Every year at the AGM, new trustees are chosen. Trustees can be re-elected year after year, and there is nothing wrong with that, provided the trustees are doing a good job of looking after your interests.
“It is a fact that only a few of the owners want to be trustees. Don’t forget that a trustee does not have to be an owner or spouse of an owner, providing that 50% or more are owners, so you could choose your tenant to be a trustee. It does help if at least some of the trustees live at the building,” says Mike Spencer of Platinum Global.
“There is no such thing as ‘trustee training’, and no legislation requires trustees to have special skills.”
Spencer says sometimes you are lucky to have professional trustees who are or have been professionals such as business owners, architects or lawyers, as they can give sound advice, but even laymen can be very good trustees provided everyone understands that:
1. Trustees represent all owners – not themselves or a clique of owners.
2. They have a duty to be fair and treat everyone the same.
3. Trustees should do whatever they decide for the benefit of the building and all its owners and residents.
4. That residents have the same rights as owners, except voting and the likes. They cannot treat tenants differently from owners, so they cannot prevent tenants from using the pool and allow owners to do so, as an example.
Spencer says trustees must run the building in terms of the “Registered” rules – they cannot just make up rules. No rules can be enforced unless they have gone through the correct procedure for rule changes, and have been registered at the Deeds Office.
“I strongly suggest that you apply for a copy of your registered rules and compare them to the rules that you are using,” he says.
“Trustees cannot make as many decisions as they think, for example, they cannot give approval to make changes to the outside of the building, allocate exclusive use areas, decide on renting out portions of the buildings etc., without getting approval of the body corporate at a general meeting.”
Spencer says they would not, for example, be able to give permission for owners to put up solar panels unless the matter had been discussed at a general meeting and the owners had indicated what the acceptable standards were. They must also give any permission subject to suitable conditions.
For example, the solar panel must be of a particular style, colours, size, put into a specific position, the panel may not be removed and becomes the ownership of the body corporate when the installer moves out, that the installer is responsible for the maintenance of the panel, and that this condition will go forward to any new owner, and so forth.
Spencer says trustees are there to see that things go along smoothly between main meetings of the body corporate – they should not interfere with day to day work of good managing agents.
They should, however, oversee to make sure that the work of the managing agents is being done by checking that the accounts are being paid and money is being properly invested and accounted for.
“Trustees also generally oversee any major projects that are undertaken, normally signing off before the contractor is paid. The chairman should work with his other trustees, not in place of them,” says Spencer.
“Choosing the right trustees is as important as choosing the right managing agent.”