Community scheme meetings - The importance of attending meetings

One of the most consistent complaints we hear from managing agents and people serving as trustees concerns “owner apathy”. They say it can be nearly impossible to get anything non-routine done – decisions that can only be taken by owners can’t be dealt with as there are often insufficient owners present at meetings to form a quorum. This is said to be particularly true in schemes where there is a high proportion of investor owners.

There is another side to this coin and it also creates problems. In some schemes, a group of owners, and this can comprise only a few individuals, do attend meetings and, either because they hold a high proportion of the votes or just because they participate very actively, take decisions that benefit only their own interests.

There is a misconception that putting your opinion down in writing and sending it to the chairperson means that your point of view will be taken into account at the meeting. The chairperson is not obliged to read out a member’s opinion, although he or she may choose to do so if the content is appropriate. Even if the opinion is read out, the members can decide not to discuss it. If you are not there to press the point, there is little chance of it being debated.

Asking for something to be added to the agenda is also no guarantee that it will be discussed at the meeting. The trustees would have to agree to add it to the agenda, which they will only do if they consider it appropriate. If you attended the meeting and there was an “any other business” item, you could raise it yourself, but you would have to be there to do so.
One cannot participate in a meeting by letter. The essence of a meeting is its interactive nature. The opportunity must exist to change other people’s minds and have yours changed through discussion. Whether it is a sectional title scheme or a homeowners’ association, you have to be at a meeting, or be represented by a proxy, to have any chance of influencing the decisions taken.

Author: Anton Kelly, course convener of UCT Sectional Titles

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