Attendance at body corporate committee or general meetings by telephone

The issue of attendance at committee or general meetings by telephone has recently been raised with the BCCM Office.

While the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 is silent on the issue, adjudicators have ruled in favour of the practice.

Discussion and voting are the primary activities at body corporate meetings. Many readers would know that there are five separate regulation modules associated with the BCCM Act, and these differ slightly in their regulation of committee and general meetings. For this article I will refer to the Standard Module.

A motion is passed at a meeting of the committee if a majority of voting members present (either personally or by proxy) are in favour of it (SM s52). At general meetings, voting can be conducted by a show of hands, by sending in completed voting papers or by appointing a proxy or representative (SM s86). In addition, section 86 provides that the body corporate can, by ordinary resolution, decide that voters for a general meeting may record their votes electronically. Electronic voting must be conducted in accordance with the Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001.

The committee plays an important role in the annual administration of the body corporate and in dealing with any matters that crop up. To facilitate this, the regulations allow committee meetings to be conducted in a less formally structured way than general meetings. For example, the committee can discuss the matters on the agenda before making decisions and even introduce new matters to a meeting even though they do not appear on the agenda.

Committees operating under the Standard Module must have a minimum of three and a maximum of seven voting members. Bodies corporate often find it hard to elect a full committee and members may not always be resident owners. This can result in committee members unable to physically attend an unexpected meeting where motions must be discussed before taking any action. Under these circumstances the ability to attend via telephone would be beneficial.

A small number of adjudicators’ orders have considered the issue of attendance by telephone at committee meetings. In Chichester Court [2007] QBCCMCmr 684 (13 December 2007), the adjudicator, when considering attendance at committee meetings said: ‘Subject to the requirements of section 29 of the Standard Module there would seem to be no reason why committee meetings cannot be conducted by telephone…’

In O’Quinn Street Apartments [2008] QBCCMCmr 104 (20 March 2008) the adjudicator said: ‘Many small schemes, or schemes where owners are interstate, in fact conduct committee meetings by telephone conference or linking up without being physically present. This office has never ruled that this practice is unlawful since it is the object of the act to allow lot owners to manage a scheme in the best way for them, albeit within the framework of the legislation…’

General meetings tend to be more formal and depending on the size of the scheme could have large numbers of voters attending meetings or a large number of non-resident owners. If a voter is not personally in attendance at the meeting they may give their completed voting papers to the secretary or appoint a proxy.

Subject to approval and practical considerations it is also possible to attend a general meeting via telephone. Practical considerations could include the number of lot owners who wanted to attend by telephone and the expense involved. While it may be relatively simple to organise the attendance of one person by telephone, it would be logistically difficult and expensive if, say, 20 individuals wanted to attend the meeting in that way.

The issue of attendance at general meetings by telephone was considered in Apartments on the Lakes [2010] QBCCMCmr 417 (8 September 2010). The adjudicator ordered that a lot owner was entitled to attend committee and general meetings by telephone where practicable for the body corporate and provided that the cost, if any, is met by the owner. In respect of general meetings, the adjudicator said the applicant should give reasonable notice of their wish to attend the meeting by telephone.

Any lot owner or committee member who wishes to attend committee meetings or general meetings by telephone should approach their committee with their request. Should the owner’s or committee member’s request be refused they may choose to lodge a dispute resolution application with the Commissioner’s Office regarding the matter. If the matter proceeds to adjudication the adjudicator will make an order having regard to the specific circumstances of each case.

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