At this time of the year, I visit a number of strata management companies across Sydney to deliver workshops to managers on interesting legal topics. I am currently in the throes of delivering a workshop titled “Dealing with Difficult Residents”.

For the purposes of the workshop, I categorise “difficult residents” generally as:

  •  the criminal
  •  the know-it-all
  •  the domineering committee
  •  the rebel
  •  the bully lawyer
  •  the mentally ill resident

Not only does “the criminal” breach the by-laws, he or she engages in some seriously anti-social and illegal behaviour, including drug dealing, property damage and theft.

The “know-it-all” is the newly graduated university student (usually with a law degree in hand) who “just wants to make this a great place to live”, upsetting the status quo and criticising an already overworked and under-appreciated committee.

The “domineering committee” challenges the strata manager at every turn, ignores advice and, by its micro-managing, increases costs for the building all round.

The “rebel” parks whoever they want to, leaves their personal items on common property, installs floorboards without approval doesn’t turn up to NCAT hearings.

The “bully lawyer” usually acts for a lot owner in dispute with the owners corporation. He or she catches the strata manager off guard and later quotes ‘admissions’ the manager had made over the phone about the liability of the owners corporation.

The “mentally ill resident” is a particularly difficult case which requires a balance between understanding and empathy and confident enforcement measures, often involving the police and health-workers.

What I try to sheet home to the participants of this workshop is that there are means available to effectively deal with each of these categories of people. There are legal processes, but there are also some very practical, common-sense measures. In my experience, these practical measures are grounded in clear communication, consistent approaches to enforcement, and the confident assertion of rights and obligations. Where these three elements are present, a committed strata manager, with the support of appropriate advisors, can deal effectively with difficult residents.

As I continue to collect the experiences of many hard working managers across Sydney, I am interested in hearing about how you deal with difficult residents day to day. Have you experienced residents falling into one of the above categories? Maybe you are dealing with one now and need some guidance, or just a place to unburden.

Let’s share, learn and grow.


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