Avoid these 7 common strata council member mistakes
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Serving on your strata council can be challenging. No matter what your level of experience, mistakes can happen. Although some of these missteps have simple solutions, the ideal scenario would be to avoid them altogether.
What are the seven common mistakes strata council members make?
Not working together
Sharing confidential information
Not being open minded
Lack of communication
Read on as we break down each mistake and provide the solution to avoid it.
1. Getting personal
Typically, residents volunteer to serve on the strata council to help improve the community and increase residents’ enjoyment. However, emotions or personal disagreements can sometimes get in the way and create rifts within the strata council or with members of the community.
Solution: Always be professional and make rational decisions.
Learning to prioritize the community's needs is crucial for any strata council member. This means recognizing that you’re not acting as an individual. Seasoned strata council members know the importance of navigating their emotions. This includes accepting the strata council’s decision – even if they disagree. Once a decision is reached, the community must see that the strata council is moving forward together.
The strata council’s role is to set the strategic goals and policies of the community. The management company enforces those policies and manages the community’s day-to-day operations.
Some strata council members may initially feel they need to stay on top of everything. As a result, they either interfere in the duties assigned to their property management company or delve too deeply into the details of their community’s operations, thereby hindering operating processes.
Solution: Partner with a trusted property management company.
A good management company works with the strata council by offering training, identifying cost savings, assisting with the annual budget, and more.
Strata councils should ensure that the management company they hire is trustworthy and capable of fulfilling its role without constant oversight. In a good partnership, strata council members and the management team understand their responsibilities and work together to carry them out.
3. Insufficient training
New strata council members may be so enthusiastic that they jump in with both feet. However, strata council members who haven’t spent time reading the governing documents, learning the expectations of their new role, or understanding the history of the community can quickly run into some challenges.
Solution: Undergo training.
Upon joining the strata council, new members should read their governing documents. This ensures they fully understand the strata corporation’s current policies and their function as a strata council member.
If the strata management company offers strata council training (and it should), new members should enroll. The right training will cover topics like running strata council meetings, preparing budgets, insurance coverage, and understanding the value of depreciation reports. Training goes a long way in supporting council members in getting the resources they need to fulfil their responsibilities.
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4. Not working together
When serving on a strata council, you act in tandem with your fellow members. In fact, you could be liable if you make a big decision alone (like hiring a new vendor).
Additionally, when individual members take drastic measures without alignment from their council, they may damage the strata corporation’s reputation and cause significant friction in the future.
Solution: Work alongside council members.
As a strata council member, it’s your duty to respect the consensus of the strata council. Regardless of your personal preference, once the group reaches a decision, you should respect it.
Standing united not only helps strengthen those relationships but also improves your reputation with residents. Having a healthy and unified strata council helps you reach decisions and develop policies more efficiently.
5. Sharing confidential information
Strata council members shouldn’t discuss strata business outside of an official meeting. That includes potential policies, violations, and vendor relationships. Even if a comment seems harmless, you may be putting yourself or your strata corporation at risk. Particularly if you’re not on the same page as your strata council.
Solution: Limit strata business conversations to council meetings.
Think twice before discussing business matters outside of council meetings in in-person and email conversations. Do not share sensitive information such as legal issues, attorney opinions, appeals, or personal, financial, and health information of staff or council members.
6. Not being open minded
Contrast to the strata council member who's eager to change everything is the one who's unwilling to make any changes. This can range from keeping reserve funds in a bank account that doesn’t yield interest to holding onto a strata management company that isn’t providing the right level of service. Being unwilling to change or being too comfortable with the status quo may not be in the best interest of your strata community.
Solution: Re-evaluating the corporation’s needs and opportunities each year.
The first thing you should assess is whether your management company is giving you enough value. So much of your community’s success depends on the company you work with. A large company will have the depth of resources to keep up with new developments in the industry. They will also provide you with innovative approaches to generating income, saving money, and running your day-to-day operations.
7. Lack of communication
Sometimes the strata council must make a necessary, but unpopular, decision. This can range from raising assessment fees to not addressing a resident concern right away due to more pressing issues.
In either case, a common strata council member mistake is neglecting to inform the community. This can be incredibly frustrating for residents when strata council members are difficult to reach or don’t respond to their questions and concerns.
Solution: Transparent communication with residents.
Transparency is one of the main resident concerns in strata corporations. Your strata council must ensure clear communications are sent out via various channels. Emails, postal mail, bulletin board postings, and uploads to your community website are all examples of efficient resident communications.
Most importantly, strata council members should recognize resident concerns. Best practices suggest communicating quickly with the community to let them know their concerns have been heard. This will encourage transparency and answer any questions.
Lean on your strata management company’s experience to help avoid common strata council mistakes
Serving as a strata council member can be a rewarding experience, but it comes with a set of responsibilities. By avoiding these common mistakes, you are well on your way to succeeding in your role.
In addition to your knowledge, lean on your strata management company’s experience to help avoid common strata council member mistakes. They have years of experience working with strata councils and have learned how to avoid these common pitfalls.