Crockers Welcomes Proposed Changes To The Unit Titles Act
Tuesday 5th May 2020 – New Zealand owned Crockers Property Group is welcoming proposed changes to the Unit Titles Act to allow for vital attendance at meetings. An Omnibus Bill introduced to the House today includes a provision amending section 88 of the Unit Titles Act. The proposed amendment provides for attendance at meetings to be in person, as well as by audio link or audio-visual link, whilst the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) notice is in force.
COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4 have created a particular challenge for body corporate meetings, as the Unit Titles Act does not currently permit body corporate members to ‘attend’ meetings by virtual means. Crockers Property Group CEO Helen O’Sullivan says that they are pleased that the Government has responded pragmatically to the immediate need for change.
“Crockers have around 1,000 community title clients comprising around 22,000 units. Most of our clients are body corporate entities that are regulated by the Unit Titles Act. Previously, there has been no specific provision in the Act to confirm that audio-visual attendance represented being ‘present’ at a meeting. Under Alert Levels 3 & 4, ‘in person’ meetings have not been possible, and all meetings have been held virtually. Being able to continue with virtual meetings under Alert Level 2 will be welcomed by owners and the body corporate management industry alike.”
O’Sullivan noted that a body corporate – the name given to the legal entity that manages the common property in a unit titled development - must hold at least one general meeting every year, within 90 days of their balance date. These meetings are generally referred to as an ‘Annual General Meeting’ or AGM.
“A body corporate’s only revenue comes from its owners, through body corporate levies. To be legally binding on owners, the annual budget must be voted on and approved at the AGM.
“Without the AGM to approve the budget and raise levies, a body corporate has no money from which to pay its costs. Those costs include insurance, power for common facilities (e.g. lifts), costs of servicing common areas (e.g. cleaning) and in some cases, the cost of a building manager. If a body corporate cannot hold its AGM, significant downstream problems can arise for the building and its occupants.”
O’Sullivan says the advantages of virtual meetings are significant, and that Crockers would be in favour of seeing the provision retained.
“After initial wariness, our customers and our team have taken to the virtual meetings really strongly. Meeting attendances are higher, resulting in more engaged owners, because more owners can get to them. We will be keen to engage once we are into a ‘new normal’, as we would love to see this provision continue. Online meetings are easier for owners to attend, eliminating unnecessary commuter travel whilst allowing for meeting times that are more convenient for all owners. It also provides greater ability for people to be involved in their communities, because meetings are easier to get to, particularly for older residents and those who reside out of town or offshore.”