Sunday, July 5, 2009

To Pay or not to Pay ....

One of the basic fundamentals of Community living is that the owners usually control and manage the Body Corporate. They do this through an elected committee who make decisions on expenditure and policy. The problem with all of this is that many owners who buy into Body Corporate communities never have even the remotest intention of ever contributing in any way, let alone serve as committee members.

The bottom line is that a great many owners expect someone else to do the work - in fact, anyone but themselves.

Some owners have reasons why they cannot nominate for the committee. These reasons can include the fact that they are elderly, live interstate or overseas, have work committments, etc etc. The reality is that everyone can come up with a reason why they should not nominate.

It could be argued that owners actually have a responsibility to serve as a committee member at some point during their ownership of the property - if not a legal responsibility there is certainly a moral responsibility.

Body Corporate Committees are finding that they have an increasingly higher workload as the various regulations become more complex. The workload can be extroadinarily high for a voluntary position, particularly if the committee members take their role seriously.

Of course there are some Bodies Corporate Committees who do very little. I know of one that has not had a committee meeting at all in the last year and will probably just wait for the AGM to resolve anything. They are really a committee in name only. However, these committees can often lead a Body Corporate into a potential minefield where important issues like insurance coverage, fire regulations and other requirements can be neglected to the point where the Body Corporate and the Committee can be exposed to liability.

The position of committee member is voluntary and often unpaid. Many long serving committee members are now saying that they are sick and tired of representing other owners who have no intention of ever making a contribution. It is a little ironic that some of the owners who will never nominate as committee members often have the gall to criticize those who do serve on the committee.

Three of the properties I am involved with are certain to have problems forming a committee at the upcoming AGM. At one unit complex, no one is prepared to nominate as Chairman. If a Chairman is not elected an EGM will need to be called to try and coerce, cajole or coax someone into nominating.

Of course the position of Chairman always carries an additional responsibility because the Chairman should be familiar with the Act and his/her repsonsibilities. In fact the Act actually requires that committee members are familiar with the regulations and lack of knowledge is not seen as an excuse. The end result is that this discourages owners even more from nominating as Chairman. Why expose yourself to the potential aggravation when there is no reward and little thanks. It is far easier to pass the buck to someone else.

The end result is that more and more committee members are deciding that they will not serve unless they are paid. The Act allows for remuneration either for expenses or a set payment. Owners must declare that they will be seeking remuneration at the time written nominations are submitted and owners either approve or reject the payment.

I have received payment at one Body Corporate. A number of owners said that they were happy to pay to save having to be involved themselves. However, other Bodies Corporate look at anyone seeking payment with shock and horror as if work as a Committee member should be a noble deed on a purely voluntary basis. There is a strange sort of moral stigma associated with anyone seeking payment.

I have been told that there are some Bodies Corporate where committee members are paid what amounts to a significant wage. As long as the amount is approved at an AGM then the payments are in order but, of course, there are some Bodies Corporate where very few vote at the AGM. Apathy rules and payments to committee members are often passed without the majority of owners reading the agenda let alone voting.

If Committee members are paid, there is always the possibility that there may be some additional scrutiny of their performance, particularly when one committee member is paid and another is not.

However, many Bodies Corporate are having to face the fact that if they do not pay Committee members they will not have a Committee. They have to weigh up the overall cost of payments to Committee members against payments to an adminstrator.

The end result, either way, is that Body Corporate levies will rise. I believe that it is inevitable that more and more committee members will seek payment as the role becomes more time consuming and complex.

Body Corporate committees are not charities set up to look after the interests of those who cannot or will not contribute.

My view is that anyone who nominates as a Committee member has a right to seek whatever remuneration he or she sees fit and those owners who make no contribution should be thankful that someone is prepared to take on the role.


I have spent many years participating on a number of different Body Corporate Committees. I am a dealer in Vintage Movie Memorabilia specialising in original movie posters and movie art. also present a radio programme on Jazz Radio 94.1fm Monday - Friday afternoons on the Gold Coast.

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