This article has been taken from he commissioner for the Body Corporate and Community Management Act and looks at spending limits in a body corporate – both committee spending limits and major spending limits.
Committee meetings: Best practice
Body corporate committees make decisions through committee meetings in two ways:
- at committee meetings
- by making majority decisions outside of a committee meeting (VOC)
These two decision-making forums have different procedures and can be used strategically to reach consensus by discussion or to get a quick majority discussion.
The legislative framework is designed to make committee decisions transparent to owners in the body corporate, to allow owners to understand what decisions the committee has made reasonably quickly after the decision. This transparency is achieved in the following ways:
- The requirement to give owners notice of committee meetings
- Owners can attend and observe committee meetings
- Minutes must record decisions made
- Minutes must be given to owners
This article considers some committee meeting best-practice tips from our expert BCsystems strata management team – to help your committee use its time most effectively. We’ll also discuss the strategic use of VOC to make decisions efficiently.
What is a committee meeting?
A committee meeting is a meeting (either in-person or by telephone or video) that allows the committee to make binding decisions. It must satisfy the following elements:
- Notice must be given to owners
- It must have an agenda
- There must be a quorum of committee members present
There is no minimum or maximum number of committee meetings that must be held by the committee. No two committee meetings look the same – anything from a formal meeting at BCsystems office to a stand-up meeting in the building’s foyer can qualify as a committee meeting, as long as the basic elements of a meeting are satisfied (notice, agenda, quorum).
Notice periods for committee meetings
|What notice must be given?||Notice of the meeting (including date, time, location) Agenda of the meeting|
|Notice period||7 days + postage (2 weeks total)|
|Best practice/tips||Whilst the agenda must be set in advance and given to owners, the committee can add/remove and rearrange items on the agenda right up to the start of the meeting Owners only need to receive the headings of agenda items, not the full background material and attachments Owners must notify the committee if they want to observe the meeting – read more about observers later.|
The agenda for a committee meeting must contain the items of business that the committee plans to discuss.
In addition to the agenda, the committee members should receive:
- Any financial documents
- Report from caretaker
The committee should have at least 3 or 4 days before the meeting to review the documents in detail and prepare any discussion or questions before the meeting.
If your committee has assigned a task to a particular committee member (e.g. Steve to investigate cost for CCTV upgrade), the member should make sure to put their findings in an email or report and distribute it before the meeting.
It is not advisable to give verbal reports at the committee meeting, as complicated topics generally require some time to think through the options, and it is likely those items would be deferred if committee members have not had enough time to consider in detail.
Owners in the body corporate community have a right to attend and observe committee meetings.
- Owners must give at least 24 hours notice of their intention to attend
- Owners are observers only and should be silent unless the committee asks for feedback
- Owners must be excluded from certain sensitive parts of the meeting
Meetings with observers can be tricky to navigate. Whilst this is a key part of the committee’s transparency obligation, in practice when owners attend committee meetings, the meeting can become difficult to manage and can go on for a long time.
Owners in the body corporate are naturally very invested in the meeting discussion, as the committee will be discussing important matters relating to the building and the community. Whilst owner feedback is nearly always well-intentioned, it is still an interruption to the meeting process. That can make the difference between a committee meeting finishing at 6pm or 9:30pm, and often the outcomes of the meeting are not changed after the discussion.
It is important to remember that the committee members are elected to represent all owners, and the purpose of having a committee is to speed up the decision-making process. If the committee consults owners who are not on the committee prior to each decision – that can make the elected committee less effective.
- When held electronically or by videoconference, observers can be muted by the committee so that they observe only
- Electronic meetings are 70% more likely to run on-time
Minutes are arguably the most critical part of the committee meeting documentation. Without committee meeting minutes, the discussion and agreement cannot be actioned.
Committee meeting minutes must record:
- Who was at the meeting
- What decisions were made
- How many votes approved each decision
- Who is taking action on each decision
What committee meetings do not record:
- The discussion back and forth before a decision is reached
- Who said what during the discussion
- Reasons the committee made decisions
- Dissenting opinions
When our BCsystems strata manager is at your committee meeting, we will take care of the minutes for you. We will draft up the minutes of the meetings which we attend, and we can send these to the committee for review.
Example of discussion flow at a committee meeting
Caretaker reports a broken door handle in the pool area, it will cost around $350 to replace.
Which door handle was broken? – the one on the shower door.
Is it just damaged or does it need to be replaced? – it probably could be repaired, but the lock is low-quality and it can be replaced with a better quality one for that price.
Who broke it? Unsure at this stage
Was it captured on CCTV? No, that area is not under surveillance.
Can the CCTV be adjusted? Maybe, would need to be checked and may require the security contractor to adjust.
Is it lawful to capture the pool area on CCTV or is that a privacy issue? Not a privacy issue, the CCTV records are private and the pool is a public area.
How did they even get in there, isn’t the pool closed after 9pm? Yes, it should be closed, possibly they got in using a fob, could check the fob records.
Has it been reported to the police? No, given the low value and not needing to make an insurance claim.
|25-minute discussion. This doesn’t go in the minutes at all.|
Resolved that the caretaker:
a) Get the door lock replaced at a cost of approximately $350
b) Report the incident to Qld police
c) Adjust the CCTV to cover the area, if possible 6 Yes votes Action: Caretaker
This is what the minutes record.
Committees often ask us to include additional explanatory information in the minutes, to educate owners on the committee’s thought process. In our experience, committee meeting minutes are not the most effective way of communicating with owners. If the committee needs to communicate with owners about a particular project or issue, we recommend sending a separate memo or email explaining the topic and showing some frequently asked questions or similar.
There is a risk associated with making committee meeting minutes more detailed. If owners object or disagree with part of the preliminary discussion items, that can trigger emails and additional communication back and forth even though the outcome doesn’t change. Sometimes more explanation doesn’t make things more clear for owners.
How, when and why to hold informal meetings?
We’ve discussed that a committee meeting has certain requirements for notice periods and an agenda. That does not prevent the committee from getting together informally to discuss issues.
This can be a very effective tool for reaching consensus. Often during committee meetings, the committee asks for more site-specific information about an issue before considering how to proceed, and items end up being deferred so the committee can inspect things on-site.
We recommend the committee consider adopting this process:
- Caretaker to provide their report at least 1 week before meeting
- Committee arrange informal building walk-around before the committee meeting to look at issues in person
- Committee meetings can then be faster, as everyone will be on the same page and will have seen the issue which needs to be addressed.
Even if no committee meeting is scheduled, the committee may want to consider holding regular (e.g. monthly or 2-monthly) walk-around meetings. These meetings are for information sharing only, and then any decisions reached at the discussion can be formalised after the fact by an email vote.
One of the committee members can advise our office of the decisions informally reached at the site meeting. We can then issue a voting paper to have the committee formally confirm these outcomes, and that will satisfy the disclosure requirements for owners.
How to maximise VOC efficiency
VOC stands for ‘vote outside of committee meeting’. This is the legal process that enables the committee to make valid and binding decisions outside of a committee meeting.
VOC is a powerful way to make decisions quickly, and without the full procedure and time-delay of a committee meeting.
VOC motions need to be answered by a “YES” or “NO” vote – which means we at BCsystems need to have a good idea of what your decision is, so we can then write a motion to enable the committee to vote “YES” to confirm.
Often the committee will discuss a topic by email, on-site or over a coffee and then will communicate with us the outcome of that discussion. We can turn that email content into a VOC motion to formalise the decision and make it valid under the legislation.
Until the VOC process is completed, the decision technically has not been made.
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