Time for community schemes to embrace new technology

Estates and complexes using only email, WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate with residents and manage their schemes have fallen way behind the technology curve and risk losing their attraction as schemes of choice.

This is the view of Omar Kinnear, who describes exclusive use of these platforms for estate management as “outdated and risky, especially given the myriad of responsibilities of trustees of Sectional Title schemes and expectations of directors of Home Owners Associations – not to mention the growing number of complaints received by the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS).”

Kinnear is founder and developer of ResidentPortal, a cloud-based, simple-to-use, yet robust and feature-rich portal to simplify communication and management of complexes and estates.  It was born out of his own experience in the complex in which he lived, when he realised he could use his 20 years of software development skills to develop a system to improve communications and management of the complex.

That was in 2016.  Today, ResidentPortal has gained a strong foothold in the market, having transformed the way over 100 complexes are managing their schemes by simplifying and streamlining their communication and day-to-day operations.

Changing environment

Kinnear points out that the community schemes environment has changed significantly since the publication of the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act (STSMA) and 2016 Regulations (which amplified responsibilities under the STSMA of 2011) and the CSOS Act, also in 2016.

The CSOS goes so far as to impose penalties for offences under the Act, ranging from a fine to imprisonment up to five years. “While these relate to more serious offences, there is no doubt that there is now a far greater requirement for trustees and directors to apply good governance to their schemes.

“Against this background, using social media and email alone simply don’t cut it when it comes to scheme management,” warns Kinnear.  He points out the weaknesses in using social media and email for scheme management and communications and describes how ResidentPortal addresses these:

Information security

“In the first place, with Facebook, there is no granular restriction of access, so there’s no way to share information meant only for the eyes of a particular group, such as trustees/directors, owners or renters.

“Specific maintenance requests or complaints can also be buried under subsequent posts, so they may be missed by the person responsible to action them.  The same applies to WhatsApp.”

With ResidentPortal, estate management has structured information about residents, who have to input their contact information before they can access the system.  In this way, complexes are also assured that they have updated records of every owner, as required by the STSMA.

The system further makes it possible not only to restrict access to specific groups, but also to see who has accessed certain information.

Unstructured data

The second problem, and it is a serious one, says Kinnear, is that without a centralised database, it is impossible to keep proper track of data such as maintenance requests or meeting announcements.  “This seriously undermines the overall quality of scheme management,” he says. “Messages and emails sent to different people, such as the estate manager, managing agent, trustees or directors all sit in disparate places and there is no link between them.”

With ResidentPortal, all scheme governance documents, trustee/director meeting notices, minutes and resolutions, as well as rules and regulations are accessible on the system.  In addition to the owners and residents database, ResidentPortal includes vehicle, pet and domestic worker registers.

Service request delays

“Without a system like ResidentPortal, both of the above weaknesses will lead to unavoidable service delays and inevitable frustration and discord between residents and estate management,” says Kinnear.

ResidentPortal addresses this with a secure area that allows residents to post requests for information or maintenance, and for management to follow up on requests, such as creating a to-do list for maintenance issues, attaching quotes and conducting the payment approval process.

He concludes: “There is no doubt that well-run schemes make more attractive investment choices.  With ResidentPortal, we have made it possible for schemes to have effective control over all the major functions required to create a contented community – and a management team that can sleep at night.”

ABOUT ResidentPortal

ResidentPortal is developed and managed by Sandton-based software consulting and development company, Business Xponent Solutions (BXS).  The estate communication platform is one of the products emerging from 20 years of experience in the software industry of its founder, Omar Kinnear.  One of the original developers of the SARS eFiling platform, Kinnear brings to ResidentPortal a wealth of knowledge of system performance and security.

Since 2016, around 100 complexes are using the Free Plan of ResidentPortal, and over 1000 residents, mostly in and around Gauteng, are benefiting from the way the full-featured Standard and Pro packages are simplifying their lives in their estates and complexes.

For more information, contact:  Omar Kinnear, 078 798 3378

info@residentportal.co.za

www.residentportal.co.za

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