The Power of Owner Subcommittees
Sharing the workload at apartment complexes can produce amazing results during major projects such as renovations.
When the owners of City Towers, an upmarket apartment complex with Art Deco overtones in East Perth, set about renovating the 37-year old property it was all hands on deck.
The Council of Owners called on the talents and expertise of many of their co-owners by forming special committees, or short term action groups, to give life to the project, including each of the foyers on its 16 floors.
“Owners were called upon to become part of a short term action group for the foyer designs. A cross section of owners joined the group and collaborated to come up with two different designs for the foyers,” says Kyra Murphy, SCA (WA)’s 2020 Strata Manager of the Year and a director of the firm which manages the complex.
“The owners were involved on each level, and basically got to choose the design for their own level. It was all within an Art Deco kind of feel and a chosen colour palette, but really the owners could go away and choose what they wanted.
“The good thing about that is all those owners felt they were getting something that they wanted and they were giving input to the process.”
City Towers also used STAGs to successfully tackle sustainability, its bin and recycling room, its pet keeping policy, the exterior refurbishment of the building and its logo design.
The end result was a big contributor to the complex taking out the People’s Choice award at this year’s WINConnect Apartment Awards for Excellence.
Murphy says STAGs help distribute the workload for Council of Owners, which are limited in size from one to seven members.
She says the action groups are often used by bigger residential and commercial properties.
So how does it work?
Members of the Council of Owners can each set up action groups to work on different aspects of a property. Owners participating in the groups do not have to be appointed at an AGM and do not have to be on the Council of Owners.
“Normally when you have a large project that needs to be done within a building the committee will have sub committees or short term action groups created so they can go away and focus on those areas and come back and report to the main committee,” Murphy says.
The size and makeup of the groups can be as diverse as the properties and projects themselves.
“If it is a smaller project it may be an action group of anywhere from one to five people,” Murphy says. “If it is a big project you may find that major project has other action groups within it.
“If for example you are doing a renovation of an entire office block, there could be one action group in charge of the external facade. You may have another one in charge of beautifying the front foyer area…
“There might be one person who has a passion or love for landscaping and they may go off and find another four owners to help them with that project.”
Murphy says the action groups are often used to put together concepts which go back to the Council of Owners or the owners-at-large at an AGM.
Steady, set, go
SCA (WA) President, Catherine Lezer, a serial owner in various apartment complexes, is also a fan of short term action groups.
“I recommend putting a notice in the lift and in the newsletter asking if anyone is interested,” she says.
“All you need is a couple of people — the group doesn’t need to be large. But you do need at least one person who is a ‘doer’.
“Many people want to get involved to know what goes on, but the actual doing of the work is another matter.”
Lezer says the working groups can be a great way to unite a complex and get work done.
“People who you never ever see at meetings can pop up to get involved,” she says.
“Everyone has different interests and skills. Some people may find the normal strata meeting boring, but might be leading the charge on electric vehicle charging.
“Really though the name says it all — these are projects with a goal.”
Lezer says strata managers also have an important role to play with projects.
“Strata managers need to know about upcoming projects to make sure the works are properly scoped, approved and budgeted,” she says.
“Not all the expertise is within the STAG — and strata managers have a good pool of project managers, contractors and other experts.
“Multiple quotes will be needed for large expenditure. Strata managers may need to send out information to all owners, any quotes will need to go into upcoming budgets and any approval will need to be voted on at an AGM or EGM.”
And in East Perth, City Towers stands testament to the power of action groups.
Murphy, says it is proof of what can be achieved.
“If you look at the age of the building and you go through the property you can see how good it looks,” she says. “It’s a beautiful building.”