The day of a strata manager can often be filled with negative phone calls and emails from tenants and property owners, where managers are either pulling their hair out or going grey. But there's often a humorous side to strata that is rarely seen – until now.
In the new book, Strata Living Stories, best-selling author and Ace Body Corporate Management CEO, Stephen Raff, has compiled a collection of unique stories that have been sent in by people involved in the strata sector and showcases some of the weirdest, wackiest and downright hilarious stories that the industry has witnessed. Some examples include:
A resident who hosed down a couple who were making too much noise being -intimate'
Complaints about a woman who liked to garden naked
Someone caught using common power to keep the dead body of a relative refrigerated
An owner's son who caused fire damage to an entire building after lighting a fire in the unit to -keep warm'
All stories included in the book are completely true and have been partnered with hilarious illustrations from an artist that is undaunted to fully explore the boundaries of the term -creative license'. A unique gift book, Strata Living Stories is a laugh-out-loud read for anyone who's ever lived in or managed a strata property.
Stephen Raff is the CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management which manages more than 60,000 units in Australia with property and assets under management worth $20 billion. Stephen has established over 100 franchised territories and the company has offices in all States and the Northern Territory, including most regional places in Australia. Stephen has written various articles on body corporate management for newspapers and magazines in Australia and internationally. He is the author of the bestselling book, The Body Corporate Handbook: A Guide to Buying, Owning, and Living in a Strata Scheme or Owners Corporation in Australia and co-authored the bestselling book, Top Franchise CEO's: Secrets Revealed and has written chapters for various other published books.
Strata Living Stories
Author: Stephen Raff
Question: Why did you decide to publish Strata Living Stories?
Stephen Raff: Strata Management is a difficult occupation, with many of the phone calls received daily of a negative nature. Strata community owners are often complaining to their manager about an ongoing dispute they are having with their neighbour over a car park spot or a pet that is keeping the whole unit complex up at night.
This is not the owners fault as they are just trying to find ways to resolve issues that are affecting them on a daily basis but sometimes they take this frustration out on their strata manager. The strata manager is dealing with complex legislation that differs greatly between each state and territory in Australia and attempting to provide an agreeable solution that works for all owners can be difficult.
Moreover, strata owners often mistakenly believe that their strata fees are going entirely to the manager for their service, this is simply not true as the fees are used to pay for insurance, ongoing maintenance and a myriad of other services to keep the strata community adequately maintained.
So I think at times it is important to look at the lighter side of strata and not always take everything too seriously, I have met some wonderful people from being in the industry for over 20 years and encountered some very interesting stories. I have attempted to compile some of the more memorable moments that I have either experienced myself or had relayed to me by other people involved in the industry. The result is -Strata Living Stories' and hopefully anyone that reads it is able to both identify with the stories and also have a laugh.
Question: Who did you have in mind when writing Strata Living Stories?
Stephen Raff: A combination of people really, I originally started filing these stories away because I knew they were too good not to share, I just needed the time and resources to put them all together. I knew people working in the strata sector could definitely relate to the stories and have a chuckle over circumstances they have already probably encountered. The wider commercial appeal to the public probably only started to materialise when I started viewing the quality of the illustrations.
The illustrations really brought the stories to life and I believe enabled a wider commercial appeal to the general public.
Question: Can you share with us, one of the unique stories?
Stephen Raff: A little old lady rang me up years ago and she said -I just can't sleep at night there's a constant banging on the wall, the bed is banging up against the wall and people are screaming. They're banging like rabbits'. She rang and rang me continually. After the police couldn't interfere with the noise complaint, the neighbour decided to take matters into her own hands.
Because she was complaining all the time the noises actually got louder and louder. So one weekend, it was a hot summer's day, their window was wide open and she got the hose and saturated them in their bedroom.
It was on for young and old after that.
Question: What are your top two tips for dealing with common strata issues?
Stephen Raff: Communication is the key to having a positive relationship with your neighbours in close proximity living. Many of the problems that Strata Managers deal with on a daily basis are quite tedious in foundation, however disputing neighbours have often escalated a situation simply because they are unwilling to compromise.
Generally, people want a peaceful and quiet strata community where they get along with their neighbours and share in the benefits of accessing common property. I have seen many properties where residents have been forced to move from their home because they no longer can live in close proximity to their neighbour, often this can be resolved with honest communication that takes into more than one side of the story.
Question: Why was it important to include vibrant illustrations?
Stephen Raff: Firstly we had very few photographs for many of these stories that have occurred at various stages throughout the last 20 years. I was also conscious of people's privacy so I didn't want to use real photographs of people or their strata property.
I had been in contact with the Illustrator, Will Baker for another project that my company was working on and was immediately impressed with his talent. I spoke with Will directly about a project that I had been working on for some time and he immediately was on the same page and possessed a similar style of humour to my own.
I asked him to work on three stories to start with and was impressed with what he sent back. Over the next few months, I commissioned him to produce 37 complete short stories.
The colourful illustrations help set the scene for some of the weird, wacky and downright hilarious things I have heard over the past 20 years.
Interview by Brooke Hunter