Bullying. It’s something that we wish we could have been left behind in school, but unfortunately, this type of behaviour can still be found in workplaces, on the internet, and even in strata committees.
Disagreements are often part and parcel of being on these committees and can result from healthy, productive discussions. It’s when these disagreements turn into personal attacks, intimidating and aggressive behaviour, that they become a form of bullying.
So what can you do when you’re confronted with a bully on your strata committee?
Determine the severity of the bullying
A great first step is to establish whether you are the only person who is subject to bullying. If other committee members also feel as though they are being bullied, it can be much easier to take action together.
Maintain any records of bullying
If the bullying takes place in a written form, it’s essential that you keep a record of it to provide proof that harassment occurred. Any relevant photographs should also be kept, and witnesses to instances of bullying should also be used to solidify your case.
Establish relevant by-laws to deal with the issue
Though strata scheme by-laws tend to cover a range of topics and behaviours, there is a chance that your scheme’s by-laws will not cover how to deal with bullying in strata committees. To remedy this, consider how you can propose additional by-laws at your strata’s next Annual General Meeting (AGM) regarding a code of conduct – these by-laws are enforceable by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and, if not resolved to your satisfaction, can be escalated to this tribunal for it to play a mediating role.
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Issue warning notices
If possible, you should consider requesting that the strata committee or strata manager issue a warning notice to the bully on your behalf. Issuing a warning notice does require approval from a majority of owners at the AGM, so once again, be sure to raise the issue at the next meeting.
Know your legal rights
Though NSW strata law does not clearly cover how to deal with bullying, certain regulations can prove to be valuable knowledge. Through the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2019, the NSW Government was able to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 so that it now protects the rights of tenants who might be subject to domestic abuse.
Furthermore, if there has been a physical attack or a threat of violence, the other members of your strata committee can assist you in applying for an AVO – an apprehended violence order.
Dealing with bullies is one of many forms of disputes that can potentially arise living in a strata scheme. We here at Jamesons understand this, and so have made a handy guide to conflict resolution.