This article with FAQs on All things Strata and COVID-19 for WA has been provided by Strata Community Association WA and Chris Irons, Hynes legal.
Jump directly to the QUESTION you are after:
- QUESTION: We are reopening our strata pool after it being closed due to the Coronavirus. Do we have to put up signs to let everyone know what the current rules are?
- QUESTION: Can we delay our Strata company annual general meeting due to COVID-19?
- QUESTION: Are Strata companies gymnasiums and pools required to be shut?
- QUESTION: Can a Strata company reduce the cost of contribution levies or postpone when they are due?
- QUESTION: I have lost my job. Will I have to pay late penalties if my body corporate levies are overdue?
- QUESTION: Do the social distancing rules apply in Strata lifts?
- QUESTION: Do owners have to notify the Strata Council if they are infected with COVID-19?
- QUESTION: Who cleans the complex if one of the lot owners gets sick and contaminates it?
SCA WA and Chris Irons from Hynes Legal have answered some commonly asked questions about the impact of COVID-19 on the WA strata industry. Please note: the information contained in this post is correct at time of publishing.
Question: We are reopening our strata pool after it being closed due to the Coronavirus. Do we have to put up signs to let everyone know what the current rules are?
We are reopening our strata pool after it being closed due to the Coronavirus. Do we have to put up signs to say what the plan is, or how many people are allowed to use it at the same time?
We are a complex of 58 apartments and I would say only 15 to 20 people use the pool.
Answer: If health directives in WA have allowed the pool to reopen on certain conditions, it seems sensible to let everyone know what those conditions are.
Let me say at the outset that I write this response without knowing about WA’s body corporate (strata) legislation or the detail of any health directives. It’s more a general response.
You talk about ‘the plan’. Does that mean your committee/executive has agreed and decided upon something about the use of the pool? If yes, then I’d agree you do need to be communicating that to all users and potential users, because a decision about the use of a common facility has an impact on everyone.
If health directives in WA have allowed the pool to reopen on certain conditions, it seems sensible to let everyone know what those conditions are, so that they can at least – hopefully – take some responsibility for them. Maybe a circular to owners/occupiers (tenants) to let me know, prior to reopening, or a notice on the noticeboard?
This post appears in Strata News #358.
Please note: The following FAQs by SCAWA were created in response to the environment in WA in early April 2020. As the situation changes, there may have been updates to these responses. Check Government websites for the current rules and restrictions.
Can we delay our Strata company annual general meeting due to COVID-19?
Yes. Face to face general meetings likely contravene Mass Gathering Directions under the Public Health Act issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the WA Government.
AGM’s may still be held remotely. Lavan Legal has provided this useful guidance note for SCA WA which will be of assistance to strata companies that wish to hold an AGM remotely while remaining compliant with the relevant statutes.
The WA Government remains on track to proclaim the Strata Titles Amendment Act 2018 and the associated regulations on May 1st. Those reforms make provision for holding meetings remotely (Section 131 of the Act).
Are Strata company’s gymnasiums and pools in WA required to be shut?
Official direction on this point is somewhat ambiguous.
The relevant WA government directive lists “a health club or fitness centre, including a centre offering yoga, barre or spin facilities” as being required to close and swimming pools “whether indoors or outdoors (not including a community swimming pool which is run on a non-commercial basis)”.
Swimming pools and gyms in Strata complexes are places where people gather in a way that is likely to contravene the spirit of directives in relation to social distancing and public gatherings. We are also aware that some Local Government Authorities are issuing notices to Strata Companies to close facilities until further notice to mitigate the threat posed by COVID-19 to patrons and residents. We, therefore, consider it best practice for Strata complexes with gyms and swimming pools to close those facilities immediately.
Can a Strata company reduce the cost of contribution levies or postpone when they are due?
The Strata Company adopts the budgets and sets the levies at the annual general meeting by passing a motion by ordinary resolution. The Strata Company can decide to amend the motion about the levies and set different due dates. Motions are amended by the same type of resolution that they originally passed.
In this environment, individual Strata Companies must reconcile the need to ensure that levies are collected to meet anticipated expenditure requirements with the prospect that the ability of individual lot owners to pay the agreed levies is being negatively impacted as damage to the real economy continues.
Accounts firm, Kelly + Partners have produced this useful ‘5 point Action Checklist for Strata’ which is intended to give Strata Committee members advice and direction in managing the negative economic effects of the current crisis on Strata Plans.
I have lost my job. Will I have to pay late penalties if my body corporate levies are overdue?
If your Strata Company has previously made a decision to have penalties apply to late payments then you may be charged interest or debt recovery charges. However, the Strata Council can decide to waive penalties and debt recovery costs in special circumstances.
SCA WA advises any lot owner whose ability to pay their levies is impeded due to job loss to contact the Strata Council and/or their Strata Manager without delay and before missing a payment. By doing so, Strata Companies will be given sight of the scope of the problem at their scheme early and the opportunity to begin discussions regarding how best to address it.
It is important to note that the Strata Council needs to consider any payment plan as a result of economic hardship, the strata manager does not have this authority.
Do the social distancing rules apply in Strata lifts?
SCA WA advises that social distancing should be observed by users of lifts as this is in line with Government advice. In addition, the SCA Guide for Building Managers recommends that cleaning schedules for lifts be increased.
Do owners have to notify the Strata Council if they are infected with COVID-19?
There is no legal obligation for a person to disclose this information. They may opt, as a courtesy, to alert the Strata Company while abiding by any direction they have received in terms of quarantining/ self-isolation.
By providing the Strata Company with early notice of infection, the Strata Company can implement their Pandemic Plan which may involve increased cleaning on the infected residents level/area, delivery of mail and food directly to the door of the resident and other similar practices.
It is also essential that property managers and landlords ensure they provide up to date details for their tenants in the building so that the Strata Company has the ability to communicate with all residents should an emergency eventuate.
Who cleans the complex if one of the lot owners gets sick and contaminates it?
The Strata company must keep the common areas clean and in good condition. This may include cleaning common property if it becomes contaminated. The SCA Guide for Building Managers contains advice on best practice cleaning for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
WA Strata Reform Training Package
SCA WA has been working with Atkinson Legal to implement an online Strata Reform Training Package. This will be available to SCA WA Industry Professional members from 14th April 2020. The upcoming webinars are for strata managers only at this point. SCA WA will have a separate package for owners at a later date.
Stand by for more information about registering for the Industry Professional webinars, plus a date for the upcoming Lot Owner training sessions.
This post appears in Strata News #339.
Have a question about Strata and COVID-19 for WA or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
Please note this advice was provided prior to the proclamation of the new strata title amendments and will be updated in due course.
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