Tampering with the minutes of meetings? Believe it or not, it happens!

By Anton Kelly

Sectional title schemes are mini democracies. The Sectional Titles Act and prescribed rules codify the principles of the common law of co-ownership. One of those principles is that one owner can’t do anything with the shared property without the agreement of the other co-owners, which is why anything that fundamentally affects the common property in sectional title schemes must be approved by a unanimous resolution. Examples are the sale of common property and the granting of registered exclusive use rights over portions of the common property.

Obviously there has to be a lower level of consensus for other matters, otherwise nothing would ever get done. These lesser matters, some of which are nevertheless very important to the wellbeing of the scheme, are decided at meetings.  As with any other meeting the decisions must be recorded and they are recorded in the minutes of the meetings. The legislators viewed this record as so important that they provided that the minutes of meetings in a sectional title scheme must be kept for ever! Well, for as long as the scheme is in existence, anyway.

One of the advantages of the trustee system in sectional titles schemes is that willing members usually undertake the usually unpaid and often quite onerous responsibilities for the day to day running of the scheme and the trustees often change each year. One of the disadvantages of the system is that “political” factions can develop and members of these factions complain bitterly about the efforts of the other faction when it is in power. When the rotation eventually takes place, decisions taken during the previous year are reversed or the record is simply changed. Yes, minutes of meetings are changed to reflect something other than the decision that was democratically taken. Apparently, there is even tampering with formal minute books with numbered pages into which the written records of the meetings are glued.

Modern legislation combined with modern technology provides a solution to this problem. The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act provides that information required to be in writing may be transmitted and stored in digital format. The digital record must be secure and capable of being relatively easily accessed for reference. This satisfies the Sectional Titles Act’s requirement that minutes be kept “in perpetuity”.

The most common types of documents used for this type of record include Microsoft Word documents and those in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDFs). Both can be secured by password protection, stored in more than one place and easily distributed when required.

Courtesy: Paddocks

Anton Kelly is the course instructor of the University of Cape Town (Law@Work) Sectional Title Meetings short course. Next course starts, 16 September 2013. For more information please visit www.Paddocks.co.za

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