About this series
BCsystems as your body corporate manager works very closely with the chairperson, secretary, treasurer and each committee member. Our mission is to support all committee members with the shared goal of maximising the effectiveness of the role and reduce the time and effort involved.
In this series of articles, we will be looking in detail at each role, with the aim of supporting our committees and helping each member understand the roles on the committee.
Round three – Secretary
The secretary of the body corporate often plays an organisational and generally administrative role in the committee and the body corporate community more generally. It is a volunteer position which can be very rewarding but also can take an investment of time and effort from the member.
Owners who become elected as secretary often come into the role with:
- A desire to get things right
- General leadership background
- Business or other committee experience
- A commitment to being an active participant in the committee governance
- Sometimes – just because no other owners put their hand up for the job
Even though the role typically attracts individuals with a particular skill, there are no pre-requisites for the job. Every building needs a secretary, and every secretary has a first time in the role.
Working with our strata management team at BCsystems means you will have an experienced and friendly person at the end of the phone or email who can provide you with as much guidance and support as you need.
Whether you’re an experienced hand or a beginner, this article is aimed to improve your experience as secretary and get the best outcomes for your entire body corporate.
What does the secretary role involve?
Under the law, the secretary has a very long list of duties, many of which are really quite onerous. The lawmakers in Queensland decided that the secretary should be the go-to for nearly every action of the body corporate.
To give you an idea of the scope of the secretary’s duties, the secretary is mentioned 104 times in the body corporate legislation.
Here are some examples of the secretary’s responsibilities:
- Call meetings
- Set the agenda
- Issue meeting agendas and voting papers
- Manage a list of persons entitled to vote
- Record all proxy forms
- Receive and collect returned voting papers
- Count votes
- Manage committee election ballots
- Record meeting minutes
- Issue minutes to owners
- Invite committee nominations
- Keep all body corporate records
- Make records available for inspection
- Maintain the owner roll
- Send all outgoing correspondence
- Receive all incoming correspondence
- Sign documents
1. Outsource to an expert
As the list above demonstrates, the secretary’s duties are intensely supported by the strata management company (BCsystems).
The trend towards larger body corporate developments with more lots means the secretary for a 100 lot building is doing 5 times the work of a 20 lot building. A strata manager (BCsystems) enables the secretary to exercise a decision-making function, with the resulting action to be executed by the BCsystems administration team.
It would be functionally impossible for a volunteer secretary to properly administer all of the functions of a body corporate in accordance with the law, without assistance. BCsystems manages these functions in conjunction with the individual strata manager, and each committee.
Our strata administration team comprises a mix of skills, including:
- Tertiary qualifications in law and business
- Experienced strata administrators
- Process design managers
- Contact database management team
2. Be aware of potential disputes
The secretary’s function is often the first line of defence against disputes between owners and the body corporate. It is inevitable that through the body corporate’s democratic voting process to make decisions, that some owners may strongly disagree with the outcome of some decisions. In buildings with significant caretaking or on-site management agreements, there can be millions of dollars at stake based on the outcome of an AGM motion.
In these hotly contested disputes, often the first line of attack by an owner or solicitor is against the voting process itself, for example:
- Arguments that meeting paperwork was not received or distributed correctly
- Voting papers not meeting stringent requirements
- Owners not all treated consistently
- Ballot processes being corrupted by influence
BCsystems careful management of meeting timing, notices and voting processes is designed to minimise this risk. Whilst our advice and work may seem unnecessarily involved or complicated, we are aware of the key role we play in assisting our committees to minimise this risk.
Accurate administrative processes protect the integrity of the body corporate and committee’s decisions, which is very important for the long-term success of a strata community.
3. Consider timing
On the same theme as the point above, timing is very important in strata meeting administration and issuing documents. This is something that our team monitors carefully, but unfortunately it often means body corporate decision-making can be a bit slower than you might expect.
Technically any committee action or decision needs to be made at a committee meeting, which involves a notice period leading up to the decision, and a requirement to distribute minutes.
Our team are experienced in gauging when and how to apply each process, considering the risk associated with each type of decision.
We automatically take into account meeting timing for your AGM, committee meetings, end of financial year and other key dates.
4. Keep committee discussion on track
Emails are a way of life for committees, and they serve an important purpose of allowing committee members to discuss issues without the need for formal meetings. Emails can however venture off-topic quickly, and can sometimes be like following a trail of breadcrumbs through the woods.
Given that the secretary’s role is really the official spokesperson of the committee, we recommend that the committee act to draw focus back to the issue at hand, and try to guide the committee towards making a clear and concise decision about a particular topic. Below are some ways you can refocus the committee towards decision making:
“I see there are a few different opinions presented on how to deal with this topic. There seems to be some general consensus that we deal with this matter by [taking some action].
Can each committee member please respond to this email with a YES or NO vote about whether you agree to proceed with this course of action”
In a formal meeting the chairperson and strata manager can assist with this guidance, however committee emails are often exchanged in the evenings or not including the strata manager.
Some guidance by the secretary in this area can result in faster and more clear decision making, so that the committee members know what action will be taken, and that can be communicated clearly to the caretaker/building manager or to the strata manager.
5. Ask questions
If you are unsure about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions. These processes involving the secretary are fairly routine to our team, but it is helpful if the secretary is generally aware of the body corporate’s work in progress.