Communicate – Communicate – Communicate by Mike Spencer

We are all aware of Body Corporates that don’t function well. Why can this be? From my experience there are a small number of reasons for unhappiness in Body Corporate schemes.

Firstly problems can be cause by Trustees who think that they run the body corporate and happily go ahead and do what they want, how they want, when they want – all at the cost of the body corporate. These “bully” Trustees can spend money like water and do the most peculiar things on a whim. I have see Trustees like this sell very nice lounge furniture (mainly to themselves) to clear the lounge in a retirement village so that they could use it for “exercise classes” thereby depriving the residents of the frail care centre of anywhere to relax. They then went on to ban them from the dining room, because they did not like to eat with the “sick people”! The Trustees lived in their individual townhouses and only used the restaurant on rare occasions. These Trustees only relented when the owners of the frail care units threatened serious legal action if they did not back down.

 A second problem comes from poor general management. Body Corporates who cannot show where money is being used, what is being done about non-payers, people who break the rules and where management is in general chaos, tend to go from better to worse and can only be turned around when they get positive minded trustees who take their task seriously and appoint capable management which can report properly and clearly to the Trustees and at general meeting.

 However the main problem is lack of communication. However well run a Body Corporate which does not communicate with owners AND residents is likely to have problems.  A good managing agent will keep in regular communication with the Chairman of the Trustees about anything out of the ordinary, even if just to let them know that they have attended to an urgent problem that he or she might not yet be aware of. Regular trustees meetings should be held every 3 to 4 month at which the managing agents should go through the current financial situation and any unusual happenings in the building. If large items need to be attended to quotations should be brought to this meeting for a decision to be made by the trustees. Trustees should bring the managing agents up to date with any happenings at the building such as unhappiness with garden services, problem occupants, dog problems etc. After each meeting, including the Trustees meeting, ALL owners and residents should receive a newsletter bringing to their attention any items that the trustees and the managing agents think need to be highlighted (noisy dogs, putting out garbage, not littering the pool area, parking in the wrong place, washing on balconies etc).

 We all know what items MUST be on the AGM agenda, and they are very important, but the ACT says that only business that is on the agenda can be seen too. But how do you get items on to the Agenda for the AGM. No managing agent that I know of sends around a circular to say “We are going to be sending out the AGM notice. Would you like to add an item to the Agenda?”. I do know however managing agents that point blankly refuse to allow discussion about any item that is not on the agenda. To me this is crazy. The AGM is the only meeting at which owners can air their views about a wide variety of subjects. It is the only time many of them get together with other owners in their building and a lot of owners have traveled long distances at great cost and inconvenience – only to be told that they cannot talk to other owners about problems that they are experiencing because  it was not an agenda item.  While we understand that serious decisions involving spending of other than normal maintenance costs cannot be approved in this way, we see no barrier to owners raising issues for discussion. If the item is too serious it will have to go forward to a Trustees meeting, a Special General Meeting or even next years AGM, but most items that are raised are about quite minor things that can easily be handled by those that are at the meeting. Typical examples would be such as; Can we buy some fertilizer for the lawns. We are not happy with the work standard of the gardener. Can we buy some more dustbins. Can we please sort out the noisy dogs and the children that swim without supervision?  In my opinion I cannot see why these day to day housekeeping items cannot be discussed and decided on at the AGM. What do you think?

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