Managing COVID-19 and your Strata Scheme

COVID-19

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, our office has been inundated with calls and emails

from concerned clients. 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.
In mid-March 2020 we made the decision to enable our team to continue their work remotely. Whilst we are setup to take this step, we have not previously worked in this way on such a large scale. 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. With our team working remotely, our reception will be closed so we encourage you to continue utilising phone and email to communicate with our team. Please keep in mind that if you need to pick up or drop anything off to our offices, you will need to have made a prior appointment.
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
  • following the hygiene and social distancing measures recommended by the NSW Department of Health.
As defined by NSW Fair Trading, “in the current situation, any services that contribute to the safety, health of residents and maintenance of minimum living standards should be considered by the Owners Corporation. For example, lighting for an underground garage may be considered more essential than lighting in a common property pool or meeting room”.
You should expect non-urgent work may be postponed, especially if it involves entering individual units. If tighter restrictions come into force, maintenance might be limited to emergency works. During this time we ask for your understanding if non-essential repairs and maintenance are postponed for the safety of those in your building.




Common Property and Building Facilities


From 21 March 2020, under the Public Health (COVID-19 Gatherings) Order 2020, non-essential gatherings of more than two people were restricted, and we were instructed to stay home unless we are:

  • Going to work or education (if unable to do so at home)
  • Shopping for essential supplies such as groceries
  • Going out for personal exercise
  • Attending medical appointments or compassionate visits
In addition, facilities such as pools, gymnasiums, indoor sporting venues and entertainment venues were closed due to public health concerns.
Closing building facilities such as pools and gymnasiums is a decision which sits with each Strata Scheme’s Owners Corporation. However, if these facilities remain open, there are still physical distancing measures which must be adhered to. This also applies to other common property areas such as lifts.
As stated by NSW Fair Trading, “Owners Corporations must comply with planning approvals and the owner or occupier of a lot must ensure that the lot is not used for any purpose that is prohibited by law and is not occupied by more people than allowed by law”.
At this time, physical distancing requirements severely limit the reasons for social visits and must be observed at all times.
If you are concerned about the cleaning and sanitation of common areas during the COVID-19 outbreak and would like increase these services, please speak with your Committee member or Strata Manager.




Disclosure – Contracting COVID-19


If you have a confirmed case of the virus, there is no formal requirement for you to disclose that you are unwell. However, we strongly encourage you to do so if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. This will assist in stopping the spread of the virus. You do not need to disclose to your building if you are in isolation with no symptoms.
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 physical distancing requirements, may be reported to the Police if the circumstance warrants this measure.




Levy Payments and Arrears Management


As the impact of COVID-19 continues to spread through our economy, we are being 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 a stimulus package 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 directly or through your employer. More information can be found here.




Committee and Other Meetings


We are doing our bit to slow the spread and, therefore, we are only running face-to-face meetings where there is no other option and all physical distancing regulations can be adhered to.
We have the technology in place to allow voting in writing, by proxy, via email or teleconference. We are working on additional means of online voting which your Strata Manager will be able to confirm in the coming weeks. As long as the Owners Corporation have passed a motion to accept voting by means other than in person, these technologies can be utilised. If this is not the case, you will still be able to vote by proxy or postal vote. Please note that proxy votes are restricted to:

  • one proxy vote per person for Strata Schemes with 20 lots or less; or
  • for Strata Schemes with more than 20 lots, a number that is equal to no more than 5% of the total number of lots.
Owners Corporations must hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) every 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.




Owners Corporation Obligations


As above, only work required to maintain the minimum health and safety requirements of the building and common property should be carried out during the pandemic. There should be no change to the use of Administation and Capital Works funds in the short term as these finances have been collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the current circumstances it is unlikely to be appropriate to raise a Special Levy so once these funds are exhausted:

  • As confirmed by NSW Fair Trading, “the Owners Corporation may consider moving funds between these accounts [Administration and Capital Works funds]”. This should be done with caution as Section 76 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 requires that funds moved in this way be reimbursed within three months of being transferred between accounts.
  • A strata loan may be sourced through our office to allow the completion of work required to maintain minimum health and safety standards for the building and any common property areas. A strata loan must first be authorised by an ordinary resolution of a general meeting of proprietors.




Further information


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 some links which you may find helpful:





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2020

 Strata Management Services NSW

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