26 Mar Dish from the Commish – Annual General Meetings Part Two
Dish from the Commish – Annual General Meetings Part Two
Some top tips by Chris Irons, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management
In my earlier article – part one – I covered some of the basic processes of an annual general meeting (AGM), including some of the key timeframes involved.
With those details in mind, this article – part two – provides some AGM tips. You might like to think of it as some AGM ‘best practice’.
None of this content is provided as legal advice or direction from my office, but merely tips which you might want to keep in mind. Every scheme is different and so the circumstances of every AGM are therefore likely to also be different.
AGMs are for making decisions, not discussions
Bodies corporate are in the business of making decisions. Once a decision is made, it can be implemented or, if necessary, challenged. This is why an AGM is, from my perspective, a place for decisions rather than discussion.
By all means, owners should be encouraged to discuss issues amongst themselves. Ideally, though, this should be happening before the AGM. There is nothing stopping owners contacting other owners to discuss agenda items and there is also nothing stopping owners encouraging other owners to think or vote about things a particular way.
That said, at the AGM, it is the decisions which are minuted, not the discussion around them. One of the reasons why timeframes for distribution of AGM papers are required under legislation is to ensure that everyone has sufficient time to consider agenda items in advance so that they can vote accordingly at the meeting.
“Do unto others” – show some respect
The AGM presents all eligible owners the opportunity to cast their vote on what are critical issues for not just the scheme, but also for the owner and their financial interests. It is therefore quite likely that some agenda items might lead to heightened or emotive feelings amongst voters.
There is nothing wrong with this and, indeed, it is healthy that there are strongly-held and debated points of view. That said, it is vital to keep in mind that all points of view should be respected, particularly where there is a vote to be had on the issues. If you expect that others would respect your views and vote at an AGM, then the reverse is true also. This is particularly so at the meeting itself. Harsh, inappropriate or inaccurate comments and statements made in such a forum at which a number of other parties are present, may have long-lasting and negative effects on the overall harmony of the scheme.
If there is disagreement about the validity of AGM processes and outcomes, then this is something ultimately determined through the dispute resolution processes of my office.
If submitting a motion, make sure it can be achieved
Taking the opportunity to submit a motion to an AGM is only a worthwhile exercise if the motion in question makes sense and involves something which can actually be achieved.
For example, a motion that “all committee members demonstrate proper behaviour” sounds good, but in practical terms it seems almost impossible to achieve or measure something so aspirational.
It might be a better idea to word motions so that they have an achievable and practical outcome. In the prior example, a more achievable motion might be that “all committee members should take the Commissioner’s Office free online committee member training module”. This has a practical, measurable outcome and it might also have more chance of getting other owners’ support if the motion has this kind of pragmatism.
Get involved and take responsibility
As I stated in part one, there really should be no surprise to anyone about when an AGM is to be held and what is involved in conducting it.
Given the amount of lead-in time involved in an AGM, there is ample opportunity for owners and committees to really get involved in what is the most crucial forum of decision-making for a body corporate.
If as an owner you are concerned about how things are running at your scheme, then take the responsibility to not only do the basics of reading agenda papers and actually casting your vote, but also ensuring your contact details are up to date so that when the papers are distributed, you will ensure they get delivered to the correct address.
Cast your vote from an informed position
Finally, in casting your vote, do so from a position in which you’ve gathered information. In other words, make sure you know what you are voting about. Ideally, this information might be provided for you in the form of an explanatory note accompanying motions. Otherwise, if you are unsure about what a motion means and its impact, you can discuss it with other owners, seek clarification from the committee or other party (such as your body corporate manager, if appropriate) or better still, find out for yourself by contacting my office for general information.
Some of the motions voted on at an AGM can, for example, involve significant amounts of body corporate expenditure. Remember, this is expenditure that you are contributing to via your body corporate levies so it is imperative you are informed about what the spending is intended to achieve.
Remember, these tips are guidance only. Legal or other professional advice may be required depending on the circumstances.
For general body corporate information, contact my Office on 1800 060 119 or www.qld.gov.au/bodycorporate.
About Commissioner Chris Irons
Chris Irons is the Commissioner for the Body Corporate and Community Management department of the Queensland Government. This department provides a range of information and services for those who live, invest or work in a community titles scheme in Queensland.