New technology smooths life in Sectional Title complexes

Living in a community housing scheme such as a sectional title (ST) complex or an estate can have many benefits, but it can also be problematic unless the residents have well-established and fast channels of communication with the trustees and their managing agent. And even then, after-hours events can be a challenge to deal with.
What to do, for example, if you notice on a Sunday afternoon that the electric security fence is not working? Or if your neighbour’s dogs are driving you crazy at 11pm – again? Or if you wake at 4am to find that your geyser has burst and you don’t want to wait until office-hours to find out which plumber is accredited to work in your complex?
Well now, as in many other spheres of life, there’s an app for that. Called EstateMate©, it’s a South African-developed program specifically designed to foster better communications in ST complexes and HOA-run estates – and it has already been successfully piloted by national property company Trafalgar, which has more than 1300 community housing schemes under management.
“To begin with,” says Trafalgar MD Andrew Schaefer, “this cell phone app facilitates faster and more effective reporting of security, maintenance and other issues to trustees and/ or the managing agent for faster responses and action to be taken, and also provides residents with quick access to preferred service providers. It is thus a cost-efficient answer to the longstanding problem of erratic communications that can lead to slow or unsatisfactory responses to certain events - especially in large ST schemes or estates where many residents don’t know each other or their trustees.
“However, it also has several other important functionalities that enable us to add substantial value to the services we provide to trustees and HOAs, and it has worked so well on pilot that from this month, we are starting to roll it out to all the schemes that we manage around the country*.”
EstateMate director Jens Hiestermann says these additional benefits include the fact that the app can also be used by the trustees or managing agent to send residents cell phone notifications of important events, such as body corporate meetings and decisions, or the presence on site of a contractor engaged in maintenance work.
“We have also built in functions that enable residents to use their smartphones to request trustee approval for keeping a pet, for example, or guidance as regards making additions or alterations to their homes, and the app can also be used to obtain multiple inputs on various issues, although it is not a “chat” forum like Whatsapp or Facebook.”
EstateMate also has a “panic button” facility, he notes, that enables residents to send alerts to the scheme’s own security control room or to that of an accredited security company, and it further increases security because on registration, the user’s contact details have to be matched to a specific address or unit in the scheme.  
“The app is even helpful for tenants who need something fixed, because they can use it to quickly access preferred service providers and get competing quotes to send to their landlord.”
EstateMate works on Android as well as iPhones, and there will shortly also be a web app available at EstateMate for PC or laptop users. “Given the penetration of mobile phones and the growing trend of online access and service delivery via mobile devices, this app and mobile service channel is an important response,” notes Schaefer.

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