December Top Tips That All Trustees Should Know – Key Problems to Anticipate

Posted: December 1, 2023

December Top Tips That All Trustee Should Know – Key Problems to Anticipate

In our previous pre-Christmas article, we focused on common December disputes and what you can do to anticipate or even prevent them.

However, as a Trustee, your capacity for risk management should not limit itself to arguments between residents. In December especially, it’s at least as important that you consider potential gaps that could lead to burglaries or wayward braai fires, so you can begin establishing best practices to counter them.

As much as possible, don’t wait for issues to arise before moving to deal with them. Effective leadership knows to be proactive, not just reactive. After all, Trustees are expected to place the interests of the Body Corporate ahead of their own.

This means anticipating and dealing with problems before they escalate, while keeping up solid communication habits so that Scheme residents can step into the December celebrations with a much deeper peace of mind.

To that end, here are four top tips to help you get started.

Tip #1: Remind Everyone What the Scheme’s Rules Are

Even once decided, reminders need to be sent out for certain key rules. Otherwise, some owners might forget about them when it’s convenient to do so.

As per our last article, do everything you can to ensure there are no ambiguities in these four areas:

  • Lights
  • Noise
  • Parking
  • Renting/ leaving a unit in a visitor’s hands

Make sure that the noise levels and light decoration standards for December are fully understood. If your Scheme has any unassigned parking spaces, make sure that any informal understandings are reiterated, acknowledged, and accepted if they can’t be formally assigned yet.

A Trustee’s word on an informal matter, given impartially, can do much to help it tick over until properly formalized.

The last point — of renting — is potentially the most important, however, as giving a stranger such intimate access to the Scheme is a natural security risk. The sooner your Scheme has formal, well-understood standards in this area, the better.

N.B.! If rule enforcement is an issue, remember that neither the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act (STSMA), nor the Prescribed Management Rules (PMR), make provisions for levying fines as a punishment. We will unpack this hot button further in another article.

For now, all you need to know is that you cannot- even as a Trustee- legally levy fines unless your Scheme’s conduct rules already allow it. You can, however, still turn to the Community Schemes Ombud Services (CSOS) for mediation as a last resort.

Tip #2: Encourage Responsible Security Behaviours

This is most relevant for Schemes that expect to take on many visitors over the holidays, or for Schemes where a significant number of owners like to go elsewhere over December.

That said, everyone can do with a quick reminder of best security practices before their minds are fully in holiday mode.

Here are a few we recommend:

  • For owners, encourage them to tell the Body Corporate when they’ll be away, and for how long. This lets neighbours keep an eye on things and detect suspicious activity if it happens.
  • For other Trustees, work together to ensure that Scheme security measures are still working. If you have CCTV, is it still functional? Are the common areas well-lit? Do the gates still function smoothly/ responsively?
  • Who has keys, remotes, or gate codes? Are any owners lending their keys? If the Scheme uses gate codes, when will they next be changed? As a Trustee, you need to know this.

Other considerations include:

  • If there are any periods where the Scheme’s bins can be accessed by outsiders, remind owners to tear up any written correspondence before throwing it away.
  • What can someone see from the outside of a resident’s unit? Extra keys, travel plans, and unwrapped valuables should be kept out of view.
  • Not everyone on the whole internet needs to know what your residents’ December travel plans are, but that’s what happens when owners send out public Facebook posts ahead of time. Make sure that everyone on the Body Corporate is aware of this.

Tip #3: Remind People What to Do in a Fire

This isn’t a common issue, but it’s still important. If your Scheme allows braais, they are going to see much more use over December. Given appropriate ventilation, issues on smoke can be handled similarly to issues on lights and noise, but the fire itself remains a unique concern.

After all, few will braai without a party, and few will party without a few drinks.

While people are generally responsible in this space, accidents can and do happen. Especially if someone sneaks in fireworks for New Year’s Eve. A good Trustee therefore needs to give this matter some thought.

You can reduce or even prevent the potential harm of a fire outbreak by making sure everyone knows the following beforehand:

  • Braai safety etiquette, including Scheme regulations (make sure to phrase it so that you don’t condescend to any resident braai masters!)
  • Whether fireworks are allowed or not, as well as their risks
  • The location of any fire extinguishers (a rudimentary requirement if your Scheme has fire insurance — and according to Section 3 (h) of the STSMA, it should)
  • The location of muster points and efficient exit routes
  • The roles of non-travelling Scheme members in the event of this emergency
  • The contact number for the local Fire Department

If you believe a fire drill is also needed, make sure to schedule it as early in the month as you can, before the festivities gain their momentum.

Tip #4: Remember to Listen and Engage

 Remember that none of the above tips can be carried out effectively unless you first carry out this one; have some way of contacting all members of the Scheme, both privately and publicly.

Whether it’s via WhatsApp, email, or in person, you need to be approachable, and you need to have at least a rough idea as to what everyone is up to this December.

Maintaining a good idea of everyone’s current wants, needs, and concerns will also allow you to make some decisions as a trustee without calling unnecessary meetings, which everyone will appreciate.  It will also let you draft announcements that are more sensitive to the perspectives of your Scheme members.

Some good habits in this area include:

  • Being sincere in all that you write. This helps build trust.
  • Letting people know when you’re most available. This helps you feel approachable.
  • Being quick to listen, slow to reply. This lets your replies be more sensitive and effective.
  • Keeping things clear and simple. The fewer misunderstandings, the better.

Let residents keep you in the loop as to how they are feeling — and remember to keep them in the loop regarding any lawful rule changes or meeting times.

Although, out of consideration for these residents, you might want to keep meetings this month to a minimum. Or at least remind them all how proxies work.

To contact ANGOR with further questions, please go to:

Other articles you may enjoy: Parking Bay Wars, Nightly Noises, and Other Common Disputes or 4 Smart tips for spending your year end bonus