The Act allocates responsibility for maintenance. It spells out how to calculate each co-owner’s undivided share in the common property, their voting power and the extent of their liability for the related costs. The Act details how property alterations like extending sections, adding sections and land, and creating exclusive use rights must be carried out.
These enduring principles were first introduced in South Africa in the early seventies, were updated and extended in the late eighties, revised in the late nineties and have received detail tweaks each year since then. The passage of time and the exponential growth and use of information technology in recent years has not substantially affected their relevance. Not so with the prescribed rules.
While the Act provides the principles that must apply to the operation of schemes, it is the regulations made under the Act that spell out the nuts and bolts of how they are to be applied, particularly the prescribed management rules, contained in Annexure 8 to the regulations.
The prescribed management rules have been updated regularly since 1988 but only one of those updates has taken any cognisance of the capacity of IT to facilitate management. Now a body corporate can send the AGM pack, and only the AGM pack, by email. But only to owners who have specifically requested that service and provided the email address.
There are other areas of scheme management that are made easier, quicker, more efficient (and cheaper) by using email and message services. The most obvious is calling and holding general meetings. If the most damaging problem for sectional tiles schemes is a shortfall in levy payments, surely a close second is owner apathy when it comes to attending meetings, particularly the AGM, where vitally important decisions have to be made.
Imagine the average sectional title owner deciding whether or not to attend the AGM. Which is more likely to happen?
The owner leaves work early, prepares and eats supper early, gets back into the car and drives all the way to the venue, sits on an uncomfortable plastic chair and afterwards drives all the way home.
Or the owner relaxes on the couch, glass of wine at hand, and attends and contributes to the meeting using a desktop, laptop, tablet computer or even just a smartphone.
The reality is that in practice notices are being sent by email and SMS and both trustee and general meetings are being held electronically. But it would be better if the legislation provided a framework that standardised the processes and requirements so that all schemes could correctly use electronic participation for their general meetings.
It wouldn’t take much of a tweak to change the management rules to specifically accommodate electronic participation in meetings. The Companies Act achieves it. In just one section.