Owners corporations are managerial bodies that oversee common property within communities based on a certain development. These developments can be commercial, industrial, residential, retail or mixed-use. As the name suggests, owners corporations typically have memberships made up of people who own units within the community. The units may be apartments, houses, retail spaces or industrial spaces.
The owners corporation’s main role is the management and maintenance of the common properties within the development. This is usually achieved by selecting a strata manager who becomes the overall executor of the body corporate’s wishes and requirements. He will have all the responsibility in decision making, his word will be the last, but he will not make the decisions alone but he will make them together in cooperation with the other members and through negotiation which is crucial for making a decision. The responsibility for every decision that will be made will be almost entirely in his competence, and a small percentage will depend on the other members. That is why he needs to think soberly together with the others and through a few filters at the end to say when the decision is final and can be made.
Owners corporations steer the community in the direction which they feel is best. The steering manifests in the body corporate’s decisions and is meant to dictate what is and isn’t acceptable within a particular community. The more broad decisions become the community’s by-laws, while the specific and day-to-day decisions are meant to drive daily operations. This means that there are certain rules that all members should follow. These rules are largely regulated by the corporation, and very few of them are regulated by law. The law certainly covers the entire operation of the corporation, which means that it covers the operation, but it also covers the decisions that arise as a result of the operation. Making the wrong decisions can very easily be subject to some kind of sanction or pre-sanction warning which would protect the operation of the corporation.
Owners corporations can be large bodies whose size may hinder the decision-making process, with adverse effects. To counter this dilemma, owners corporations typically hold Annual General Meetings, at which point a smaller group of individuals is selected to represent the larger entity. This more diminutive group is known as the Strata Committee. Their tenure lasts one year, with new members elected at the subsequent general meeting. With this smaller group, decisions to be made by the body corporate are taken on faster, with more efficient results. To be a member of these bodies it is necessary to meet orphan conditions. Initially, it is necessary to have appropriate education, some experience in working in positions that are of the same or similar type, to have recommendations from relevant people and of course to leave a good image among those present. Then, if necessary, certain tests are performed, according to which the answer is given as to whether those persons are eligible or ineligible to be part of that small representative group.
In addition to decision-making, the strata committee takes on the responsibility of managing the body corporate’s finances, common property maintenance, enforcing rules set out for the community members, keeping, maintaining and reviewing records, and many other responsibilities. As we have already mentioned, those responsibilities are known to them, they are listed in their contracts for performing the specific function in the body, and of course by signing they agree to perform the function. Also, before taking up and accepting this function, they agree to be supervised and for each misdemeanor, they should be properly sanctioned exactly as the law or the rulebook stipulates when such an event occurs.
Safety is a major concern for all and sundry, no matter their location. In strata communities, the question of safety is overseen by the owners corporation. They have charge over the safety measures that are put in place to ensure the safety of residents in case of fire. These measures were conceptualised to certify that building occupants have ample time to make safe exit should fire be detected. Other than the safety measures, the owners corporation must also ensure that all areas of the strata are accessible for fire safety inspections. This means that it is necessary to initially make appropriate checks and monitoring of the premises. Then it is necessary to make a proper analysis of the indications obtained from the checks and if the presence of any defects is determined, they should be properly removed as soon as possible.
The body corporate is responsible for the legal compliance of the strata. They have to keep up to date with all existing and relevant federal laws that pertain to the running and maintenance of the strata. These include health and safety laws, fire laws and ordinances, building and planning laws, and fire safety inspection requirements. In case of legal disputes arising, the body corporate is responsible for the undertaking of legal action, to a point. It must also obtain legal advice from a professional when appropriate. Generally, this ensures that residents are living in a safe orderly environment.
Other obligations of an owners corporation include:
- Allowing for and facilitating the availability of records for inspection by an owner.
- Resident notification of pest control action, especially where the process of pesticide treatment is concerned. This notice should ideally be issued at least five days prior to the start of the procedure.
- In case of a prospective purchaser’s request, the body corporate must make available, within two weeks of the request being made, a strata information certificate.
- Providing notification of the availability of priority voting to those members that hold a priority vote.
Running a body corporate is a monumental task. To make the undertaking less daunting, some body corporates elect to hire a body corporation manager that is better suited to carrying out the duty required of a properly functioning strata community. If these bodies do not exist, it could not function perfectly, and the members of the bodies are responsible for the perfection of the functioning and of course the set rules and principles that should be followed.