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The different definitions of a community

By Frank Higginson28 Feb 2010

One of the ‘joys’ of the management rights industry is that there are no two identical management rights businesses. Each business has its own idiosyncrasies, whether they relate to the income streams, types of units, forms of management agreements and the like.

More importantly though are the individual personalities that form part of the scheme. Bodies corporate are also known as ‘community’ title schemes, although the definition of ‘community’ from scheme to scheme varies quite widely.

What has prompted this you ask?

Example 1 of a ‘community’

We act for a resident manager of a large scheme who, for all intents and purposes, had a good relationship with his committee.

He was called to an informal meeting with the chairperson on short notice. Nothing otherwise appearing as untoward, he walked into the chairman’s lot to be confronted by five committee members who immediately accused him of breaches of the caretaking agreement and implied criminal conduct. A star chamber by another name.

After being bombarded for a period the committee produced a one page document saying that it would be easier for everyone if he just agreed to walk away, and ‘here was the deed to do that’.

Our client signed it, then came to his senses that afternoon.

A legal battle is likely to follow, starting with the legal ability of the committee to purportedly agree to such a deed.

What are the morals of this story?

  • No matter how your relationship may seem, you never can be 100% sure of it in a committee context – people change views for all sort of reasons; and
  • Never ever sign a legal document without proper advice.

Example 2 of a ‘community’

A ‘helpful’ committee decided to start doing the resident manager’s jobs for him. Walls were touched up, pavers repaired, contractors instructed. Some larger jobs (which the resident manager would ordinarily supervise) were also undertaken by the committee, such as the painting of recreation areas.

In one context this sort of assistance could be welcome, but in another it caused more headaches than not, as the work was done on the cheap and by inexperienced and unqualified tradespeople.

The chairman was the self appointed leader of the troupe of workers and a few weeks ago tinkered with the contract gardeners mulching equipment without telling him. When the gardener later started back into his work he lost his pinkie to the unsafe machine.

Suffice to say the committee have stopped helping and there is without doubt a large compensation claim coming against the body corporate for the interference.

The moral this time?

Stick to your role – going beyond that will only lead to problems.

And people say the law is boring...