Trustees must enforce Covid-19 regulations
By Marina Constas, director, BBM Law
Amongst all the daily rigorous questions I receive from Trustees, owners and tenants across the country, there is one which highlights a particular recurring theme. Enforcement. It is a concerning question, obviously one worrying many people in power at the helm of a Sectional Title Scheme. How do we enforce the Covid-19 regulations in our scheme?
The one chap who wrote to me says that he is at his wits end as people are allowing friends and family into the complex who gather without masks or any consideration for social distancing. Trustees have mentioned to me that in spite of sending out letters outlining the law, owners, and tenants in particular are not taking the situation seriously and disobey measures put in place to protect the occupants.
I have had reports of owners threatening the Trustees with physical assault should they attempt to interfere with their illegal socialising . There was a case in point recently where a Trustee himself was the one blatantly contravening the National Regulations. Tenants in another scheme bring in young girls all day every day to one unit, not only flouting Covid-19 restrictions, but also attracting criminal charges for solicitation. Completely unacceptable.
If you take one thing away with you after reading this article, it’s the following: Trustees have the fiduciary duty of care, skill and diligence in managing the Body Corporate. Any Trustee who contravenes the Covid-19 Disaster Management Act or the Regulations should not be a Trustee and in my view should be voted out by owners utilising an ordinary resolution, or should not be permitted to stand as a Trustee again.
Trustees are required to lead by example and must also realise that they are not involved in a popularity competition. It can get very tough to enforce the rules, particularly where you have difficult, obstructive individuals to deal with. Trustees need to unite and support each other when faced with aggressive pushback, enjoining owners to support them. Any unreasonable contravention of the Covid-19 Regulations must, without question be addressed by the Trustees in writing. Whilst the Managing Agent can be tasked with addressing the correspondence, the buck stops with the Trustees.
Should no satisfactory response be forthcoming from the contravening party, the police can be approached. I hear the complaint more than once that the police do not respond, don’t pitch, or if they do, they are ineffective. Quite frankly, it is not good enough for Trustees to leave things there.
The police are not faceless spectres who are above the law, unaccountable to anyone. They have structures within which they operate, they have Station Commanders above them, and importantly, there are Community Policing Forums who work with the police to ensure that the community is served. Report people who don’t do their jobs.
I held the position of Chairperson of the Bedfordview Community Policing forum for 10 years and I can assure you that when people took things higher and complained, the police were forced to act. As a Trustee you represent the Body Corporate and must, in terms of the Sectional Title Schemes legislation act in the best interests of the owners. It’s a case of either being in one hundred percent, or rather letting someone else take on the responsibility.