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Covid-19 Update for Strata

April 03, 2020

The current health crisis has created a lot of uncertainty and raised a lot of questions. We’ve been fielding calls from our clients looking for strata-related health and financial advice. While the situation is changing daily and we can’t necessarily answer every question, hopefully, the below answers helps.

This article is current as of Friday 03/04/2020 and will be updated as we receive further instructions from government and industry bodies and as we see new trends in the questions our clients have.

Is my strata manager still working and how can I contact them?

Each strata management company is approaching this situation in their own way.

At Independent, it’s almost business as usual. The office is closed but our team is working from home. The best way to contact one of our strata managers is through their direct email address, as we are experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment.

We are working to respond to all enquiries within our normal 24-business hour response time, however as enquiries have increased our response times have increased with it. We appreciate our client’s understanding at this time.

The strata office is open twice a week by appointment only for those that need to pick up keys etc.

Will we need to continue paying strata levies during this time?

Yes. Levies, which are required to keep the building operational, including maintenance, utilities, and insurance. You can find more information about strata levies here.

Levies will be due on their normal date. If you think you are going to be unable to pay them on time, we recommend getting in touch with your strata manager as soon as possible. We understand that many of our clients are experiencing financial hardship and are working closely with owners’ corporations and executive committees to form solutions. These may include deferred payment plans.

Some executives committees are working to reduce levy amounts for all owners at this time. For ECs that want to go down this line, we recommend:

  1. Checking to see if your OC has a starting surplus that can be used.
  2. Not re-budgeting an expenditure that was not spent in a previous financial year.
  3. Where possible, use the surplus and run a deficit budget.
  4. Determine how much items such as insurance, utilities, and fees will be increased.
  5. Think about non-essential expenditure.
  • Is that tree report necessary?
  • Is new irrigation a priority or will the old system last another year?
  • Do you really need more or better CCTV cameras?
Will our executive meetings and AGMs continue?

At Independent, we’re running our meetings through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Strata Vote. Our team has been doing this for almost two weeks now, and while it feels a little different, the feedback been really positive. So much so that, when life returns to normal, we will continue to offer this as an option.

Can I continue to use our gym, pool and other common areas?

We recommend that all common facilities be closed at this time to decrease the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading throughout your development. This decision will be made by individual executive committees.

Some common property cannot be closed, such as doors, lifts, and corridors. In these instances, it’s important to follow government guidelines for social distancing and good hygiene practices, including washing your hands or using hand sanitiser before and after using common property.

Is maintenance still being done on my complex?

Currently, all of our tradespeople are still working. There have been some small delays as access to imported materials is limited at the moment. They are implementing their own health and safety practices to comply with government guidelines and ensure the wellbeing of residents and themselves.

Do I need to tell anyone if I have contracted COVID-19?

If you have contracted COVID-19, there is no legal obligation for you to inform your strata manager or neighbours. You have a right to privacy in these matters. You may choose to let your neighbours know so they can take additional precautions, particularly if they are in a vulnerable demographic, but this is a personal choice, not a requirement.

What should our executive committees be doing?

Most ECs have already scheduled additional cleaning services to help protect their community. The Strata Communities Association has released factsheets that give further advice for:

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted insurance claims?

Australia’s destructive weather events at the beginning of the year resulted in a surge of insurance claims. In order to address these as quickly as possible, insurance companies brought assessors in from overseas to help resolve claims. Understandably, these assessors have been sent home due to the health crisis. As a result, insurance companies may be taking longer than usual to process claims.

We are working closely with insurance companies to get all claims attended to, but request some patience as there aren’t enough qualified assessors in the country to manage the high demand.

In addition, a lack of access to imported supplies is impacting repair times.

How can we maintain a positive community spirit when we’re all confined in high-density living and stress levels are high?

First and foremost, it comes down to patience and understanding that everyone is doing it tough and from what we’ve seen, everyone is doing the best they can.

There are some concrete steps you can take to keep morale high.

  • Keep the complex clean and tidy and feeling like a nice place to live
  • Stay in contact with each other – from an appropriate distance. If your strata building has an online community notice board, that’s a good place to start social interaction.