Watch what you say

In May this year, the NSW District Court awarded a strata committee chair $120,000 after he launched defamation proceedings against another resident in the building who had sent an email referring to the chair as a “small-minded busybody”.

The story was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, and describes how things can escalate fast in just one or two emails.

In this case, emails that copied in a number of people, were exchanged over the issue of an unlocked letterbox which escalated into a small war of words. The District Court found that the emails sent by the resident were written in such a way as to ridicule and humiliate him.

The court awarded the pay out plus costs to the chair.

However, in a subsequent and recent appeal to the Court of Appeal (also reported in the Sydney Morning Herald), the original decision was overturned with the court finding that the resident was somewhat protected via a qualified privilege meaning that the email exchange was subject to immunity from a law suit.

All this might have been avoided if just some of the elements for harmonious living had been observed. Some tips include:

  • Being inclusive of all owners and tenants
  • Recognising that there may be cultural differences
  • Being sensitive and mindful of others
  • Encouraging residents to engage with each other
  • Avoiding any form of name calling in heated siuations
  • Ensuring the by-laws are easily accessible and all residents and owners know where to find a copy

Once an email is out there it can get out of control and cause all sorts of damage. Never write and send an email in the heat of the moment. Write it, set it aside and come back in a day or two and see if it really needs to be sent.

Sometimes a calm face-to-face chat can work wonders.