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Editions

Owners’ Corporation Law

31 Mar 2020

Social distancing in apartment blocks is hard to do, but necessary right now

By Tom Bacon - Principal, Strata Title Lawyers

Right now, for the good of all persons’ health and wellbeing, we are socially distancing ourselves from each other.

For those of us living in apartment blocks though, it is more difficult to completely self-isolate due to the close proximity of our neighbours.

The committee needs to spring into action here and take certain steps to communicate to owners and residents about what it is doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

My recommendation is that notices should be put up on the common property, setting out the following matters (at minimum):

  • The cleaners have been instructed to use special antibacterial products on all common property doors, gates, front entry buttons, elevator surfaces and all other parts of the building where people touch with their hands;
  • The cleaners have been allocated extra hours to do additional cleaning;
  • Any person living in the block who has been tested positive to COVID-19 should contact the strata committee to inform them, so that additional cleaning procedures can be deployed on that floor, and so that support with buying groceries, etc can be arranged;
  • If the building has a pool or gym and if the Committee determines it should remain open, then procedures should be put in place to limit the number of persons using at any one time. Anyone using the gym should wear gloves and a mask and use hand sanitiser after using each machine.

In addition, the strata committee should consider the mental health and anxiety of owners and residents in their complex and see if there are any ways to bring a little positivity and cheer, while respecting the social distancing rules. There may be persons living your block who are having a very hard time (out of work, anxiety, small kids/cabin fever, etc) and those persons should feel encouraged to reach out to contact the strata committee if they are not feeling great. After all, we are all in this together.

From a legal perspective, the Owners’ Corporation Act (2006) is very well set up with a mechanism for the executive committee to meet remotely via email and teleconference, Skype, etc.

Any special general meetings or annual general meetings that are required to be convened can be performed by written ballot. Your owners’ corporation (OC) manager can facilitate this process very easily under Section 83 of the Owners’ Corporation Act (2006).

My recommendation is that an FAQ or explanatory note to all motions should be sent out to accompany the ballot. Some of my buildings are offering to host a teleconference hook-up or Skype/Zoom session so that owners can ask questions about the motions on the agenda and get answers before making their decisions.

This will be the new normal for OCs over the next few months. Victoria is well ahead of other states in moving to this type of flexibility in their legislation to hold meetings electronically. The rest of Australia is not so lucky and is often just having to defer their important meetings. I would encourage us all to take advantage of these flexible arrangements and try to keep “business as normal” as much as possible. So much within a building depends on the executive committee, OC manager and building management team keeping up with the workload •

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