Managing COVID-19 and your Strata Scheme

COVID-19

                                                                                                                                                             Last Updated: 3 August 2021

To assist owners and other Strata Scheme residents, we have prepared the below FAQs.

Strata Management Services NSW Operations


At Strata Management Services NSW we place the utmost importance on the health and safety of our team, clients and the wider community.
Since the pandemic began, our team have been working flexibly. This means that they are able to work in the office but also from home without any interruption to the level of service they provide. During significant COVID outbreaks our offices will have only skeleton staff working in the office and reception will be closed to the public. We encourage you to continue utilising phone and email to communicate with our team and to keep in mind that if you need to pick up or drop off any items to our offices, you will need to have made a prior appointment with a team member. We know from experience that there is a greater load on Strata Schemes and greater enquiry coming through our office when we experience a significant outbreak. We assure you that we are continuing to work hard to ensure we are able to remain as responsive as ever but we do ask that you bear with us during times when there is greater uncertainty in the community as our enquiry levels peak. We aim to minimise any disruption to our valued clients and want to reassure you that we will continue to work to ensure the smooth running of your building. We thank you for your understanding and wish you and your loved ones well in these uncertain times.




Contractors, Essential Services and Building Works


To help minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for clients and contractors, we recommend:

  • checking in with any tradesperson before they visit to ensure they are well;
  • considering rescheduling non-urgent works, especially if there are high-risk people at home and/or there is a high risk in the community at the current time; and
  • following the hygiene and physcial distancing measures recommended by the NSW Department of Health.

At times when tighter restrictions are in force, maintenance might be limited to emergency works. During this time we ask for your understanding if non-essential repairs and maintenance are be postponed for the safety of those in your building.

In some instances, contractors may not be able to attend to scheduled work due to exposure to COVID-19, stricter lockdowns in specific suburbs/Local Government Areas (LGAs) and at times it may be harder to find contractors who are able and/or willing to attend sites in areas of greater risk. We have a number of trusted tradespeople in all areas and will be able to arrange works to be completed but again, we ask for your understanding if this takes longer than usual.

From 31 July 2021 until 28 August 2021, please be aware:

Tradespeople who are able to work with zero contact with residents are able to resume work as long as they adhere to the requirement of no more than two people inside and five people outside (to a maximum of 5 people) and use of common areas is limited. This work is not allowed in the eight LGAs of concern, nor are workers allowed to leave these areas to perform work.

Within the 8 LGAs of particular concern emergency work can be carried out by workers who live within the particular LGAs where the work is required. Non-essential work cannot be carried out in these LGAs. Work is considered essential (including cleaning, repairs and maintenance and alterations and additions to buildings) where it is urgently required:

“(i) to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or persons residing at the place of residence, or

(ii) because of an emergency, or

(b) the work is—

(i) for the installation, maintenance or repair of an essential utility, including a water, gas, electricity, internet, television or telecommunications service, or

(ii) for fire protection and safety, or

(c) for prescribed work that is cleaning or repairs and maintenance—the work is carried out—

(i) at a place or residence that is unoccupied when the work is being carried out, and

(ii) because it is necessary for the sale or lease of the place of residence.”

While construction on unoccupied sites has re-commenced outside of the 8 lockdown LGAs, construction, renovations and major works at occupied Strata Schemes (in or outside of the LGAs of concern) is not yet permitted. If contactless arrangements are not possible, work cannot go ahead.

It is important to note that residents must never be put at risk by the attendance of any tradesperson. If you have concerns, please reach out to a Committee Member or your Strata Manager.




Common Property and Building Facilities


Since 21 March 2020 we have seen a succession of Public Health Orders which have aimed to limit movement and place certain additional obligations on individuals and businesses alike to limit the spread of COVID-19.

At times we have seen facilities such as pools, gymnasiums, indoor sporting venues and entertainment venues were closed due to public health concerns. Where Public Health Orders place restrictions on social visits, these must be adhered to by all residents. Breaches should be reported immediately to NSW Police.

If you are concerned about the cleaning and sanitation of common areas during the COVID-19 outbreak and would like to increase these services, please speak with your Committee member or Strata Manager.

From 31 July 2021 until 28 August 2021, please be aware:

During the July 2021 (Delta) outbreak, Greater Sydney has seen a number of people contract COVID-19 on common property. Face masks must now be worn by persons over 12 years in indoor areas of all residential and non-residential premises across Greater Sydney (e.g. lifts, lobbies, corridors, internal carparks, and garbage rooms).

For more information you should refer to the current Public Health Order. For relevant signage which may be displayed in common areas please click the below links:




Disclosure – Contracting COVID-19


You do not need to disclose to the building if you are under orders to isolate with no symptoms or confirmed case of COVID-19.

If you have a confirmed case of the virus, NSW Health will take care of any requirements to disclose that you have contracted the virus for the purpose of stopping the spread.

If our office is advised of a confirmed case in your building we will contact the Committee to ensure owners and residents are aware of any potential increased risk. Actions may include posting notices in the building and increasing cleaning / sanitation services. Under current privacy legislation we are not able to disclose who has been affected unless that person gives their written permission to do so.

Any person who is required by law to quarantine or who is not complying with the social distancing requirements should be reported to NSW Police.




Levy Payments and Arrears Management


As the impact of COVID-19 has spread through our economy, we have been contacted by owners who are seeking relief with regard to their levy payments. Requests may include a waiver of interest and / or the request to enter into a payment plan in order to ease the immediate financial burden. In order for interest to be waived or a payment plan entered into, the Owners Corporation must vote on this at a General Meeting. Whilst this is usually done at the Annual General Meeting, if enough interest is garnered from your Strata Scheme, an Extraordinary General Meeting may be held.

If you are suffering hardship yourself, our office will be able to suggest and facilitate the possibility of waiving interest on levies, finalising a payment plan and addressing the way debt recovery is conducted for your Strata Scheme. Keep in mind that it is important to continue contributing as much as possible toward the payment of your levies. This will help to ensure the Strata Scheme can pay for running costs such as insurance, waste management, common area utilities and general maintenance. You should also be aware that there may be government benefits which can assist you directly or through your employer. More information can be found here.

To help minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for clients and staff, we will continue using contactless payment methods. Please see your levy notice for more information on payment options.




Strata Scheme Cashflow


As part of our service to your Strata Scheme, we assist in budgeting and setting the levies each year. This is done by considering previous expenses and upcoming building works. As the COVID-19 outbreak could not be predicted, if one or more owners in your building are financially impacted, this may have a flow on affect for the Strata Scheme’s cashflow.

It is important to note that with many residents working or studying from home that the load on your building has increased (e.g. garbage disposal, water usage, etc) and this may come with costs of its own.

We will continue to actively monitor and manage the cashflow of your Strata Scheme. If required, your Strata Manager will reach out to the Committee to explore available options. Options may include speaking with providers (e.g. common property utility providers) to reduce costs, raising special levies, seeking a strata loan, deferring planned works or reallocating funds.

To date, no stimulus package relating to Strata Schemes has been announced, however, if you are suffering hardship yourself there may be a package which can assist you or your business directly, or through your employer. More information can be found here.




Committee and Other Meetings


As at July 2021, we are doing our bit to slow the spread and, therefore, we are not currently running face-to-face meetings. This is in line with with the requirements for gatherings under current Public Health Order affecting the Greater Sydney region.

To support strata schemes through this time and recognise the need to not delay meetings, the NSW Government passed the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation (No 2) 2021 on 21 July 2021. This Regulation permits strata meetings to be held remotely and voting to be conducted digitally. As it is not looking unlikely that restricitons will lift entirely until far beyond the current 28 August 2021 end date, it is important meetings are not delayed so that budgeting can be finalised and urgent matters actioned at the soonest possible time.

Once the Deltra strain is contained we will reconsider the risk to our team and clients and will reinstate face-to-face meetings when it is safe to do so.

We have the technology in place to allow voting in writing, by proxy, via email or teleconference. As long as the Owners Corporation have passed a motion and by-law to accept voting by means other than in person, these technologies can be utilised. If this is not the case, you are still be able to vote by means other than in person while the Strata Schemes Management Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation (No 2) 2021 remains in place. We strongly recommend that in preparation for any future outbreaks each building pass the by-law referred to above so that you are not relying on the government to pass the required legislation and meetings are therefore not delayed.

Owners Corporations must hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) each financial year. However, there is no penalty attached to non-compliance with this requirement. Additional meetings may be held as required by your strata committee each year.




Further information and Support


For all matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, please reach out to your Strata Manager or contact the relevant office via cronulla@smsnsw.com.au or alexandria@smsnsw.com.au.

Below are a number of useful links to external websites:

  • Lifeline (for anyone in personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • Beyond Blue (for support and information regarding mental health) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Kids Helpline (24/7 phone and online chat for those aged 5-25 years) — call 1800 55 1800