The implementation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) has posed many challenges for community housing schemes, like sectional title complexes, apartment blocks, residential estates and retirement villages, especially around the appointment of an information officer. “For POPIA Act compliance, every community scheme must have an information officer who is the POPIA oversight representative of the scheme. The Information Regulator has now agreed that a managing agent can be nominated as the information officer for more than one scheme,” says specialist sectional title attorney and BBM Law director Marina Constas.
The Information Regulator’s initial stipulation that the information officer must be an employee of the community scheme caused confusion and agitation. “A community scheme does not have employees at executive or managerial level, and doesn’t have an operational structure. The role of information officer would almost certainly be too onerous and time consuming for community scheme board members, who are not paid for their services, have regular jobs, and do not have the requisite time, inclination nor skill to protect data,” she says.
Seeking clarity, Constas and a group of stakeholders met community schemes ombud advocate Boyce Mkhize. “We discussed our concerns around the Information Regulator not recognising that a senior managing agent should be allowed to be appointed as the information officer of more than one scheme,” says Constas.
Since community schemes contract the operational and day to-day management of the scheme to a managing agent, a senior individual at the managing agency would be the most appropriate choice for an information officer. “The Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) recommends that a written agreement be put in place between the community scheme and the managing agent company, if an employee of the managing agency is acting as information officer,” Constas says. She stresses that the scheme executives are still ultimately responsible and will be held accountable in respect of the POPI Act.