It’s an unfortunate reality, but on occasions, owners attending strata meetings or when they send emails may let their emotions get the better of them. In an ideal world, we’d like to think that we can all remain calm and composed when discussing motions and agenda items. However, that’s not the case. Some owners may start speaking louder than what’s socially acceptable, they may talk over other members or they may speak in a way that’s disrespectful to the rest of the room.
While we can’t control how somebody else reacts to a situation, we can control how we handle the situation. While it may be difficult, the other owners shouldn’t allow themselves to be drawn into the discussion with emotion. It’s always best to put your arguments forward in a rational, calm manner – irrespective of how anyone else is behaving.
If you feel comfortable, you could call out their behaviour as being unacceptable in the meeting. You could use phrases like, “It would be great if you could remain calm while we discuss this topic,” or “I’m not sure if you’re aware but you’re raising your voice unnecessarily.”
If the situation escalates and an owner becomes verbally or physically aggressive or threatens or intimidates anyone, then they’re breaking the law. In this situation, you’re entitled to call the police.
On the other hand, the tone of some emails sent by owners may not be appropriate. While strata schemes should encourage open lines of communication between lot owners and the strata committee, some owners may take advantage of this transparency.
At Netstrata, we’d advise setting up a dedicated email address for strata related matters. The Strata Committee could have access to the email account and respond when necessary. Unless you know the strata members on a personal basis, it’s best not to give out private email accounts to the other owners.
As using email is new to some people, they may not fully understand email etiquette. When replying to their question, maybe point out that the tone of the email was inappropriate.
If you feel comfortable, you could speak to the owner face-to-face. This way you could answer their question directly and give them guidance on using email. Sometimes communication does get lost over the email and they may not have meant to come across in the way they did. There may also be an under-lying reason why they said what they did – they could have just had a bad day.
If they persist and the issue becomes systemic, then uncouple the substance of the discussion with the way it’s being expressed. If the substance of the discussion requires mediation, then that avenue is open. Your Strata Managing Agent can assist you with the steps for mediation.
And if the emails become threatening or aggressive, then contact the police.
Another option, is to pass a specific by-law to handle correspondence. This really should only be considered if there’s a genuine problem with many owners and not an isolated incident with one particular owner.
If you have any questions around managing difficult owners, contact your Strata Manager at Netstrata.