Saturday, 12 April 2008

Being Bullied: What to do in Out-of-Control EOGMs.

We've heard this before, and maybe even experienced it ourselves.

Name calling.
Shouting for you to sit down and shut up.
Telling you off, saying you had better stop talking because people have better things to do.

No, I'm not talking about a teacher scolding students. I'm talking about an Enbloc EOGM. But truth be told, the idea's the same - someone of perceived 'greater' authority talking you down, like you're an idiot and what you say is insulting the audience.

We've been told, in recent EOGMs, the following have occurred:-

  • Owners not allowed to speak or ask questions during an EOGM
  • Owners not allowed to vote at an EOGM
  • Owners told off by other owners, or SC members, to shut up
  • Owners even threatened (verbal and gestural means) to stop talking and leave the room
  • Owners not allowed to query the SC, nor will the SC bother to respond
What can you do?

  1. Direct from the Parliamentary debate in Sep 2007, a quote from Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) in response to Prof Jayakumar: "The Minister mentioned, in his answer to my oral question in the last sitting, that any owner who at any time feels that he is being harassed or intimidated to consent to an en bloc sale may lodge a Police report." So 1 route to take - Police Report. The aim is not to threaten back, but to ensure a "civil and restrained behaviour" from everyone.
  2. If you have been prevented from voting: Check with a lawyer familiar with enbloc laws and the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA). See if their stopping you from legitimately voting may constitute a breach of the BMSMA (Section 104) where an owner was improperly denied a vote on a motion. If this is the case, apply to STB to have the resolution repealed. You can find more information here.
  3. If you've been bullied/shouted at/name called: Don't lose your cool, nor be impatient, nor should you retaliate or respond to the bully. Their aim is to make you look the fool if you lose your composure. Instead, speak DIRECTLY to the Chairman of the Management Council (who should be present at the EOGM) and request that the Chair tell the bully to calm down. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure the meeting is held in an orderly fashion, after all. If the Chair is pro-sales, or in the SC, see point (4) below. Irregardless, it is his responsibility to ensure the EOGM is conducted with due diligence. If he doesn't, just ask him "So can it be minuted that I, the owner of Unit X, has requested for order to be maintained at the EOGM, and the Chair has declined to do so. The owner of Unit X would also like to remind other owners that if they feel their time is wasted by me, they are welcome to leave the EOGM. Please leave your contact details with the MC Secretary or Managing Agent, so you can be contacted when voting begins". Follow this with a nice, polite and wide smile. Ensure that if order is not maintained, that it becomes minuted that you have explicitly requested the Chair to do something about it.
  4. If the Chair is pro-sales, or in the SC even, BMSMA Section 61.2 applies: "(2) A member of a council, or an officer or an agent or a managing agent of a management corporation, shall not use his position as a member of the council or as an officer, an agent or a managing agent of the management corporation to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for himself or for any other person or to cause detriment to the management corporation." You can lodge a complaint with STB that the Chair or Managing Agent is not performing their duty when they refuse to maintain order in the EOGM. And get any resolution from that EOGM repealed. Again see the list of complaints that you can lodge with the STB here or read the relevant section of the BMSMA Act here. (Yes, STB handles not just enbloc sales, but complaints from subsidiary proprietors.)
Always consult your lawyer on the possible actions that can be taken against an out-of-control MC or SC who refuse to treat you like an adult and a human being. Another lawyer pointed out that a 'declaratory order' can be made against the SC/MC, but you'll need to obtain more information from your lawyer about this.

I don't like to be bullied. I like to bite back, but in EOGMs, I'd like to bite back where it hurts most - legally and legitimately. The sting will last for a while, I'd think. :)

Of course, you should act a gentleman (or lady) and be mindful of all owners - if you wish to ask questions of the SC/MC/Lawyer/Agent during an EOGM, keep things short and to the point. Don't prepare to bombard 1000 questions at them, or you will lose your credibility as an intelligent and concerned owner who just wish to let everyone know there are serious issues with the sale. Keep to the big issues, and keep to the point.

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