Think carefully before volunteering to be a trustee | Everything Property
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Think carefully before volunteering to be a trustee

Trustees

Trustees of sectional title schemes may not need specific obligatory qualifications but will find certain skills and attributes useful in dealing with the many responsibilities and duties that come with being a trustee, says Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar.

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Trustees of sectional title schemes may not need specific obligatory qualifications but will find certain skills and attributes useful in dealing with the many responsibilities and duties that come with being a trustee, says Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar.

There is great benefit for trustees in working with professional managing agents who can help them in filling any knowledge gaps regarding sectional title legislation, management rules, and required administrative procedures, Schaefer says.

Nevertheless, trustees should at least have a basic understanding of the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act and the standard management and conduct rules. They should be aware of other legislation that affects sectional title schemes, such as the Community Schemes Ombud Service Act, the PAIA and POPI acts and the Consumer Protection Act.

“Trustees also need to grasp the fundamental principles of financial management, because they will have to review budgets, monitor expenses, ensure timely collection of levies, and work with professionals such as accountants and auditors when necessary,” he says.

“While a competent managing agent can assist them in compiling budgets, collecting levies, and settling accounts, trustees themselves have a fiduciary duty to responsibly manage the scheme’s finances and resources on behalf of all the owners. Therefore, they should be prepared to maintain transparency and be accountable for their decisions and actions.”

Time and commitment

In addition, being a responsible trustee requires a significant time commitment, despite the fact that it is an unpaid and voluntary role. “Therefore, before accepting the nomination as a trustee, individuals should honestly assess whether they have the available time not only to attend regular meetings and oversee the scheme’s daily operations, but also to promptly address any urgent matters that may arise,” Schaefer says.

“This can be difficult for those who are employed full-time or have their own businesses. Trustees should also possess strong teamwork abilities and be willing to collaborate with other trustees, stakeholders, and the managing agent.”

Trustees

Communication is key

According to him, it is also an advantage if trustees have good problem-solving skills to be able to resolve disputes in the complex while respecting differing opinions, reach consensus with fellow trustees on tricky decisions and successfully plan and manage maintenance and repair work.

“Trust is undoubtedly a crucial element in the role of a trustee so that the members of the body corporate who elect them have confidence that they will not only act with honesty, ethics, and compliance with the law, but also remain impartial and set aside personal biases or conflicts of interest when making decisions that serve the best interests of the entire scheme.”

It also helps, he says, if trustees have excellent communication abilities to interact effectively with property owners, property managers, and fellow trustees, and to provide timely and informative feedback regarding their activities and decisions.

Continuously learning

“Lastly, a dedicated trustee consistently seeks opportunities to expand their knowledge and stay updated on industry trends, legal changes, and best practices related to sectional title management. They are eager to learn from professional managers, attend training sessions, or pursue courses such as those offered by Trafalgar to enhance their skills,” Schaefer says.

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