This article includes FAQs on All things Strata and COVID-19 for WA. Please note: the information contained in this post is correct at time of publishing. Updated for strata residents and lot owners on the 11 February to reflect the current COVID-19 situation in Perth and Peel and what this means for people living in apartments in WA.
Table of Contents:
- ARTICLE: WA Lockdown and Strata Complexes: All Your Questions about Apartment Living During the Lockdown Answered by Strata Community Association (WA)
- QUESTION: Due to COVID, the council has disabled our video intercom. Do we have any rights to get this facility reinstated?
- 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?
UPDATE 11 FEB: The COVID-19 restrictions have changed in WA in line with the new transition phase. Please see the relevant restrictions relating to strata below:
- Pools, gyms, and saunas may reopen but must adhere to the 4sq metre rule and have a contact register
- Masks must be worn outside of the home (including in common areas and the office)
WA Lockdown and Strata Complexes: All Your Questions About Apartment Living During the Lockdown Answered by Strata Community Association (WA)
Many areas in Western Australia have announced a full lockdown after receiving the first COVID-19 community transmission case in ten months, but what does that mean for strata complexes and people living in apartments in Perth and surrounding areas?
There has been a lot of confusion around some of the lockdown restrictions, so the Strata Community Association (WA) has done some digging and put together this quick FAQ to shed light on how this works for everyone living in strata communities in WA.
Q. If I live in a strata complex, does my pool have to close?
A. Whether inside or outside, all pools, spas, saunas, gyms, and other communal facilities must close.
Q. Can I exercise in my strata complex?
A. No, not in common areas. Please keep all exercise within your own lot, but of course, you are allowed to pass through common areas to exercise outside in line with current government regulations.
Q. Do I near to wear a mask outside my lot?
A. Yes, masks must be worn when you exit your lot, meaning a mask must be worn as soon as you leave your own premises. You must wear a mask in all common areas, even if you are only checking the mail or going to the bin.
SCA (WA) tip: We recommend keeping a mask near the front door of your apartment so you can always grab one when you’re leaving.
Q. Can I still use the lift?
A. You can use the lifts in your strata complex, however, you must wear a mask and adhere to the 2 square metre rule. Most lifts will have a limit of one or two people at any time, so be prepared to take the next lift if necessary.
Q. Can I hire a contractor to do some work?
A. Contractors can work on common property provided they are masked and taking the usual precautions of hand washing and social distancing. Contractors are NOT allowed into your lot (unless it’s for emergency work) so any non-essential work will have to wait until the restrictions have lifted.
Q. Can I get deliveries to the building?
A. Deliveries must be left at the entrance to the building, no matter what kind of delivery – food, postal or otherwise. You must then wear a mask to collect the delivery and should do so while adhering to social distancing.
Q. What happens if someone is isolating in the building?
A. If someone is isolating, they do NOT have to disclose this to the strata company. If, however, they do disclose they’re isolating, there must be extra cleaning requirements. You cannot specify to other residents which lot is isolating, but you can advise the cleaners that there is someone isolating so the cleaning needs to increase.
Q. Should we increase cleaning of the building?
A. We recommend all complexes seek daily cleaning if possible, particularly on frequently shared
surfaces such as door handles, intercom, and lift buttons.
Q. What happens if there is an emergency in the building?
A. Proceed as you would in any emergency situation by calling 000 and evacuating calmly. You must still wear a mask in common areas. You must also socially distance while standing in the evacuation area. We recommend leaving a mask near the door so you can wear this as you exit.
Q. Is my strata manager working during the lockdown?
A. Most strata managers are still working remotely during lockdown. Please keep in mind it may take longer to answer some queries as query numbers are likely to increase during the lockdown period. Strata managers are keeping up constant lines of communication to council members and contractors and will be doing their best to keep all residents and services up to date and informed.
If you have any further questions about lockdowns in strata complexes, feel free to email the Strata Community Association (WA) team at [email protected] who will do their best to research the issue for you.
President, SCA (WA)
UPDATE: As at the 5 Feb 2021, Perth and surrounds are due to come out of lockdown at 6 pm today. For a breakdown of changes, take a look at this article from ABC News: Perth’s post-COVID lockdown rules explained, from mask-wearing to nightclubbing
This post appears in Strata News #449.
Question: Due to COVID, the council has disabled our video intercom. Do we have any rights to get this facility reinstated?
I live in an apartment complex of 47 apartments. We have video units in our apartments that allow for someone to buzz us, we can see who it is and then let them into the building and the lift so they can come up to our floor.
Since COVID, the council has closed off this option to us, so you cannot let someone into the building directly from the apartment but have to go downstairs.
Completely understand this. However, the Council keeps on looking at this issue at their meetings, and continues to extend it – now we are being told they will relook at it again at the end of January. I am not sure why, and although not a major issue for us, I would like to know if we have any rights in this instance to get this facility reinstated.
We have a couple of elderly people in these apartments, and if something were to happen and they needed to get an emergency service into the apartment, they wouldn’t be able to let them via the video panel.
Answer: A general meeting of the strata company has the power to overrule decisions at council level and instruct the council of owners accordingly.
COVID19 has certainly provided all of us with unprecedented challenges for our time. It has been difficult for the council of owners in many schemes to know what actions they should be taking during COVID to ensure the Strata Company’s obligation are met. Council members are voluntary and often rely on external information to assist them in making decisions. Finding guidance during COVID has been difficult and at times slow to Seminate.
The council of owners have a statutory obligation to control and manage the common property for the benefit of all lot proprietors. It is possible that your council believe they are acting in everyone’s interest and tat may well be the case. If you are concerned that their actions are not well measured I would encourage you to communicate your perspective to them highlighting your reasons you believe they should take an alternative course of action and if possible offer them alternative solutions in overcoming any fear or concerns they may hold. You could also request that they canvas all owners in their decision making process.
In terms of rights to challenge the decisions made, a general meeting of the strata company has the power to overrule decisions at council level and instruct the council of owners accordingly. You can request a general meeting be called to consider the decision and if the council of owners are not prepared to conduct a meeting you could attempt to requisition a general meeting. A general meeting must be convened by the council of the strata company on the written request of owners entitled to 25% or more of the unit entitlements of the lots in the strata titles scheme.
This post appears in Strata News #446.
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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Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, take a look here.