Is your personal information safe with your body corporate?

There is a lot of talk about the new POPI Act (Protection of Personal Information Act) and the impact it will have on personal information held by third parties. Some sectional title owners may have concerns as to how safe their personal information is with the body corporate or managing agent.

What is the POPI Act?

The purpose of the POPI Act is to ensure that personal information is managed responsibly by third parties. This includes the collection, storing and sharing of information. Entities that do not act responsibly will be held accountable for their actions. The act does not prevent third parties from collecting, storing and sharing personal information but rather directs how information must be collected, stored and shared responsibly and safely.

For this reason, cyber security should be a major consideration for any company that gathers and stores personal information. These companies must ensure that they properly secure all data for which they are responsible – this also applies to managing agents who are the custodians of a body corporate`s information. Trustees and owners in schemes should ask their managing agents about their strategy to secure personal information and prevent any cyber theft.

Owners of sectional title properties cannot use the POPI Act as a reason for not providing their information to the persons responsible for the management of their scheme. Such information is critical for the functioning and management of a scheme.

What does sectional title legislation require?

The management of a sectional title scheme will not be practically possible without information from the scheme’s members. Communication between the trustees, the managing agent and the members is critical to its existence. Correspondence is generally done through emails, telephone calls and the national postal service.

The prescribed management rules contained in the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA) requires that a body corporate keep records of the trustees, its members and of the tenants of members. This includes the following information:

  • Full names
  • Identity numbers or passport numbers if non-South African citizens
  • Section and mailing addresses (if different)
  • Telephone numbers
  • Email or other electronic addresses

The prescribed management rules further states that, apart from other information relevant to the scheme, the above information must be made available to other members, registered bondholders or a person authorised by a member or a registered bondholder. The only requirement is that the request must be made in writing.

Naturally, the personal information of members, trustees and tenants can only be obtained and updated if members provide the information. The STSMA places the responsibility on the members to notify the body corporate immediately of any change of ownership, occupancy in a unit or change of bond holder.

What is a reasonable request?

Providing the information is one of the functions of a body corporate in terms of the STSMA. The information must be provided when a reasonable request is received in writing.

Sectional title legislation does not distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable requests. It does provide a framework of the kind of information a body corporate must keep and where this information must be obtained. As a public entity, a body corporate is obliged to operate with transparency.

Following the guidelines provided by the STSMA will help to protect the personal information of sectional title owners.