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Lobbying your owners

By Frank Higginson28 Apr 2008

There is a common misconception that resident managers cannot lobby their owners to vote in a certain fashion. It must be promulgated by people who want to stop resident managers having their say, because there is nothing in the Act or Modules that prevents anyone having their point of view put forward to other owners.

When a motion is included on the agenda for a general meeting, the maximum explanatory note to go with it (as circulated by the body corporate with the agenda) is 300 words. Sometimes this is not enough to get all of your points across.
There is nothing that prevents you from separately circulating written material to all owners expressing further detail, or putting forward your point of view.

That being said, there are some rules that you should try to follow to make sure that what you put forward is not attacked (especially if it is supporting something you want passed – like a new agreement).

Make sure what you say is accurate - If you are going to write to everyone, then make sure what you say is 100% correct. If you are referring to dates or dollars, make sure you check them before you circulate them. Inaccuracy on ascertainable detail makes it very easy to criticise the remainder of the submission.

Make sure what you say is not misleading - If something could be interpreted in more than one way – clarify what you mean. There is nothing worse than giving your detractors the chance to cast doubt on what you are proposing because it can be read in different ways. Alleged subterfuge can be exploited quite effectively by your opponents.

Avoid defamation - The last thing you need is threats of defamation and the like (which are easily thrown around, but harder to action). So if you are going to allege someone has or hasn’t done something, make sure you have a factual basis for that. In addition, lowering the tone of correspondence into personal attacks sometimes allows everyone to get caught up in something that is not the real issue. Be careful.

Circulate your ‘promotional’ material yourself - Don’t ask, or allow, your body corporate manager to circulate your material for you (unless it is part of the explanatory note referred to above). You are entitled to the names and addresses of all owners on the body corporate roll. Get these, make up your own labels, or even hand address envelopes! Allowing your body corporate manager to circulate material makes it easier for your detractors to allege collusion between you and the committee, which makes challenging the result of the motion more available.

Don’t make what you are asking for a surprise - Communicate with your owners regularly whether face to face, by phone, newsletters or emails. That way, you can be starting to manage their expectations about what you are looking for well before the papers hit for the general meeting.

Get committee support – Committee support for your motion does not necessarily mean it is guaranteed to get across the line, but it sure makes it a lot easier to convince some owners. Obtaining committee support is an entirely separate newsletter though!

These are some simple rules which are pretty easy to follow. If you do, you should avoid a lot of headaches.