Do you live in a property governed by an owner’s corporation, or body corporate? Types of properties that can be managed by such an entity include apartments, townhouses, units and other attached or semi-detached properties.
While having an owner’s corporation isn’t always necessary, sometimes you can buy a property and inherit one.
But what if your manager is as useless as a screen door on a submarine? Let’s see what you can do and how to change body corporate. We’ll first explain what responsibilities your manager should be doing, so you know what to expect if yours isn’t performing their duties.
What an Owner’s Corporation Manager Should Do
Now this will vary from body corporate to body corporate, but as a rule of thumb your manager is required by the Owners Corporations Act 2006 and Owners Corporations Regulations 2018 to carry out the following duties:
- Prepare and send any notices required by the Act
- Prepare annual general meetings (AGM), and run them
- Prepare minutes and actions for the AGM
- Carry out tasks as decided in the AGM
- Attend to all correspondence for the body corporate
- Keep all relevant records, financial and otherwise
- Charge owners levy fees and manage budgets
- Prepare account statements and annual budgets
- Pay any outgoing expenses/accounts
- Deal with insurance claims
- Ensure compliance with the act
- Appoint chairpeople/secretaries
But there’s more to the role than just this list.
Your manager should be responsible for arranging ongoing maintenance to communal areas. These are usually known as common land. For instance, in a block of apartments with a common garden, pool, gym or other areas, the manager should arrange all maintenance and repairs of these areas as needed.
If your manager isn’t replying to emails or requests for repairs, or any queries about maintenance, you should consider giving them the sack. We’ll get into this in more detail later in the article.
Arranging Meetings – Warning Signs
Another sign that your body corporate manager needs to go is if they schedule meetings – either the AGM or otherwise, during business hours. They might also be hosting meetings in a location that is only convenient for them, such as their office premises. Basically, any behaviour or actions relating to the scheduling of meetings that causes inconvenience to tenants. Remember, body corporate managers should be acting in your best interests, not theirs.
Professional or Volunteer Manager?
Now there are two types of body corporate managers. There are professional managers, usually employed by a company that specialises in running body corporate groups. These are paid, qualified professionals, who hold indemnity insurance, usually working for a for-profit company.
The other type of manager is a volunteer, who carries out the duties of the manager in their spare time. This role is more common in groups of owners in smaller dwellings, such as units or townhouses, who have formed their own body corporate.
It’s important to note that both types of managers are responsible for the same duties as required by the Act, so you should expect the same level of responsibility and involvement from volunteer managers that you do from paid ones.
More Warning Signs
Let’s discuss some common warning signs that a manager may not be up to scratch.
One example is if your emails or communications requesting tasks, such as repairs, copies of documents, quotes for works or other requests are left unanswered, or responded to tardily. A good manager should reply within a business day, or two, depending on how busy they are.
The same applies if they never pick up the phone or return your calls. This is a sign that they
probably aren’t professional or worthy of your fees or levies.
Yet another warning sign is if they fail to carry out their duties. For instance, if there is a complaint about a neighbour’s behaviour in the common area. This could include leaving waste, animal feces or other hazardous materials in common areas or behaving inappropriately such as being intoxicated or disruptive in common areas.
The correct thing for a manager to do in this case is to issue what is called a breach notice to the resident. This means they are in breach of the Act/their responsibilities as owner of a strata group. Continued breaches can result in fines. It can also make its way to the state tribunal bodies, such as VCAT.
If the manager suggests you try to resolve the issue with your neighbour or shirks their duties then it may be time for a change.
Other Signs You Need to Switch
Some other signs that you need to switch may include the manager failing to collect overdue levies, resulting in shortfalls in the budget. You should be able to see this on the annual financial statements issued as part of the AGM packs.
Also, look for signs like mistakes in paperwork, incorrect information and other warning signs.
These warning signs may include poor communication between the manager and the owners.
For instance, the manager may play favourites, whereby one owner gets all their requests dealt with promptly, but ignores other owners. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be gender-based, where a male owner gets his needs met by the manager but female owners go ignored or have their requests stonewalled or attended to half-heartedly.
A final warning sign is if they use contractors for maintenance and repairs who do bad work. Some examples may be over-zealous gardeners who kill plants and grass by cutting too much or using weed killers on garden beds. Or perhaps they contract repairs or maintenance work to the Dodgy Brothers Maintenance Co who do a bad job that falls apart after a few months.
How to Switch
You can begin the process by contacting other management companies for quotes for managing your body corporate. Be aware that if your property is insured through the owners’ corporation to get the quote to include costing for insurance. Otherwise, you may switch and be uninsured, which is a huge risk.
Then you need to issue your current manager with a termination notice. Now note that this must follow all relevant state legislation which may differ from state to state. Also, your current company’s Contract of Appointment may have a clause about any notices of termination, so read up.
The next step is to include a motion to sack the company or manager at the next AGM. Now you will need a majority vote from owners to do this. A great tip is to go around and speak with all owners before the motion and get them on your side. If there are a lot of rental properties in your strata, you may have to attempt to contact the owner’s via the real estate agencies or the current manager.
If the vote is successful, well done! You have sacked the useless manager or company. The next step is generally up to your new manager or company, who will facilitate the smooth transfer of management. At this stage, you can break open the bubbly and have a celebratory drink.
A Body Corporate Shift Conclusion
In this article, we’ve explained some of the clear warning signs of a shoddy body corporate manager or company. We’ve then explained the simple process for giving them the sack, and appointing someone who will take their duties seriously.