A Rocky Horror Show-Strata in the Post Covid Era
The isolating Covid era has birthed hideous Monsters who dwell in an urban strata hell. These self-absorbed residents have contributed to a new madness – demanding emails, unreasonable expectations, and negation of strata law, thereby transforming many managers lives into a nightmare. Where once the Strata Manager and his committee shared the warmth of human connection, technology as an interface has revealed hidden shadows of anarchy and created a new norm in strata – that of the demanding client, the daemon monster!
Monsters in Strata come in many forms: The “policeman,” the “inspector”, the “victim,” and the “anarchist,” each one capable of undermining the physical, moral, and spiritual values of the strata manager and most owners in a Strata Plan. The “policeman” slimily spies on their neighbour, hunched in the shadows, waiting for her neighbour to place washing on the balcony in the sun. Mostly hidden, the shrouds of washing draw curdling emails. “Dear Strata Manager, the new tenants above my unit are hanging washing on their balcony. The building is looking like a third world country.” Or “Dear Strata Manager, on Saturday the tenant in Unit 10 parked illegally in Visitors’ Parking, ….” The stench of self-righteousness like an ominous pall.
The “inspector,” devours every financial transaction, gleefully pointing out a mistake in the ledger: “That item should be Minor Building Maintenance.” Transforming into a vexatious Vampire sucking the blood from the strata team, he demands documents, questions payments and authorisations, undermining committee decisions. He will denigrate expert reports, tell engineers how to solve water ingress through quick-fix solutions, prevent contractors from entering his lot and yet complain that his problem is not fixed. This monster can be taken to NCAT and might be easier to tame than the “victim.”
The victim-monster is insidious, dominating with a banshee voice, speaking over everyone, defending their transgression of by-laws or breach despite their knowledge, because “I have lived here for 20 years and everybody is always against me.” Desperate for a dollar, they subdivide their commercial lot, enter a lease with a tenant, agreeing the tenant can place a sign on common property advertising their business. “But it’s adding value,” they screech, bludgeoning the majority with an evil wail. Or, howling like a werewolf yearning for blood, they will defend their undermining and defaming antics because the strata manager is questioning their interpretation of strata laws.
Worst is the “anarchists”, who rejects all law, they “Rise like Lions after slumber … – Ye are many – they are few,” (Ode to Anarchy). In the landmark decision of Cooper versus The Owners – (‘The Cooper Case’), the New South Wales Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously ruled on eradicating blanket bans on animals in apartment complexes. Here, one recalcitrant owner’s insistence on keeping a pet, conveyed monstrous contempt for the majority will in a Strata Plan with a “no pets” policy. Like a tyrant, they undermined the intrinsic value of democratic decisions. Democracy became “de mockery,” highlighting how in the Age of the Individual, Monster Clients savage Strata Managers. They bludgeon those who may have entered the profession with idealism, managers who imagined laws would allow for the “peaceful enjoyment of common property.”
Finally, most ensnaring is the true progeny of Frankenstein, the monster created by technology, the strangling, life sucking “email.” Filled with the promise of better communication, the correspondence between client and strata manager has added a layer of work unimagined at the birth of the industry. The strata manager’s struggle to create order in a chaotic epoch, is both eased and compounded by the Jekyll and Hyde dream or nightmare of constant updates or expectation of instant responses. Shapeshifting into a Monster, the whipping impact of unreasonable expectations has tormented staff in the industry leading to a significant exodus of valuable strata managers.
In this new norm, expectations of prompt “service” cannot be sustained with ease. While a manager can formulate promises to client, and there are ways of automating an email response, the outcome is less than perfect. Automation of email responses implies the receiver is merely a number, part of a faceless mass. The survivability of a vibrant and unique relationship becomes questionable. Who will the manager speak with? The favoured committee member or the those who are ‘othered’ as demanding “monsters,” the tenant, the real estate agent, or the abject owner. Liberty, equality, and fraternity are subjugated by the crushing burden of emails, calling into question the optimistic belief in technology to enrich strata management: each day as the manager opens their hundreds of emails with trepidation in their heart.
So, how does the Strata Manager find solace in the ghastly realm? How do they transform Hyde into Jekyll? They turn to Nature for inspiration; there in dreams of verdant realms, devoid of fire, drought, or flood, free of mould and leaking roof, they call upon their clients to save the sublime, the future of their children threatened by climate change. In Nature the anguished Monster can sooth frayed nerves. Energy efficiency, participation in Government schemes, waste management and a focus on “greening” a building can offer hope and allow imagined futures for each man and woman emerging from the Covid cocoon.
Transcending the monstrous morass, Strata Managers can call for a rebellion against Owners enslaved by values opposed to future sustainability. The call of “the wild” can lift the soulless from their self -obsession and focus on petty disputes in pursuit of common good. Touting initiatives like Sustainable Sydney, a vision set for the city where grants are endowed, and guidance is offered, Strata schemes can provide a green, global, and connected future. In a new dawn for Strata Management, the focus can be on hope, and individuals can banish miserable Monsters into the mist.
Monsters unleashed during the Covid era can be disempowered in the transformation of a strata into a beacon of a ideals, providing the sustenance to defeat daily daemons in a kinder, less crushing world.