Office hours – are they really necessary?
By Frank Higginson26 Sep 2013
When I first started my articles of clerkship at a venerated management rights firm in 1992 mobile phones didn’t exist. I used to have a beeper. So when I was out and about filing documents, serving people with claims, doing court filing and generally mucking around (as 17 year olds with an office car and a newly minted licence are inclined to do) the firm could get me to call in to the office by paging me. I would then find the nearest public phone and be held accountable.
When that newly fandangled interweb thing arrived in the 1990’s, the firm had one computer with access to the internet, which you had to book to use. Quite different to how we operate as lawyers today.
We have all come a long way since then, which leads to the reason for this article.
Resident managers are both caretakers and / or letting agents.
The caretaking agreement is one that sets out fixed duties to be performed. As long as those duties are performed, then the job is done. How and when a resident manager might perform their required duties is up to them.
You hear any number of reasons for why there should be office hours, the most common of which is the ability to be contacted. The technology that is available today means that there should be no reason for a caretaking agreement to have fixed office hours. Emails, texts, iPhones etc mean that everyone is contactable on a moment’s notice. Sitting in an office (unless you are a lawyer) doesn’t get the job done.
Given that the caretaking duties relate only to common property, why would it ever be a sensible requirement for the resident manager to be sitting in an office?
It can be a slightly different story from a letting perspective. Leaving aside whether a body corporate should dictate the conditions of a letting agent for the moment, it is possible to understand why there might be office hours in a letting agreement in a short term rental complex. We recently drafted an agreement that set out different hours for peak, shoulder and off peak seasons which allowed a large degree of flexibility to the resident manager to drive their letting business the way they chose. As always, our client will be accountable to their letting owners for how they perform as letting agent.
Office hours in a permanent complex for letting purposes should also not be needed. The perfect resident manager ‘trains’ their tenants to pay online or in fixed windows (say Saturday morning from 9-11 or Thursday night from 6-8). There is no reason to have someone otherwise sitting in an office or tied to those particular hours in an agreement. The online banking world has also changed substantially in recent years to allow constant payments without face to face contact. None of this is to say that offices are not necessary, or that they will never be used. They will be. What it is to say, is that technology is rapidly changing the way many of us interact with each other (taking this newsletter as only one simple example), and that what might be regarded as somewhat of an industry constant as recently as five years or so ago needs to change.
If after reading this article you feel that you are one of those resident managers who currently have unnecessary set office hours and wish to approach your body corporate to have the requirement removed, we can assist in the initial approach and documenting the agreement reached.