QLD residents ask how the body corporate can deal with lot owners in their building who are bullying or behaving disruptively or inappropriately.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: What can the Body Corporate Committee do about a lot owner from hell?
- QUESTION: Can our body corporate committee refuse attendance at meetings by a mentally ill and very abusive lot owner?
- QUESTION: How can the body corporate handle a lot owner who has a recurring habit of sending immature and bullying emails to anyone they have had a disagreement with?
Question: What can the Body Corporate Committee do about a lot owner from hell?
One of our owners is the “owner from hell” and our committee is at a loss to know what to do about his behaviour.
We recently had a committee meeting where the particular owner behaved badly. We were hoping to be able to require him to attend committee meetings in future “only via Zoom”, however, we were told we could not implement this strategy unless everyone called in via Zoom. We have some elderly owners in our complex, so this can never be achieved for their sake”.
He is disruptive, talks to every single issue that is discussed, and generally hogs the meeting time. We are aware that our owners have to have permission to speak for a committee meeting but if they abuse that permission and still display other inappropriate behaviour such as invading others’ space, what recourse is open to the committee? Can owners be subject to some type of “code of conduct” for meetings? Should there be something in the by-laws that addresses “bad behaviour” which can be enforced? It appears that the legislation is nearly impotent in so many ways in this area. Our by-laws are also silent on this issue.
We have owners who now will not attend a general meeting if this particular owner is in attendance and we don’t really know what we can do about it? Help…..
Answer: If you know someone is coming to the meeting who is likely to be a problem, work out a strategy in advance, set your limits at the beginning of the meeting. If the person fails to meet those standards, ask them to leave the meeting.
This is a tough situation and lots of buildings deal with these very difficult individuals.
I’ve only been in the industry for six years, but even within that short period of time, I feel like the level of tension that some people bring into body corporate has increased. It’s causing more and more problems for people who want to deal with situations rationally and just have sensible discussions.
The role of the chairperson to control the meeting
In this kind of situation, there are things that you could do. In this case, it seems like the owner isn’t a committee member. It’s always good to have owners at meetings and they really should be encouraged to attend. It is incumbent on the chairperson to control of the meeting. The chairperson has a right to demand that the meeting allows reasonable discourse, essentially. If one individual is not allowing reasonable discourse, if they are interrupting other people when they’re speaking, if they are too insistent with the points made, if they need their point to last for 10-20 minutes, others don’t have time or willingness to listen to that. The chairperson has the capacity to draw a line under that person’s behaviour.
People should still be allowed the opportunity to be heard. You could put a time limit on the the length of response. Someone could have two minutes. That’s really sufficient and allows most points to be heard. If the person can’t keep to the basic rule, if they talk over other people, be rude to other people, if they’re using abusive language, or shouting, they should be given a warning that their behaviour is inappropriate. If they continue to do this, they should be asked to leave the meeting. If they don’t leave the meeting, then the meeting can closed and you can say “Well, I’m sorry. We’re not able to have a reasonable meeting with you in this situation”.
What you’ll get in that situation is the person becomes very isolated from the group quite quickly because others within the group will want to be having a proper discussion. It might be a discussion in which they have agreements or disagreements, but instead, it still has to be a rational discussion. If one person is preventing that, that behaviour needs to be isolated and marked out and then ultimately stopped. I would encourage the chairpeople out there to undertake that kind of action.
Your Body Corporate Manager Can Help
If you’re a chairperson and you’re not too sure how to do it, work with your body corporate manager. If you know someone is coming to the meeting who is likely to be a problem, work out a strategy in advance, set your limits in advance at the beginning of the meeting, set limits for what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. If the person fails to meet those standards, then by all means, ask them to leave the meeting.
Owners are entitled to reasonable rational discussion, and one person doesn’t have the right to dominate the body corporate.
There is a committee code of conduct that sets out the terms under which the committee should behave.
SCHEDULE 1A – Code of conduct for committee voting members
- Commitment to acquiring understanding of Act, including this code
A committee voting member must have a commitment to acquiring an understanding of this Act, including this code of conduct, relevant to the member’s role on the committee.
- Honesty, fairness and confidentiality
- A committee voting member must act honestly and fairly in performing the member’s duties as a committee voting member.
- A committee voting member must not unfairly or unreasonably disclose information held by the body corporate, including information about an owner of a lot, unless authorised or required by law to do so.
- Acting in body corporate’s best interests
A committee voting member must act in the best interests of the body corporate in performing the member’s duties as a committee voting member, unless it is unlawful to do so.
- Complying with Act and this code
A committee voting member must take reasonable steps to ensure the member complies with this Act, including this code, in performing the member’s duties as a committee voting member.
A committee voting member must not—
- cause a nuisance on scheme land; or
- otherwise behave in a way that unreasonably affects a person’s lawful use or enjoyment of a lot or common property.
- Conflict of interest
A committee voting member must disclose to the committee any conflict of interest the member may have in a matter before the committee.
I’m not really aware there’s a code of conduct per se for owner’s behaviour.
Can the bylaws address it? I mean, it depends what type of behaviour when we’re talking about here? It’s more related to behaviour within a meeting so I don’t know if that’s really a bylaw issue, per se. What can you do? Send out that a breach notice after the meeting when the meeting has already happened, it’s already been disturbed? Even if you’ve had some kind of bylaw in place, the person wouldn’t necessarily respect it in the situation. I’m not really sure that’s the way to deal with it.
If it’s about meeting control, I think it’s about the chairperson saying at the beginning of the meeting, “These are the rules for conduct of the meeting….”, being very clear about what those rules are, and then maintain those rules throughout the meeting itself.
It’s hard because you have to deal with an individual who might be aggressive, not always pleasant and they’re very insistent in getting their own views and ways across. It’s very important to remember this is one person out of the wider group. If it’s one person out of 10, they’re entitled to their 1/10 opinion, and then it’s important that the other 90% of people get to have their opinion represented as well.
This post appears in Strata News #504.
Question: Can our body corporate committee refuse attendance at meetings by a mentally ill and very abusive lot owner?
Can our committee refuse attendance at meetings by a mentally ill and very abusive owner? Sadly this part-owner is also verbally abusing other owners, particularly the chairperson and our regular gardener and maintenance man.
Last night, at a committee meeting held in our strata manager’s office, she had a total meltdown screaming abuse at everyone while rushing out. Or should we be seeking an AVO?
Answer: If there is ‘verbal abuse’ happening at the scheme then it might be open to the committee to enforce relevant by-laws against this person, or even consider a nuisance proceedings under body corporate legislation.
How do you know this person is mentally ill? You might assume that from behaviour, but have they disclosed that? Even if this was the case, are you saying that someone’s mental illness is a reason to prevent them from attending meetings? It’s quite dangerous to make assumptions about these things.
With that in mind, has anyone actually engaged with the person, or her family (if known) about the situation? It might be, for example, that there is someone else (e.g., a guardian or administrator) that the committee can have a conversation with. Are there concerns about her wellbeing or the wellbeing of others she is associated with? If so then that is possibly a Police issue.
Is the person a committee member or was she attending on invitation from the committee? If it’s the latter, then it’s worth remembering that owner attendance at committee meetings is subject to a range of qualifiers. If she is a committee member then there’s no provision for the committee to exclude her. A committee member can be removed from their role by ordinary resolution at a general meeting.
If there is ‘verbal abuse’ happening at the scheme then it might be open to the committee to enforce relevant by-laws against this person, or even consider a nuisance proceedings under body corporate legislation.
I note you say the meeting was held at the body corporate manager’s office. It might be open to the manager to decide not to have the person on the premises, although that then means the committee would need to hold meetings elsewhere.
I recommend you seek legal advice about your options, including about an ‘AVO’ or similar.
This post appears in Strata News #491.
Question: How can the body corporate handle a lot owner who has a recurring habit of sending immature and bullying emails to anyone they have had a disagreement with?
I belong to a complex of 80 apartments. One owner has a recurring habit of sending immature and bullying emails to anyone they have had a disagreement with, no matter how mild.
How can the body corporate address this?
Answer: Draw a clear distinction between ‘body corporate stuff’ and ‘life stuff’ by creating an email only for body corporate business.
Unfortunately this is a very familiar query.
Let’s be clear: being ‘immature’ is not a capital offence. Nor is it against body corporate legislative provision. It’s just really, really annoying and pointless.
‘Bullying’ is also not specifically covered under the body corporate legislation, although there may be some action you can take in that regard, which I’ll get to shortly.
First step: ignore. Or better still, set your email spam filters to block said emails. You might also like to know there is no obligation on owners to provide their email addresses for the roll – although of course, it’s very convenient to do so. Perhaps another step, therefore, is to create an email only for body corporate business and don’t use your personal one. Create a clear distinction between ‘body corporate stuff’ and ‘life stuff’.
Second step: talk to the offending party. If it is safe to do so of course. If you feel threatened or think that talking to the person might cause a safety issue, don’t do it. Put the issues on the table and request they change what they do. Odd as it may seem, sometimes people aren’t aware that their behaviour is causing a problem.
If things persist, consider looking at the resources of the Federal Government eSafety Commissioner. There’s an option there to report abuse.
If the behaviour is criminal – e.g., threats or things get physical – that should be reported to the Police.
From a body corporate perspective, the body corporate can initiate by-law or nuisance proceedings against an owner in certain situations. These are very prescriptive processes and it is essential you both follow these to the letter or the law and also ensure you’ve gone through the motions of trying to solve this yourself. All of that is required under law. The body corporate may need to take legal advice on these points.
If you are the recipient of the behaviour which is in breach of a by-law, you can either request the body corporate do something about it – again, there’s a prescriptive process – or do something yourself, against that offending party.
If your body corporate doesn’t already have by-laws to address this situation, it might need to consider a motion for a by-law about the behaviour you describe. This requires a motion to pass at a general meeting and a new community management statement registered and take effect.
Let me ask you this: do you know much about where this person’s behaviour comes from? Do you know if, for example, they have a medical condition? Are they in a stressful life situation? Do they have capacity issues or perhaps a disability? Is there a language barrier? Is there some other issue prompting the behaviour? It is worth asking these questions as often they will help determine how to address the problem.
Finally, you might want to consider alternative dispute resolution. Mediation can help untie the knots that lead to this kind of behaviour and also might prevent it from occurring in future. It’s certainly something I can advise upon and assist within my role here and based upon my 5 years as Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management, where I saw this kind of thing a lot.
This post appears in Strata News #360.
Have a question about bullying emails from lot owners or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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