Good trustees are the key to the smooth running of Sectional Title schemes, but many owners in these schemes don't actually know what their trustees do, how to communicate with them or even who they are.
"It is unfortunate but many people who buy Sectional Title homes don't show much interest in the management of their schemes unless things start go wrong - or unless they are asked to pay a special levy," says Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar*.
"We have hundreds of Sectional Title schemes under management and in our experience, it is often difficult to get owners to even attend the AGM of their body corporate and participate in the election of the trustees - let alone get to know them on a first-name basis."
So it is no surprise, he says, that in many instances, owners don't know what the trustees are supposed to do in terms of the Sectional Title management rules, or if they are carrying out their mandate correctly.
"But on the other hand, we find that the trustees are often quite happy with this anonymity, because they don't have the time or the inclination to get too involved in the day-to-day running of the scheme or its finances - and don't want other owners 'bothering' them with questions or requests.
"They want to appoint a strong managing agent, hold the minimum number of meetings, and deal with the formalities as quickly as possible, especially if they are business or professional people with their own work to attend to."
However, Schaefer says, there is no doubt that schemes run better when there is good communication between the trustees and the other owners. "There is much less potential for problems to go unattended or for misunderstandings and disputes to arise when the trustees have to raise money for essential projects or enforce the conduct rules.
"Consequently, there are a few initiatives we like to suggest to foster better relations between the trustees and other owners, starting with a memo sent out straight after the trustees are elected at the AGM that introduces them and outlines what projects are planned for the coming year."
Progress updates can be sent out during the year, he says, and owners should also be informed when and where the trustees' meetings are being held. They should know that they are entitled to attend and speak at these meetings if they have issues they would like to raise.
"It is also very helpful for the scheme to have its own website where the management and conduct rules can be published and explained, along with regular 'news' updates or newsletters, and the contact details of the trustees and the managing agent."
"These days, many Sectional Title schemes also have their own Whatsapp or Facebook groups where owners can exchange information, and there are also a number of cell phone apps available to facilitate more effective communication of maintenance and other issues to trustees and/ or the managing agent, and provide access to preferred service providers."
Also useful, Schaefer says, are "meet-and-greet" events with a purpose, such as the issuing of new remote codes. These are a good way for owners to get to know each other as well as the trustees. These don't need to be complicated events - perhaps just a bring-and-braai or something similar.
"And finally, we think it is a good idea to remind all owners towards the end of a financial year that it is their responsibility to elect trustees who they believe will act in their best interests - and to encourage them to attend the next AGM to do so - or even to consider becoming a trustee themselves.
"Sectional Title schemes are communities and the more members of the community that are involved and engaged in promoting their wellbeing, the better."
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