How an advocate helped a strata owner overcome a bad case of bullying
Your Strata Property
Amanda Farmer interview with Kellie Wright
03 April 2016

Amanda Farmer: Hello and welcome. I’m Amanda Farmer and this is Your Strata Property. Kellie Wright is the Managing Director of Wright & Lee where she leads a team of strata experts who act as owner advocates for individual strata owners.

Kellie is also the Managing Director of Strata Influence, delivering individualized training programs to the strata industry. Before starting Strata Influence and Wright & Lee, Kellie gained over twenty year experience as a Strata Manager, including as a Director of Archers Body Corporate Management. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Kellie Wright from Wright & Lee. Welcome Kellie.

Kellie Wright: Thank you Amanda. It’s a pleasure to be a guest on your podcast.

Amanda Farmer: Lovely to have you. Kellie, I will start by asking you to tell us a little bit about what an owner advocate is?

Kellie Wright: Certainly. As an owner’s advocate, we represent the best interest of individual owners in strata title schemes. Owners of apartments, units, townhouses and commercial offices and shops even. We are a voice for owners who might otherwise put up with the status quo, even though that might not be in their best interest. We offer legislative and procedural advice, which is not influenced by the sometimes competing groups within a strata scheme. We assist owners in obtaining fair outcomes really. I’ve been a strata manager, I own strata properties and I’m on a committee. I can empathize with all the different points of views.

Amanda Farmer: Sounds like really important work.

Kellie Wright: It is very important work.

Amanda Farmer: Why you think it’s so critical for strata owners to have an owner advocate?

Kellie Wright: Well, when someone buys property, it’s the largest investment that they’ll probably ever make in their life.

Amanda Farmer: Yup.

Bad decisions or inactivity in a strata scheme can be costly

Kellie Wright: And yet all too often, they fail to protect that investment. Bad decisions or inactivity in a strata scheme can be costly and it might have a negative impact on the value of their investment. The strata legislation is complex, it’s not easy to understand and you really need quite an in-depth knowledge or understanding of the legislation to get by day to day quite often. So as an owner’s advocate we’re available to come in where there are problems, but sometimes owners have left or didn’t realize that there was a problem until it was too late, but we also come in earlier for a lot of owners and try to prevent those problems from ever arising.

Amanda Farmer: It’s so true what you say about the complexities of strata and strata law and the legislation. Do you think owners realize that when they are going into strata, or do you think it all comes as a bit of a shock?

Most people who purchase in strata have absolutely no idea what they are buying into.

Kellie Wright: It comes as a shock, definitely. Most people who purchase in strata have absolutely no idea what they are buying into.

Amanda Farmer: Yeah.

Kellie Wright: And it can be a wonderful lifestyle, if you are going to live there yourself and it can be a fantastic investment, but a lot of people really don’t understand what they are getting into.

Amanda Farmer: Yup, that’s definitely been my experience talking to new strata owners. Now, Kellie can I ask you to share a story around how you’ve helped an owner with your skills as an owner advocate?

I represented an owner who had been discriminated against, victimized, bullied

Kellie Wright: Certainly. I’ve got one story in particular and it’s really quite sad, but very rewarding. I represented an owner who had been discriminated against, victimized, bullied and it was that bad that after only eight months of purchasing his apartment he felt he was going to have to sell and move out. It was very uncomfortable for him and very, very stressful. He purchased two apartments in this one building and his plan was to live in one and to let one stay in the hotel letting pool, so it was mainly a holiday letting business. But what he didn’t realize when he purchased there was that no owners had ever lived on site.

Amanda Farmer: Right.

he was the first ever owner to actually move in and live there. This didn’t go down very well with the building manager

Kellie Wright: They had always purchased just for investment, so he was the first ever owner to actually move in and live there. This didn’t go down very well with the building manager, because he was taking one of the apartments out of the letting pool so that building manager was no longer going to be earning income out of that lot, so he wasn’t very popular. The committee had been in place for many, many years. The chairperson of the committee owned more than fifty percent of the lots, so was very controlling in what happened. This poor owner, no matter what he requested or what he brought up, it was always denied or ignored by the committee and the building manager.

Amanda Farmer: [Responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: And most of the committee they all did live either interstate or overseas, so they were never there on-site and couldn’t see some of these things. There were some really major safety and security issues that were all just being ignored.

Amanda Farmer: [Responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: They were repairs and maintenance that needed to be done, and that was for a safety issue, that no one would agree to do, and he asked for approval to install things like a storage cage in his car park, and even though a number of the other apartment had installed them, he was denied approval.

Amanda Farmer: [Responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: Even though his request was exactly the same as what was already there. Anything that he bought up: he bought up some energy efficiency areas that would have saved money for all owners; he highlighted overcharging that was happening which again would have resulted in savings for owners but all of that was ignored. He was then constantly breached on by-laws.

Amanda Farmer: Oh my gosh.

Kellie Wright: Yeah it was so sad, and he was being breached on by-laws that other occupants were breaching all the time…

Amanda Farmer: I’m sure.

Kellie Wright: and they were minor things. He put up Christmas lights the week leading up to Christmas.

Amanda Farmer: [laughing] How dare he?

Kellie Wright: [laughing] Yes, just little things. It was just constant niggling at him, or ignoring anything that he raised. It was a constant source of stress and his health really started to suffer, and the building was deteriorating during this time. So, he made contact with us at Wright & Lee out of total frustration.

Amanda Farmer: [Responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: And we were able to step in. We also had difficulty with the committee and the building manager. It wasn’t easy, but because we know the legislation, we know the industry, and we know what it takes to manage a building well.  We were able to come in and fight for that owner and through conciliation and adjudication we were able to get all of the outcomes that he had been fighting for. By that time it was twelve months, so it was twelve months of just absolute hell for him.

until he had a champion in his corner ... he was banging his head against a brick wall.


Amanda Farmer: And until he had a champion in his corner, that knew the ins and outs of strata and how to deal with managers, how to deal with committees, he was banging his head against a brick wall.

Kellie Wright: Absolutely, it was very sad.

Amanda Farmer: Very sad, but great to hear that you were able to get that result for him.

Kellie Wright: Yes.

Amanda Farmer: Now, couple of things in what you’ve said there. You mentioned with this particular owner, he’s bought into a building where it’s all holiday lets, he didn’t realize until he’s moving his stuff in, that that’s the case. I imagine that’s not an uncommon occurrence, and is there anything that owners can be doing when they’re buying in terms of investigations, finding out about the building… Did he do anything wrong by getting into that situation or is there anything he could have done to educate himself before he bought the unit?

Kellie Wright: Yeah, he really should have done searches on the body corporate or the owner’s cooperation.

Amanda Farmer: Right, so that’s searching their books and records?

Kellie Wright: Yes.

Amanda Farmer: Right.

Kellie Wright: Absolutely, and there’s experts who do that too.

Amanda Farmer: Yup.

Kellie Wright: An owner going and searching the books and records probably doesn’t know what to look for.

Amanda Farmer: [Responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: So they won’t know, unless it really stands out, that there are any issues there, so it is best to bring in an expert to look at that.

Amanda Farmer: Yup, because once you’ve signed that contract, that’s it.

Kellie Wright: Once you’re in there, that’s right.

Amanda Farmer: Okay. It’s great that you could step in for him in the way that you did. Does that include attending meetings and writing correspondence? What exactly is it day to day that you would do through Wright & Lee?

What exactly is it day to day that you would do through
Wright & Lee?


Kellie Wright: Certainly. It depends on the owners’ requirements: we have some owners who we vote on their behalf, we receive all of their paperwork, we read through it for the meetings, we vote on their behalf and we give them a one page report each year that just tells them the things that they need to know.

Amanda Farmer: Great.

Kellie Wright: Instead of them just ignoring all the paperwork that does come out, or reading it and not understanding it.

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: So, for those owners we vote as if we were the owner, we vote in their best interest. For other owners, we’re just brought in for a specific issue, they might want to get approval to do something and just don’t want to have to deal with the body corporate or the owner’s cooperation on it, so we come in and we do all of that for them. It really just depends on what that owner is wanting and we have couple of owners where we actually sit on the committee as their representative so…

Amanda Farmer: Great.

Kellie Wright: We’re quite flexible in what we can do for owners.

the most common challenges you’ve noticed owners face

Amanda Farmer: Fabulous. Okay, what are some of the most common challenges you’ve noticed owners face when it comes to dealing with their strata building, and what’s worked best in terms of overcoming them?

Kellie Wright: It’s definitely a lack of understanding of all of the paperwork that owners receive…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: And as you said before, it’s a lack of understanding of what they’re getting into…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: We’re all busy. We’ve all got busy lifestyles. We receive bundles and bundles of paperwork every year for our strata scheme, and we really don’t devote the time to reading it or understanding it…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: So it’s really a lack of understanding of the copious amounts of paperwork that owners receive when they own in strata…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: It’s a lack of time to devote to understanding what’s happening in their strata scheme and how it affects them, and the pitfalls of a few people who are often under-qualified people…

Amanda Farmer: Yes.

Kellie Wright: Making the decisions that affect all owners in the scheme and by that I mean the committee. They are generally people who are just like you and I, or just like the owner themselves…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: And they’re making decisions based on the advice that they’re receiving, but its decisions that aren’t always in the best interest of all owners. As far as overcoming those things, when you are an owner in strata, you have to know what you are buying into.

Amanda Farmer: Yup.

Kellie Wright: As we said before, a lot of people don’t understand what they’re buying into. They must pay attention to what’s happening, and you have to play an active role in protecting your investment. If you don’t, then you need to ensure that someone else is doing that for you really.

Owning and living in strata can be a very good investment and it can be a great way of life, as I said earlier, but there are pitfalls, especially if you don’t understand what you’re buying into.

Can you suggest any actions or some quick wins that a listener can take today to get started

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement] Now you mentioned there Kellie, and you were encouraging owners to pay attention and to take an active role… we probably have some listeners who, because they are listening to this podcast, are eager to do just that. Can you suggest any actions or some quick wins that a listener can take today to get started with improving their engagement with their strata community?

Kellie Wright: Definitely by reading everything that comes out…

Amanda Farmer: Yup.

Kellie Wright: And if they don’t understand it, then don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Amanda Farmer: So true. Yup.

Kellie Wright: And ask them of however many people you need to ask them of, until you get the answers…

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: Until you understand and get advice early, don’t leave it until you’ve got a problem.

Amanda Farmer: Exactly, and don’t forget to make contact with your strata manager: know who they are, because I come across quite a few owners who just don’t know who their strata manager is…

Kellie Wright: Yes.

Amanda Farmer: or how to contact them, and that’s not saying that you should bombard your strata manager with phone calls and emails, but they definitely should be your first point of contact, just to introduce yourself say “Hey, I’m a new owner, I’ve just bought, I’m in this lot, when’s the next meeting, can I have the minutes of the last meeting?” and that’s a really good place to start I think…

Kellie Wright: Absolutely.

Amanda Farmer: to have that engagement with your community.

Kellie Wright: Definitely, and your strata manager should be a valuable resource for you and all other owners in the scheme.

Amanda Farmer: I agree. Okay Kellie, personal question: what books have you read that have had the greatest impact on you and why?

Kellie Wright: Well, it’s quite funny, and quite boring really, at the moment I’m reading a manual.

Amanda Farmer: Of course. I’m sure a lot of managers and those in the industry can relate to that [laughing].

Kellie Wright: This manual is having a very big impact on me and I think it’s going to have a very big impact in the strata industry…

Amanda Farmer: Right.

Kellie Wright: and it is called the ABMA Building Management Code.

Amanda Farmer: Right.

Kellie Wright: At the moment it’s a Queensland edition, however they’re currently working on Australia wide editions. The ABMA is the Australian Building Management Accreditation.

Amanda Farmer: Right.

Kellie Wright: It’s going to change the way that buildings are managed, it will provide, or it does provide, a code by which all obligations and requirements for building management are met. So, it’s going to be an extremely valuable resource not just to building managers, but also to committees and owners.

Amanda Farmer: [responded in agreement]

Kellie Wright: Anyone who is trying to understand all the different requirements under the many different pieces of legislation that affects strata schemes. It’s going to give buildings a code to work towards and day to day tips and hints for the successful operation of the building – everything from how to manage minor works, to the requirements around fire compliance, for instance. So your fire contractors who come in and service your equipment will quite often make all of these recommendations to do things, and sometimes they are just that: they’re recommendations and they are not requirements. There’s a lot of confusion about what are considered requirements and what are recommendations. So this helps to weed out all of that grey and give very black and white answers to things.

Amanda Farmer: Sounds like a fascinating document.

Kellie Wright: It’s a step by step manual. It’s fantastic.

Amanda Farmer: Is that a public document yet? Is that something we can have a link to and I can put it up in the show notes for the episode?

Kellie Wright: I’m sure you can have a link; it’s something that needs to be purchased…

Amanda Farmer: Right.

Kellie Wright: And when you purchase it, you get it electronically or in this big thick manual…

Amanda Farmer: Okay.

Kellie Wright: Or you can get it both ways. And buildings can then be audited to show that they comply with the code and have a plaque in their building that states that they comply with the code.

Amanda Farmer: Okay. I might find the link to purchase that and I will put it up if any of our listeners want to check it out. Thanks for that tip. Any other books, or is that where your head is at the moment?

Kellie Wright: That’s where my head is at the moment.

Amanda Farmer: Okay.

Kellie Wright: And when you see the manual you’ll understand why [laughing].

Amanda Farmer: Right. Okay. Looking forward to it… not [laughing].

Kellie Wright: [laughing]

Amanda Farmer: Alright Kellie, just before we wrap up, how do the listeners find out more about you and is there anything that you’d like to add before we say goodbye?

Kellie Wright: How they can find out more about Wright & Lee and myself is to give me a call. Ring me on mobile: 0432 390 433. I’m happy to have a chat to owners, and just sometimes it’s just a matter of someone to head them in the right direction, and sometimes they do need more help, otherwise they can visit our website: www.wrightandlee.com.au or email me directly kellie@wrightandlee.com.au.

Amanda Farmer: Wonderful.

Kellie Wright: And before I go, I’d like to once again just stress that it might sound really complicated being an owner of strata property, but it can be a great lifestyle and a very good investment.

Amanda Farmer: I agree one hundred percent. Thank you so much for your time Kellie. It’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on our show.

Kellie Wright: Thank you Amanda.


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