Ian McKnight of ClarkeKann Lawyers have spent years of his life dealing with several legal issues, helping people get through the process in the most effective and efficient way possible.
He—together with fellow lawyer James Nickless—recently handled CK Strata, a new division of the established law firm, and has since witnessed different types of hassle and trauma that property investors go through to detangle an issue.
"I imagine a lot of people when they think of strata, they think about the financing or the purchasing opportunity for them. It's a bit of an afterthought... the need to be proactive about it, [and] when you get to the back end of it, when you're trying to detangle a strata issue, it puts a lot of emotional toll and stress on people, if they get to that point," Smart Property Investment's Phil Tarrant said.
According to Ian, the legal process can definitely affect relationships and even one's health, that's why he always tells his clients to practice being proactive from the get-go.
He said: "People should make themselves very aware of what they're buying into... [and] they need to understand how this owners’ corporation functions. The owners’ corporation is responsible, in effect, for the administration or management of the building—arranging maintenance, insurance, all those sorts of things."
"It can only do that through the vehicle of a meeting and it's really important that owners, when they buy into a strata situation, understand that," the lawyer added.
"It's unlike a situation where you and I, for instance, can make decisions about painting our house. If we live in a standalone house, we can just go off, being natural people, and make that decision.
"An owners’ corporation's quite different. It can only do so through the vehicle of a meeting. It's a bit like a company—operating through a board of directors or [like a] general meeting."
For property investors looking into investing on strata, one of the things that they should look for is full transparency among all parties involved, Ian said.
"It's also important for people to understand the vehicle of meetings and what they do—their proper regulation notices, minutes, all those sorts of things," he said.
"To come to your specific point about disputations... all these things should [have been] gone through at a meeting, where proper notice is given, [and a] proper discussion.
"There should be, I suppose, full transparency given and that can take the form of documents being annexed to the notice paper or even bringing in people who know something about the dispute."
People only have to deal with a high level of emotional stress if they don't know how to handle the situation involving strata, and if they have no clear idea of their goals and objectives as property investors. Ian said a lot of disputes and complications can be avoided or reduced by all citizens of the strata if personal feelings are taken out of the picture.
After all, like any other investment, putting money on strata is also just a form of business.
"A lot of the disputation can be reduced if the emotion is taken out because once you start to bring in people's feelings and their concerns, [their] emotions, it can spin out of control," Ian said.
"I gave some advice... to a client who's got a major issue involving trees, as a matter of fact," he shared further.
"Now this is really important to her and I said, 'Well, basically, there are two ways you can deal with this.' I said, 'You can pretend your life is like a room and you spread your dispute out and you've got all the papers lined out and tables right through the room and when you need to deal with a particular aspect, you just walk over to the table and pick up a piece of paper.' That's way one.
"Way two is to put all the papers in a box, and when you need to deal with some aspect, you get the box out of the cupboard, put them on the table. Then look at it. When you're finished, put them back and put them in the cupboard. I say way two is the way to do it.
"I know that's very difficult for people because, obviously, it affects amenity of life, maybe their financial situation, but... that option two that I've just described is certainly the way that I'd be recommending. Do away with emotion because people become very distracted and warped in their thinking," Ian reiterated.
"I say to clients... if worry was going to help you, and [if] stressing out would help, then yes, please do it. Absolutely, bring it on. But unfortunately, it's not [helping]," he concluded.
Tune in to Ian McKnight and James Nickless' episode in The Smart Property Investment Show to know more about the rules behind strata, the politics involved with the owners' corporation, as well as their tips and tricks to ensuring buyers receive the right advice at the right time.