By Andrew  Schaefer

Andrew Schaefer

Based on 10 years of experience and numerous case studies, I find that regular, transparent and targeted communication, facilitated by trustees and directors, is a critical success factor for harmonious, communal living.

Time and capacity are limited and challenged to also fit in communication responsibilities without a deliberate effort and priority around communication. This is mainly because trustees are volunteers who typically allocate significant after-hours time to body corporate management responsibilities, generally for no financial reward. However, communal living combined with a variety of personal interests at close quarters, characteristic of living in a complex, may lead to regular stresses, tensions and squabbles. This can quickly escalate in a vacuum of information, feedback and communication where individuals feel disempowered to address their concerns directly and quickly.
The communication gap very often manifests in communal properties across the country. Modern communication channels such as email, text messages, newsletters and online community portals or property web sites can all be easily and productively utilised to fill and address this gap. In practical terms, a quarterly, potentially seasonally themed newsletter is highly recommended. A newsletter can give relevant information and status reports covering the typically relevant topics including: security, cleaning maintenance, facility management, finances, important project information and community events.

Generally, a designated trustee or director would need to take ownership of the communication portfolio, facilitating the collation of relevant information for dissemination across appropriate communication channels. Managing agents can significantly assist by promoting communication, creating a convenient template to capture the relevant feedback from the stakeholders and portfolios concerned.  Thereafter they can implement the relevant communication following board approval. In parallel, a culture of effective communication across the property needs to be promoted by:

•    Inviting comments from owners;
•    Encouraging attendance at trustee or director meetings through direct invitations to discuss specific issues;
•    Efficient responses to owner correspondence;
•    Creating and maintaining open and convenient communication channels, and
•    Resourcing the board level communication portfolio sufficiently, to achieve capacity and priority.  

The annual trustees or directors report for the annual general meeting is an additional tool that can be used to provide detailed and relevant information to owners but it is very often underutilised.

Warning signs that communication in a communal property is problematic and should be improved include:
•    A trend of property related complaints;
•    Regular squabble;
•    Escalating litigation or arbitration, and
•    Regular rotation of trustees and directors.

Unexpected stresses can also exacerbate the need for intensified communication in order to keep all owners and affected parties fully informed throughout the resolution process. Effective property management, particularly concerning financial management, facility management (cleaning, security, garden and pool care where applicable), and maintenance, goes a very long way to pre-empting issues and creating a sound foundation for effective communication. Owners typically choose a communal property for security, cost and location benefits, but also anticipate the intrusion of their privacy, preferences and convenience.

Achieving relative and sustainable harmony is unusual as a default, but it can be significantly promoted by achieving effective and consistent communication between all owners and particularly with the individuals elected to oversee the governance and management of the property.

 
Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 8, Issue 7, Page 2

 

Andrew  Schaefer is the Managing Director at Trafalgar Property and Financial Services – www.trafalgar.co.za


This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license