Although it is important that changes affecting a strata scheme’s operation are procedurally determined and properly recorded, due to restrictions on non-essential gathering it is currently not permissible to hold ‘in person’ strata committee and general meetings.
In NSW under the Strata Scheme Management Act 2015 (the Act) strata committees have the option of holding a committee meeting ‘on the papers’. Clause 9(2) Schedule 2 allows this as long as 72 hours notice of the meeting and a copy of the agenda has been given to each member of the strata committee.
However, the Act requires an owners corporation to hold an in person general meeting to resolve to allow electronic voting or another means of voting. Unless your strata scheme has already resolved to do this, general meetings may have to be delayed due to the current temporary restrictions on non-essential gatherings.
If this is an issue in your strata scheme ie if your AGM is delayed the building insurance will lapse, it may be better to notify and obtain an email address for each lot owner and despite the lack of an empowering resolution, hold an electronic general meeting – the need for continuing building insurance for example, would likely far outweigh the requirement for strict procedural compliance with the Act.
Owners and occupiers should be mindful of social distancing measures when using common property such as hallways, rooftops and elevators. People should treat these areas as they would public spaces by avoiding lingering in the area, implementing the two-person gathering limit (excluding members of the same household) and adhering to a physical distance of 1.5 metres.
It would be prudent for strata committees to resolve to adopt new ‘rules’ setting out the expected behaviour of owners and occupiers on common property. For instance, a rule limiting the number of people in lifts and laundry rooms to two people at a time.
Where a strata scheme has recreational facilities such as a swimming pool, gym, tennis court or communal BBQ area, committees should be acting to restrict use of these areas and to notify all owners and occupiers of the restrictions put in place. This is consistent with the obligations of strata committees to act in the best interests of all owners and occupiers in a scheme, to ensure the ongoing health and safety of all occupants.
Strata managers and strata committees should be mindful of an owners corporation’s strict obligation to maintain and repair common property. This obligation continues even if parts of the common property aren’t being used.
Keeping good communication between strata committees and owners and occupiers is critical at this time. Minutes of strata committee meetings should be circulated to all owners and occupiers. If your strata scheme has a notice board, this should also be utilised to keep owners, occupiers and visitors informed.
It’s a good idea to also place signs on common property setting out any restrictions or new temporary rules.
As a result of restricting use to building facilities and common areas, strata committees may determine to reduce services to the building. This may also be done in order to minimise health risks to residents. Or there may be a need to increase services with more owners and occupiers staying at home and the need for cleaning and waste management services growing. Once again, these changes can be determined and recorded through paper strata committee meetings. Any increase in costs that can’t be met by the scheme’s budget, may have to go to a general meeting for determination or striking a special levy.
Strata schemes with ongoing building work should also be aware of the recent order made under the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 which now allows construction work to take place on weekends and public holidays.
Motions and explanatory notes should be prepared so a committee can resolve to implement the above procedures, particularly:
What your strata scheme requires will vary depending on the titling structure you have, the size of the scheme, the extent of the recreational facilities and common property and the ability to physically restrict access to these areas.
Download pdf here – COVID-19 temporarily changing the way strata schemes operate – 6 April 2020
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided as personal information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be used as legal or professional advice. The information in this article should not be relied upon – you should seek legal advice for your own specific circumstances.
Speirs Ryan is a Sydney based boutique property law firm with national coverage. The firm is uniquely placed with specialist teams in both strata law and property transactions. Speirs Ryan has advised a number of stakeholders on strata issues and transactions including owners corporations, lot owners, statutory authorities, developers and private interests.
For further information or advice please contact us.