The Role of Trustees in a Sectional Title Scheme

By Bennie van Dyk – Senior Operations Manager: Community Schemes Management

Improving key relationships in a sectional title scheme is to the benefit of all involved. This article is the second in our series about improving relationships between owners, trustees and management. The previous article was directed at owners; whereas in this one, we address the trustees.

When making yourself available to be elected as a trustee, you need to be willing to serve the community without reward/compensation. You should recognise that each party has a part to play and familiarise yourself with their roles, taking cognisance of the boundaries.  As trustee, you should abandon your own agenda and act in the best interest of all. You need to acknowledge that you have a vested interest in the best outcomes of a scheme that is well run. To achieve this, you need to invest the necessary time and commitment by managing your portfolio in the best way possible. This involves preparing for meetings, submitting monthly reports, regularly walking through the scheme to assess what needs to be done and being an active member of the team. Your goal should be to grow everyone’s investment and maintain a property where residents can enjoy a quality life.

New legislation also requires that trustees ensure that they are informed and stay educated. Reasonable steps should be taken to obtain sufficient information and advice on all matters before making a decision. When elected as a trustee, you should attend all trustees’ and general meetings of the scheme. A trustee should exercise due diligence in any business conducted and have an active and independent voice in matters related to the management of the scheme’s affairs.

When accepting a nomination as trustee, you commit to being proactive, responsive, knowledgeable and an active committee member. Trustees need to be able to chair well-organised meetings, with members coming prepared in order to facilitate smooth decision making. Ensure a paper trail by sending instructions and feedback by email.  Be polite and clear. The Board of Trustees should actively manage the site or appoint a caretaker to do so on their behalf. Trustees should make every effort to attend training and read informative newsletters and online articles.

Necessary legislation exists to ensure that aspects are dealt with correctly – trustees shouldn’t try to run the scheme their way.  Rude, ignorant and bossy trustees are most upsetting. Individual trustees should refrain from issuing non-compliance letters, and rather defer it to the managing agent.

Do not expect the managing agent to make decisions for the trustees – the managing agent can only act on the instruction of a majority decision taken by the trustees.

Do not swamp role players with unnecessary phone calls or the to-and-fro correspondence during the decision-making process and politics. Please see to it that trustee meetings don’t turn into social events; having drinks and snacks will only drag out meetings.

At the first meeting of the newly elected trustees, the first task should always be to elect a chairperson. The role of the chairperson is simple. He/she needs to ensure that all scheme meetings are conducted in an orderly manner, all resolutions are tabled for members’/trustees’ approval, and that matters fall within the respective powers of that meeting. The chairperson also needs to ensure that the relevant documentation is available at the meetings and to act fairly, impartially, and courteously towards attendees, not attempting to influence members’ views on any item, or to dictate their vote prior to the vote being passed.

Apart from matters brought forward from previous meetings and the election of the chairperson, the agenda of the first trustee meeting can include setting out the ground rules and establishing successful communication and interaction, including but not limited to:

  • Assigning portfolios – ensuring even distribution of the workload.
  • Going through all existing contracts of the scheme.
  • Establishing communication channels.
  • Establishing the process of payment approvals.
  • Deciding on an interest rate to be charged on outstanding amounts.
  • Confirming the debt collection process.

Should you need any more information in this regard, please feel free to contact your property portfolio manager at MidCity for further assistance.

Credit to S Baillie and Associates.

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