What’s So Great About Body Corporate Records?

body corporate recordsBody corporates have a lot of pluses and for me the greatest are the body corporate records.

Buying any property is all about speculation. There is a reason the current owners are selling and sometimes that reason is because the property in question is a great big old lemon.

If you’re buying a house you need to take your chances and hope you don’t get caught.

By contrast, if you buy in a body corporate then you have the opportunity to review the body corporate records and find out what’s going on. It’s kind of like reading the service record for a car.

Which is just as well, because buying into a body corporate potentially you’re taking on different risks than a house.

Legislative Requirements

Section 204 of the BCCM Act 1997 provides

The body corporate for a community titles scheme must keep rolls, registers and other documents, must give access to them, and may dispose of them, in the way, and to the extent, provided for in the regulation module applying to the scheme.

The regulation modules then go into detail about which records need to be kept, when, for how long and how they may be disposed of.

But body corporate records have more function than simply fulfilling a legislative requirement. They literally form a record of decisions made and actions taken.

For instance, if a lot had a leaking roof two years ago and that leak was resolved, surely if a similar leak appears the same remedial works would be the ideal place to start. Equally if the body corporate invested $5,000 into works that failed, well, maybe we won’t do that again.

People come and go. Lot owners buy and sell. Committees and body corporate managers change. What remains is the body corporate records.

Who Can Access Body Corporate Records?

Section 206 of the BCCM Act 1997 says that body corporate records can be accessed by any interested party.

An interested party is someone who has a stake in the body corporate’s business. That would be all the current lot owners, the committee, any potential purchasers or other stakeholders like insurance companies.

Any interested party can appoint an agent to act on there behalf. That’s my role; I am a professional body corporate search agent appointed to act on behalf of other stakeholders.

There’s a whole process to accessing the records, which I’ve written about here.

Who Is Responsible For Maintaining Body Corporate Records?

Keeping of body corporate records is a function of the Secretary of the body corporate. They work in conjunction with the Treasurer who is responsible for tracking the financial records of the body corporate.

In reality most body corporate’s hire a manager who takes on the role of both the Secretary and the Treasurer and to some degree the Chairperson. The manager maintains the body corporate records.

What Is Included In Body Corporate Records?

There are a lot of different ways records are collated but ultimately they should all contain the same information.

Problems arise in that body corporate records can become very large, very quickly, so they tend to be redacted on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean that information is destroyed, though working papers likely will be, but rather that some documents are archived.

A search of the records should contain:

Permanent file:

Some documents are so important, and useful for that matter, that they should stay permanently on file available to anyone who needs to see them.

The most important of course is the Community Management Statement, which holds such vital information as by-laws and contribution lot entitlements.

Other documents found in the permanent file will include:

  • Caretaking and Letting Agreements
  • Sinking Fund Forecasts
  • Easements or Head Leases
  • Insurance Valuation
  • Other reports including WH&S, Asbestos and Defect reports
  • Dispute applications / judgements

Only current copies of these documents need to be held on file with older documents archived or even destroyed.

Minutes:

Minutes must be taken of all body corporate meetings, be they formal general or committee meetings or informal meetings amongst committee members. A copy must be held on file.

Minutes should not be archived. They need to be kept on hand where they can be referred to by whomever is accessing the records. Plus, splitting up minutes by archiving older documents is a good way to lose copies, and once lost, records tend to stay lost.

Correspondence:

Communications with the body corporate, or between committee members for that matter, are encouraged to be in writing. It’s for one specific purpose: to form a record.

Which doesn’t mean you will definitely get to see correspondence in body corporate records. Correspondence very quickly accumulates so is often archived. Alternatively some managers will not let you view correspondence.

It’s not a problem. Any correspondence received is required to be “tabled” at committee meetings where it then makes it’s way into the minutes.

Financial Information:

There is a vast amount of financial information generated by a body corporates from invoices paid, levy notices, bank statements and reconciliation reports and so on.

The last financial accounts, including the budgets and if applicable the Auditors Report, should be in the body corporate records at all times.

Other than that though financial information is not usually available for searching in body corporate records. Most of the information will be archived quickly.

Agendas:

Agendas are issued for every formal meeting, general and committee. The agenda itself is an important document in proving validity of the meeting.

That said, unless it becomes an issue it’s not necessary to have agendas sitting around once the meeting is finalised. Consequently agendas are archived and eventually destroyed.

Exceptions should be made for any agendas where a caretaking and/or letting agreement was entered into, varied or cancelled.

Voting Information:

Although it is certainly possible to vote from the floor at general meetings most owners will vote by completing the voting paper. For a building of 10 lots that’s potentially 10 voting papers, usually multiple pages. For a building of 200 lots, well, that’s a lot of information.

Voting information is archived immediately the meeting is complete.

Conclusion

Body corporate records exist for a specific purpose: to chronicle the life of a body corporate.

What that represents is an opportunity, one that’s sadly not often utilised effectively. Purchasers, the existing lot owners and body corporate managers can learn a lot from a simple perusal of the records.

photo credit: dog97209 via photopin cc

THE BASICS OF BODY CORPORATES

A little knowledge can go a long way


I see so many stressful and frustrating issues in body corporate records that result from simple misunderstandings it hurts my head. If I could do one thing to help it would be to teach everyone the basic rules, so they can avoid all these dramas.


With that in mind I've put together a short eBook that sets out the basics everyone owning in a body corporate really should know. It won't make those big issues go away, but it will give you a firm grounding from which to communicate.


It's completely free, so please, download it now!

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