding amount in full as this was already added up to my levy account.

    I was also told that I’m no longer allowed any vistor in my unit because the house rule registered with deeds office states that any owner who is in arear with their levies they not allowed to have visitor till they have settle in full all outastnding levies however my levies are now mainly legal costs.

    My question is that does this constitue corruption and fraud because according to the Sectional Title Act S37(1) levies cannot include fines and legal costs.

    • Hi Bafo D

      It would not here in Queensland, Australia. Levies in arrears escalate very quickly and the main driver is legal fees. So long as the scheme has resolved an outline of the legal process they plan to use to recover levies then they’re allowed to use that process. It’s been resolved by the court system that “fair” legal costs for recovery of levies are body corporate debts and recoverable from lot owners.

      I have no idea of the South African legislation. You’re best bet is to try local Adjudication services.

      You can argue against costs in Adjudication here but in most cases you’re better off paying to clear the account first because any subsequent payments your make will be statutorily deducted from the oldest levy charge first. You end up in a position of getting ever further behind because you haven’t cleared the account.

  5. Michele Clifton says:

    Hi

    I wrote on this forum about my corrupt body corporate and their “stealing” of the visitor car parks for their own residential garages, devaluing my property in the process.

    I am now up against the fact in 4.5 years, I have received 1 Notice of Committee Meeting and the minutes – it was a dummied up meeting for the purpose of the Adjudicator process (and the Adjudicator ignored the whole issue).
    I am now at the point where the paid for Manager, KBW state “You get no minutes because the committee do not meet”.
    Hmm, so who makes the decision to raise special levies, who makes decisions on proposing a Development Approval change to steal the visitor car parks – and most importantly, who makes the decision to spend over and above the special levy raised??? Things happen, money gets spent – so who is making those decisions?

    Yes, I am now forced to pay $1,000’s of dollars for a lawyer to try and stop this from happening (hopefully an opportunity to claim the costs in the legal proceedings).

    DOES ANYONE OUT THERE HAVE KBW BODY CORPORATE MANAGEMENT as their “paid for” Manager?
    The evidence I have of blatant lies by the Manager, Bob Paynter I have in writing, the refusal to provide financial documents, the “claim” of no committee meetings, the refusal to maintain my property (we are building format plan) …..

    It is always easier in numbers – so please, anyone who is under KBW, Bob Paynter, please contact me here as the option for a class action may be warranted.

    Thank you for your assistance
    Michele

  6. Janice Warren says:

    HI Lisa, Ever since a resident moved into our building he has caused unbelievable problems.
    He continues to be abusive and insulting to committee members both verbally and in writing.
    He has been told in writing from the Body Corporate Managers not to have any communication with body corporate committee members and any correspondence must be in writing to the Body Corporate. He totally ignores this order and has caused soooo much disharmony in the building. The Body Corporate are now saying it is a personal matter and they cannot do anything about it.
    What is the best way to handle the problem ? Can he be breached ? Can the grieved committee member sue the committee for not intervening ? I would appreciate your advice.

    • Hi Janice

      Bullying and bad behaviour are eternal problems. How do you force someone to behave better? Parents, teachers, police and body corporate committees have been struggling with this one forever.

      If an interaction becomes heated then I suggest the police be called. They are the people to deal with this sort of behaviour.

      If the man is writing to the body corporate they do not need to read his correspondence. If he calls the body corporate manager they do not need to take his calls. If he persists in trying to contact members then an Adjudicators Order may be sought ordering him not to. If he continues to breach the Order, once issued, then action in the Magistrates court can be undertaken to enforce. I have heard of one building on the coast that successfully took out a DVA against a lot owner. He was not allowed on the scheme for two years.

      As to whether the committee can be sued: is the man breaching by-laws? If the committee do not act on that then, yes I suspect a case could be made they’re failing to undertake their duties. An Order could be sought that they take action. An actual court case could only happen if there is loss arising from their lack of action.

      It is an difficult problem to resolve Janice. You cannot force someone to behave better you can only take action to protect yourself.

  7. Hi Lisa
    I am an owner occupier committee treasurer of a lot of 36 units in cairns. committee members come to me about a couple of issues about the onsite manager behaving in ways to upset them. Who do I talk about this with to resolve the issue can I contact my body corporate manager to advise of the problems owners are facing and find ways to rectify the problem? Can I call the body corporate manager advising them about the issue and the affected people and advise for this behaviour to stop ?? Who tells the managers what they can and can’t do if it’s wrong practice ? Can they sue for defimation against the committee member and ask for money as compensation for raising the issue ? If so is it a breach of their code of conduct ?

    Regards
    Rachael

    • Hi Rachel

      The people to discuss this with are the Caretaker against whom the complaint is made, the other committee members and your body corporate manager. In what order I guess depends on the complaint and its content. I would report to the other members of the committee including your body corporate manager. Take direction from them.

      Sometimes people rub up against each other and normally well behaved people ‘have a moment’, meaning this could be a one off incident. Remember every situation has two sides. A gentle conversation with the manager asking them to stop may be all that’s required. Discuss it with the rest of the committee and your manager and get a feel for what others think.

      Defamation or Libel will only come up if the information is incorrect and ‘published’ in some way so that it may damage the reputation of the individual. The most common way it will arise is in what’s said in the body corporate minutes. As long as no accusations are made then it should be OK. Something like “discussed a complaint from Lot X re incident with Caretaker…” Summarise without being too specific. I know you don’t write minutes of meetings but the committee will approve. Be respectful with emails as well.

  8. We have been onsite managers for the past 12 years and always prided ourselves on doing the best job possible to keep the common areas looking clean and tidy as per our Agreement
    Recently an owner was made Chairperson, and since she has held this position she has undermined everything we do, she takes over getting quotes, and these are passed by the committee regardless of costing, she constantly complains about the dirtiness and untidiness of the complex, constantly rings or emails the body corporate about something she feels we have not done. She has absolutely made life a living hell
    What is truly perplexing is prior to her gaining the position she was reprimanded for 2 by laws she had broken, one by attaching something to common property and having something overhanging her balcony, also for 12 months now she has refused entry to her unit to have her fire door inspected, now since being Chairperson, nothing is said to her and she is allowed to do whatever she wants.
    The body corporate turn a blind eye to everything she is doing and only reacts when she is trying to cause trouble for us. Is there somewhere we can go to get help with this as we are both getting on and the constant harassment from this person is taking its toll. We have even put our business up for sale as we cannot take much more
    We have letters from other owners and tenants in the complex stating what a good job we do, and ironically the now Chairperson wrote us a glowing report and supported us getting a rise, all this before she took offence to something another family member said, she is not past lying also .

    • Hi Carol

      That sounds …. challenging to say the least.

      I would refer to your agreements and in particular the clauses about disputes. I have seen managers who’ve insisted on appointing a committee liaison, only one person who make speak with them about issues. It helps to regulate the flow of complaints. It is common for managers to quote and stick to the agreed items of maintenance as outlined in the contract only. Additional stuff, if you’re doing any, is at extra cost.

      I’d also push back against the chairperson by making it known that you’re unhappy with things. Of course there’s always the chance with some people that it will escalate the behaviour but what else can you do except express your dissatisfaction? Who knows it might spark something and conciliation to negotiate a better way of working together might be possible.

      It is a challenge this sort of behaviour. Your best bet is to meticulously observe the terms of your agreement and push back against the worst of the behaviour.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Well, how is this, the chairperson went over our heads about getting the stairwells cleaned in the complex. This happened today, I went over for a look and the stairwells resembled a swimming pool, there was water everywhere, and of course no sign of the contractor.
      The only information I was given by the bc was the date the contractor (not even their name) and that the product used would smell a little bit like chlorine but would disappear in a short time. Tried to contact the bc manager, no the office had closed for the Christmas break, contacted the Secretary, didn’t want to know about it, tried to contact the Chairperson, no response.
      And then, it started, complaint after complaint from the tenants about the amount of water that had gone under their doors and damaged items in the units.
      We gave them the Chairpersons number as she organised the cleaning, and low and behold she dogged us out to the tenant, saying we hadn’t cleaned the stairs properly and that is why she had to take over, and that we were not doing our job properly
      So, I have spent the past 5 hours, mopping up water, in units and on the stairs.
      But I have some extremely exciting news, we have had an offer made on our management rights, and will be gone early in the New Year, Yahoo.
      I have had some shitty jobs in my life, but I would have to say management rights has been the worse mistake I ever made.
      So to all you poor managers who have to endure living onsite, dealing with bc, committees, tenants, owners, I take my hat off to you. I have done it for the past 12 years, and honestly I am ready for the loony bin
      Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

      • Hi Carole

        Congratulations! Yay. It sounds like you’ll be happy to be free of the place. Merry Christmas. I hope it all goes to plan in the new year.

  9. debbie williams says:

    Hi Lisa

    What an amazing site you have developed… Thank you 🙂

    Quick question… I’m a property manager looking after the tenant in a large building that has body corp and onsite management. The onsite manager is giving a real estate agent (friend) the key to my tenant’s unit for inspections.

    What part of the Act is this in breach of please?

    Thank you in advance

    • Hi Debbie

      Access to units is governed by the by-laws of the scheme. The body corporate can only enter the lot in a specified way.

      Ask the manager to stop and if it continues complain to the body corporate. If the onsite manager is not the letting agent for the lot then he only has a key to access the lot in emergency.

  10. ALAN RAYMOND says:

    What can be done? We are victims of fraud by the BCM in collusion with committee chair, in an on going kickback scheme, in overpayments and unnecessary expenditures. An owner went to the Commissioner last year, the BCM/Chair hired an expensive lawyer, she was hit with costs and forced to sell her unit or declare bankruptcy. We can’t even protest at meetings as the BCM/Chair refuses to call required meetings.

    • Hi Alan

      If you feel there has been fraud committed you need to speak with the police. You will need to be able to prove the allegation.

      The other options are to replace your chairperson and that will require a general meeting. Any owner can call a general meeting at any time with 25% signatories of other owners. If you have the support of other owners then ask to hold a general meeting to replace the chairperson.

      If you feel that meetings are not being called when they are required you may make an application for Adjudication to force the issue. First you will need to attempt to resolve the situation. Send an email outlining your concerns. Listen to there’s. If you can find a way forward that doesn’t require legal action so much the better.

  11. There seems to be a stream that believes that many of these problems can be resolved logically by referral to the committee. Our committee has not met for over a year, and the chair and a misguided and compliant BC manager, refuses to do so. He rules by fiat. He occasionally circulates a “flying motion” which he determines the vote result. Flying motions are only valid if approved at a subsequent committee meeting, which he refuses to call. In the previous year he made up meetings, who attended and how the vote went, no one knew of the meetings except him. He announced that the committee rule was rescinded, requiring all significant expenditures be put to tender and result in a minimum of three competitive bids. He stated he would decide and the committee was not necessary. He has also taken to unilaterally approving variances, such as pets, construction, etc. which are normally subject to a committee vote. He intimidates many of the older owners with his bombastic confrontational manner. So much for the all seeing and all powerful committee. One owner took legal action, and he and the BC manager hired an expensive lawyer, with our money, with the result she lost, had to pay costs, forced into bankruptcy, and forced to sell her unit at significantly below the market.

  12. Erik Bohl says:

    Hi
    My name is Erik, and we live in a body corporate. We moved in April of last year, we have had a number of incidents with our Body Corporate. Ever since announcing that I will be running for Chairman at the up coming election later this year, I feel that I have been bullied some what. I have even been sent a notice of Unauthorised Structure letter, for my Shade Umbrella (completely free standing item) and a garden seat that I have constructed in my back yard. These items are no different from other lot owners items, and the funny thing is, most of the Committee members had even commented on their good looks. The change came once I had nominated myself publicly.
    My question is two fold: Firstly, the Committee took it upon themselves to run a conduit with electrical wiring within and attach it to my house without my permission. Also, the installation was illegal (I am a builder by trade) and have taken photos of the work. This has now been rectified, however I am still angry over that fact that they were allowed to enter my property and undertake the work without my consent in the first place. What can I do?
    Secondly, due to their letter of Unauthorised Structure, and I am in dispute, can I still run for Chairman?
    Also, it was noted in the minutes, that I was Verbally Abusive to the Secretary when discussing the electrical work. I feel this is an attempt to undermine my integrity.
    I look forward to your response.
    Kind Regards
    Erik

    • Hi Erik

      So long as your levies are paid up to date you may run for Chairperson. I suggest, as you’re new, talk to people around the scheme and find out what, if any, issues they have with the current committee. It can be hard to change an existing committee. Campaigning and getting know people, and letting people get to know you.

      Re the illegal installation: if the installation is gone then what more do you need to do? The committee are not allowed to enter a property and whack something up because they feel like it and I agree, I would be livid as well. But if they’ve rectified the issue then that’s kind of the end to it. You may certainly make a complaint about the behaviour but, as its already rectified, there is little that can be done. It’s what an Adjudicator would call “lack of a dispute to resolve”.

      It is possible the committee are looking at you about issues around that may breach the by-laws. That sort of thing happens a lot. I also agree the committee are possibly taking advantage of things to, not so much discredit, but certainly throw shade on your candidacy. It’s like advantage in tennis. If you are running for Chairperson though, in my opinion, it is good that you abide by the by-laws. It sets an example for all owners. Look on it as an opportunity to demonstrate your calm, reasonable resolution of issues. More good examples for lot owners and a plus for any committee.

  13. Ken Svay says:

    Wow, the horror stories are awful. I moved into a complex of 42 about 2 years ago and soon understood what was going on. The Caretaker lived in Bali but had a part time offsider working. The management company cited privacy issues when I asked for committee members contact details. the building had not been maintained for 16 years and was falling apart and crime was rife within the complex due to lazy agents and bad tenants.The executive of the committee had been in place for 14 years and lived interstate…. you know the story.
    I took them all on, discovered two cases of fraud involving the caretaker and rallied the few owners actually living in the complex.
    Now the Caretaker has been sacked, which I was told was impossible. We saved about $60,000 there. The whole committee are residents, I am Chairman and Treasurer, we have new managers and all bad tenants have been removed. We are chewing through the nearly 200K sinking fund renovating the building and grounds. I am an ex building worker and totally incorruptable so I source quotes, supervise works and approve payments. We have security gates and an excellent CCTV system and the place is clean and quiet. The change is remarkable but only because I learned about the legislation and used to it our advantage.
    I think I should be a consultant now to owners who lack the knowledge and guts to take on what is probably the most corrupt industry in Australia. But I have been threatened physically by tenants and bullied by a few owners and only got the Police to do their job by appearing on local TV and radio with the local MP. It does take some effort to do what I did and quite a lot of my own money but it can be done. I also have a good lawyer on tap to sort out recalcitrants. I have saved us about 35K PA so far and will save about 150K in building works. My work will be done in a few months and I shall move on.
    If anyone wants advice on building or maintenance I like to get involved and as a pensioner work for free.

    • Hi Ken

      Wow, that’s an inspirational story! It’s awesome to hear that someone has managed to grasp the bull by the horns and turn it around. Congratulations on your success and a big thank you for stepping up and doing it. If more schemes had more people like you, someone who is both willing and determined to turn things around, then the instances of corruption wouldn’t be so huge. Well done.

      Have you thought about contacting the Unit Owner’s Association of Queensland? Maybe they have some sort of volunteer position for someone like you.

Trackbacks

  1. […] And then there’s those managers who’re just woeful and their attempts at policing actually create more conflict and bad will around the scheme than the original bylaw breach. People end up choosing sides and it can lead to bullying and other bad behaviour. […]

  2. […] trick people (or a corporate entity) into giving you their money. Intimidation, threats or other forms of bad behaviour border on abuse which again is a criminal […]

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