WHO IS THE BODY CORPORATE – MANAGING EXPECTATION
July 20, 2023
It is a common misconception of many new and some long-term strata property owners that the body corporate manager is the body corporate! This misconception is a well-known issue within the strata industry who continue to provide stakeholder education, but why is this a problem? The short answer is that the decision or action an owner is requesting, often requires the strata manager to seek a body corporate committee decision or instructions. This extra step for decision making often results in frustration, particularly when an immediate decision or action is expected because the owner has an urgent issue.
In our experience, it is difficult for new strata property owners to relate what a body corporate is and does compared to any other property matter they deal with. In most instances, we find that owners relate their dealings with the body corporates to real estate companies who are property managers or local Councils who have authority over public land. The general expectations are that the owner can simply call or email and tell you want they want done, and it’s done without any further requirement to interact.
When it is explained that the body corporate manager cannot make decisions on behalf of the committee and the owner is also a member of the body corporate, there is often frustration and impatience. This reaction is particularly common when an immediate answer to an improvement or pet approval request is wanted because they are moving in tomorrow with fido in tow and the builders are coming next week!
So how do we manage these expectations and explain “who is the body corporate” in simple terms I hear you ask!
If you were to google the question “Who is the Body Corporate” this is the top result you will get:
“What is a body corporate. A body corporate is a legal entity which is created when land is subdivided and registered under the Land Title Act 1994 to establish a community titles scheme. All of the owners in a community titles scheme are automatically members of the body corporate when they buy their lot. 13 Jan 2023”
As you can see from this result, the answer to the question leads to more questions which we have covered extensively in our FAQ’s section of our website Here.
Not only do you need to explain what a body corporate is, but also answer the following questions to fully understand who does what, how and when:
- What is a Community Titles Scheme (CTS)?
- What is the role of a Body Corporate Manager?
- What is a Committee?
- What is a General Meeting?
- What is common property?
- What is the role of a Building Manager?
Explaining who is the body corporate and managing owners expectations
Rather than go into detail explaining legislative processes which the owner can read for themselves (and may not want to know), we determine what the enquiry is about which is generally broken up into the following categories:
- Administrative such as update or access to records.
- Secretarial related to the committee and general meeting process/decisions and motions.
- Financial when either levies, payments and status of accounts are queried.
Once we know where the enquiry fits, we can then let them know what our role is and how we can progress the matter for them. By explaining the body corporate managers role as service providers who are engaged to provide administration services and seek instructions from the committee for decisions, the expectation of what we can do to assist them is set.
The tricky part though is working out what is being requested when the owner’s enquiry has multiple aspects that are partly body corporate responsibility, part complaint about a neighbour and part something that has nothing to do with the body corporate at all, but is expected to be!
Once we can break down where the request fits, we can then assess who is responsible and if a decision is needed and if so, who’s decision it is.
In many instances, as the appointed body corporate managers we can simply assist with providing records, which is often requested. Finance management queries on levies can be resolved directly as this all happens behind the scenes without requiring committee instructions. Records of correspondence detailing interactions with owners are then tabled at the next committee meeting as record of communications and services provided on behalf of the body corporate.
In instances where a decision needs to be made, we can guide the owner on how they are to formally request what they want and details they need to provide in support. Typically, all requests need to be in writing either via email or via an online form we have conveniently provided to assist with general requests. Once all the details for the request are received, we can then assess the authority level that applies and provide guidance to the committee on both legislative and by-law parameters that apply so they can provide us with instructions to act on their behalf.
To recap, here are our top tips on how to explain “who is the body corporate” and how we manage expectation:
- Consider the priorities of the owner making the enquiry – they normally just want a decision made and to know how long this will take.
- Categorise where the enquiry fits (Administration, Secretarial or Financial) and if a decision needs to be made and at what authority level.
- Be clear on what the body corporate managers role is in assisting with the request and who holds authority to make any decisions to manage expectations.
- Provide guidance on how to adequately submit any body corporate requests to get the desired outcome.
- Direct them to further education such as a free Role of the Committee course or FAQ’s so they can be better informed and get involved with future decision making if desired.
This article was contributed by Grant Mifsud, Partner – Archers the Strata Professionals