A reader has asked the Property Poser panel to deal with what appears to be a seemingly common problem in sectional title complex management – the autocratic chairperson.
The reader writes that her complex’s chairperson acts as if the scheme belongs to him and that the rules are applicable to everyone else but him and his family.
She says complaints about other residents are swiftly dealt with but those concerning his family are merely swept under the rug. The residents have now had enough of his behaviour and the reader asks what they can possibly do.
According to Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town, management of a sectional title complex vests in the body corporate, and is carried out by the trustees comprising that body.
Van der Merwe says the authority of the trustees is derived from two broad sources, namely statute and specific authority granted by the unit owners in general meeting.
“The chairperson is an elected official, just like the other trustees on the body corporate.”
Despite the auspicious title, a chairperson is not a particularly powerful figure in his or her own right, says Van der Merwe.
“The primary function of the office is to preside over meetings and ensure the proper calculation of votes and the like. The true authority lies with the body corporate as a whole.”
Naturally, however, certain trustees will be authorised to exercise certain duties from time to time for practical reasons, says Van der Merwe.
“Although the reader doesn’t say how the current situation arose, it was possibly due to lack of interest in the day-to-day management of the scheme by the other trustees, forcing the chairperson to take control.”
Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys in Somerset West says the chairperson, like any other trustee of the body corporate, has a fiduciary duty to exercise his or her authority in a bona fide and impartial manner.
“The chairperson must also exercise care and skill in carrying out his or her duties. It would seem that these two fundamental aspects are sorely lacking in the current chair.”
Hill says it would be useful for the owners to call a meeting to consider the cause of the current problem.
“If it really is as a result of complete disinterest in hands-on management of the scheme, it may be time to consider appointing a managing agent.”
In terms of the problems experienced, one of the agent’s roles would be to assist the trustees in enforcing the rules of the scheme, says Hill.
“Many other functions could also be taken over and the scheme would, no doubt, experience a noticeable upliftment.”
If the appointment of a managing agent is not a possibility, Hill says the owners will have to step up and the other trustees will have to start taking their duties seriously or new trustees will have to be appointed.
“The current chairperson can be removed in two ways – either by a meeting of the trustees or at a general meeting.”
Hill says proper notice of the meeting, setting out the intention to remove the chairperson from office, must be given.
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