- Wednesday, 16 May 2012 15:25
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The issue of access to body corporate records has featured in past articles for AccomNews, prompted by reported difficulties owners experience in accessing records.
The denial of access to body corporate records is often said to be based on concerns about privacy. Unfortunately, the BCCM Office Information Service continues to receive complaints about this problem and we continue to try and educate the parties.
We have just completed our annual round of information seminars which, if you've ever had the opportunity to attend, includes question time at the end. The presenters have reported back that many of the questions asked related to records. Interestingly, the questions were not about access but what records the body corporate must keep and what can be disposed of.
The Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 provides that a body corporate must keep rolls, registers and other documents and may dispose of them in the way provided for in the regulation module which applies to the scheme. We'll use the Standard Module as an example.
The body corporate must maintain a roll which, as most body corporate members would be aware, is a detailed list of information about each lot in the community titles scheme. Not only does the roll contain the name and residential or business address or the current owner of each lot, it also contains, among other things, information about the name and address of the lessee of a lot. Body corporate records also contain a number of registers including registers listing details about body corporate assets, information about current body corporate manager agreements and allocations of exclusive use areas.
The material generated in calling and holding committee and general meetings, as well as accounting records, insurance policies, correspondence received and sent by the body corporate amongst other things, all forms part of a body corporate's records. Anyone who has been associated with a body corporate for a time especially committee members will know that a vast amount of paper is accumulated.
The membership of the majority of bodies corporate is constantly changing. Lots are put on the market and change hands and new owners move into the scheme, some of whom want to go back through the body corporate's papers.
So just how long should all of this information be held?
Chapter 9 part 5 of the Standard Module regulations provides a reasonably comprehensive list of what makes up a body corporate's records and when particular records may be disposed of. For example, committee and general meetings produce a lot of material, everything from the notices and attachments to proxy forms and meeting minutes. The majority of this associated material may be disposed of after two years whereas things like the notice of the meeting and the statements of account can only be disposed of after six years.
The minutes of all committee and general meetings must be kept. The list of documents that may be disposed of after either two or six years does not mention minutes which indicates that they cannot be disposed of and must be retained.
While a body corporate may be able to dispose of some of its records other records must be held for up to six years and others indefinitely. In larger schemes or schemes that use the services of a body corporate manager, this may mean storing records off-site. Storing and accessing these records will usually involve a cost which leads me to a reminder about providing access to records.
Any person with an interest in a body corporate has a right under the act to inspect and obtain copies of body corporate records. Requests for access to records must be in writing and accompanied by the fee prescribed by the regulation module. However committee members are entitled to reasonable access without payment of a fee. A body corporate cannot impose additional fees or charges for providing information. For example, if a body corporate manager charges a further fee under their contract (archive retrieval fee), that is between the body corporate and the manager and cannot be passed on to a person seeking information under the act.
For further information on the legislative provisions regarding body corporate records or for general information about rights and responsibilities under the BCCM Act, contact the Commissioner's Office Information Service on freecall 1800 060 119 or www.justice.qld.gov.au/bccm.