covid-strata

COVID and Strata Living

Reducing the Spread in Strata 

With roughly fifteen per cent (more than 1 million people) of NSW’s population living in apartments and sharing entries, lifts, garbage areas, air conditioning and the likes, the strata community must take particular caution to further prevent the spread, especially given the highly infectious nature of the Delta variant. 

The Delta strain of COVID-19 — behind the state’s lockdown — is passed to people twice as often as the strain previously considered most viral, the Alpha variant.

The COVID situation in NSW is constantly evolving. We will update this page with any changes to the below guidelines and any legislation changes that impact strata and community schemes.

———————

Update: Monday, 26 July 2021

The NSW Government signed off on a new Public Health Order and as of 23 July. If you cannot wear a face mask because of a disability, physical or mental health illness or condition, you must carry;

  • A medical certificate or letter signed by a registered health practitioner or a registered NDIS practitioner or a statutory declaration.
  • Proof of exemption and identity

If you are in a situation where masks are mandatory, a regulatory officer can ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.

If asked by NSW Police, you must show them proof of exemption or your medical certificate. You must also carry and produce evidence of your name and address to a police officer if requested.

A statutory declaration will require you to identify your disability, physical or mental health illness or condition and declare:

  • you have the physical or mental health illness or condition or disability and
  • the physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability makes wearing a fitted face-covering unsuitable.

Officers will issue a penalty notice if you clearly refuse to wear a mask without a lawful reason.

———————

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

As of  21 July 2021, owners corporations and community land associations are once again able to validly meet and vote electronically without having previously adopted a resolution in this regard. The existing regulations on executing documents without the common seal and serving notice of meetings by email have been retained.

These changes have been made through two new COVID-19 regulations, published on the NSW Legislation website as follows:

Community Land Management

Strata Schemes Management

These regulations will be in force until the end of 20 January 2022.

———————

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Minister Hazzard has now signed an amendment to the current Public Health Order which permits workers to carry out certain non-urgent work including for fire protection and safety.

The term “authorised workers” has now been extended.  Category 3 (Public administration and safety) now includes “fire protection and safety” as an authorised role.

Subclause 22A of the Public Health Order, Directions of Minister about visitors to places of residence

Subclause (4A) (A person is not authorised to visit a place of residence in Greater Sydney to engage in work that is cleaning or carrying out repairs, maintenance, alterations, additions or other trades at the place of residence) does not apply if the work:

(a) is urgently required—

  • to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or the members of the household, or
  • because of an emergency, or

(b) is—

  • for the installation, maintenance or repair of an essential utility, including a water, gas, electricity, internet, television or telecommunications service, or
  • for fire protection and safety, or

(c) is the cleaning or carrying out of repairs or maintenance at an unoccupied place of residence where it is necessary for the sale or lease of the place of residence.

Note. Waste disposal work can be carried out on common property of residential premises.

———————

Monday, 19 July 2021

The Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 was updated on 18 July 2021 with additional restrictions imposed in a bid to prevent further transmission of COVID. From 19 July, construction sites in Greater Sydney must close unless it is necessary to:

  • deal with environmental risks
  • maintain critical equipment
  • maintain public utilities
  • receive deliveries of supplies that would otherwise deteriorate
  • maintain a safe operation, or
  • in an emergency.

Trade work including cleaning or repairs, maintenance, alterations, additions or other trade work, cannot be carried out unless the work is urgently required:

  • to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or the members of the household, or
  • because of an emergency

Strata Plus notes that the government has confirmed commercial cleaning and waste management of common property is still allowed in Greater Sydney.  The above order relates to commercial cleaning in private homes/units.

Liverpool, Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown

Residents in Liverpool, Fairfield, and Canterbury Bankstown, must not leave the LGA in which they live unless they are an authorised worker. “Authorised worker” does not include a Building Manager, concierge, cleaner or security staff. This means that these staff must not travel outside the three LGAs.

Even in the event of an emergency, you must not engage the assistance of a Building Manager who lives in one of the 3 LGAs to come on-site to strata buildings outside these LGAs. This may expose people who live outside the 3 LGAs to the virus and subject them to be stopped by the Police and prosecuted.

Note: As of Wednesday 21 July 2021: an “authorised worker” has been extended to include fire protection and safety. 

———————

NSW Govt communication toolkit for strata

The NSW Govt has released a communication toolkit for strata.

Download the toolkit: NSW Govt Communication Toolkit for Strata Bodies and Building Managers (ppt)

Mandatory masks

On 13 July 2021, the NSW Government made it mandatory to wear a fitted face mask in indoor areas of common property residential buildings in Greater Sydney. In regional areas throughout NSW, masks indoors are not mandatory, but strongly encouraged.

Areas include shared foyers or lobbies, lifts, stairwells and corridors, and shared laundry facilities of apartment complexes. This advice applies to everyone, including residents, visitors, building managers, concierge staff, contractors, delivery drivers and cleaners.

This added to the mandatory wearing of masks in offices, shops and other places of business.  

Mandatory Mask Poster from NSW Health

Wear a Mask Poster in 10 Languages

Mask wearing outside of Greater Sydney 

Moving through common areas

People living in residential buildings should take care when moving through common areas to reduce the risk of COVID-19.  

  • Clean your hands with sanitiser before and after touching commonly touched surfaces such as door handles, intercom buttons, rubbish bin lids, communal laundry facilities etc.  
  • Wear a mask in indoor common areas 
  • Maintain social distancing 
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing 
  • Avoid close contact with people unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms  
  • Avoid touching your face and avoid shaking hands with others. 

What if someone in my building has been identified as having COVID-19?

Currently, there is strict Stay at Home orders in place for Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour. If someone has been identified as COVID positive, they need to self-isolate within their lot. This means someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, cannot access any common areas until they have been cleared of the virus. Accessing common property while on isolation orders are in breach of the Public Health Act and a breach of by-laws (creating a hazard on common property/use the common property in a way that interferes unreasonably with others in the scheme using and enjoying it).  

What about the other people in my apartment?

Anyone living with a person identified as COVID positive is considered a close contact and is also under strict self-isolation orders and are also prohibited from entering common property areas. NSW Health will discuss with them their living arrangements and whether they can effectively self-isolate from other people in their household. If they can’t effectively self-isolate, alternative accommodation may be arranged.

What happens if I don’t follow self-isolation rules?

Not following self-isolation guidelines puts family, friends and the community at risk. It is also a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties. For individuals, the maximum penalty is $11,000, 6 months in prison, or both with a further $5,500 fine for each day the offence continues. 

COVID Guidance for Strata Committee Members 

Common property cleaning

Regular cleaning followed by disinfecting common areas in apartment buildings is the best prevention to stop the spread of COVID. Cleaning doesn’t kill germs so it’s imperative that cleaning is followed by routine disinfecting.  

Read the Department of Health’s Guidance for COVID cleaning 

Download NSW Health Guidelines on Cleaning Surfaces

Committees should provide their cleaning companies with an updated scope of works detailing any additional cleaning and disinfecting requirements, itemising frequently touched surface areas that require routine disinfecting such as light switches, garbage areas, door handles, intercom buttons, service room doors, lifts, lift buttons, letterboxes, railings, entry points from the car park, lobby, common area facilities such as toilets, pools, gyms etc.) 

———–

Update to our advice on cleaning: 19 July 2021

Cleaning & Waste Management

  • Cleaning, waste management, repairs and maintenance work can only be provided if it is essential to ensure the health, safety and security of residential premises, or in an emergency.
  • Cleaning within individual lots is not permitted.
  • Commercial cleaning and waste management is permitted within common property of strata buildings.

To reduce risk and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus the NSW Health guideline on cleaning for shared common areas such as lobbies, lifts, hallways, garbage rooms, and disinfecting high touch points meets the threshold of essential cleaning.

Gardening

Due to no exemption to the contrary, landscaping and gardening works are to be deferred unless for an emergency i.e potential damage to property or safety risk.

————–

Should common property facilities remain open during a lockdown? 

Owners corporations and community associations should make their own risk assessment to determine if facilities should remain open as, under the current Public Health Order, common property facilities aren’t explicitly forbidden from being open. If this decision has been made, they need to operate safely, and comply with physical distancing and hygiene measures and ensure these areas are routinely cleaned and disinfected. The additional cleaning costs may outweigh the benefits of keeping facilities open. 

COVID plans

Strata committees should devise a COVID plan to prevent the spread of the virus within their community. If multiple people in an apartment building have been identified as covid positive, the building may need to be temporarily evacuated to disinfect shared living spaces so it’s important committees can respond to owners about the correct procedure to follow. Encourage owners to ensure their contact, or their tenant’s details are known to, and up to date on the strata roll to facilitate effective and immediate communication.  

Strata committees are responsible for ensuring that mandatory mask posters are visible at every entry point of the building.  

The impact of stay at home orders on infrastructure and resources

The current stay at home orders has a large impact on resources in apartment buildings. There is more rubbish, more recycling, higher electricity, gas, water usage which impact levies. More strain on infrastructure may lead to more maintenance. Strata committees should work with their strata manager to manage additional cleaning and garbage services, and higher costs associated with buildings operating at capacity.   

In addition, residents may also come under financial hardship from their inability to work or open their businesses.  

The financial impact on schemes will vary depending on the proportion of affected owners and the scheme’s financial position. Individual schemes must decide the most appropriate response to arrears and hardship requests. 

Repairs and maintenance

Update to our advice on repairs and maintenance: 20 July 2021

From Sunday 18 July 2021, all “non-urgent” works within the Greater Sydney area must be deferred until 30 July at the earliest. Repairs and maintenance services are allowed only if urgently required for:

  • the health, safety or security of the premises or members of the household or
  • because of an emergency.

Any repairs, maintenance that can be delayed should be rearranged.

Urgent repair works

Emergency, urgent repairs and maintenance can still proceed. The Office of Fair Trading define “urgent repairs” to include:

  • a burst water service or a serious water service leak
  • a blocked or broken toilet
  • a serious roof leak
  • a gas leak
  • an electrical fault
  • flooding or serious flood damage
  • serious storm or fire damage
  • a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the property
  • a failure or breakdown of the hot water service
  • a failure or breakdown of the stove or oven
  • a failure or breakdown of a heater or air-conditioner
  • a fault or damage which makes the property unsafe or insecure.

Schemes may approve urgent repairs and maintenance but must consider the welfare of residents if they engage tradespeople or other contractors to work within the scheme:

  • residents should be advised of the date, time and timeframe for work being done 
  • schemes must ensure contractors follow hygiene practices 
  • interact with contractors outside, where possible 
  • residents need to maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres between themselves and workers. 

If schemes have genuinely critical work to be carried out then they must ask what area the tradesman is from and, if they are from the Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown or Liverpool LGA’s, they must show that they have received a negative test result in the last 3 days. They must be tested every 3 days until the Public Health Order testing direction is withdrawn.

Remember that the tradesman must be an “authorised worker” in order to leave one of the 3 LGAs.

Fire inspections

Owners corporations still have a legal obligation to ensure their annual fire safety inspection is carried out. If a person has COVID-19, a fire safety inspection of their lot must be deferred until the resident has obtained medical clearance. We recommend planning your fire safety inspections ahead of time to ensure there is adequate time in case there is a delay in obtaining access to some units.   

  • the following work must continue on fire safety systems and features during the lockdown period; routine service work; annual assessment; and rectification maintenance.
  • all work must be carried out using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety procedures;
  • base building fire systems should be assessed, but common sense and health considerations should be taken concerning servicing single occupancy units (SOUs); and
  • where access cannot be obtained practitioners should work out alternative arrangements in the short term to satisfy themselves that systems are performing, and arrange to reinspect at a later time.

The term “authorised workers” has now been extended.  Category 3 (Public administration and safety) now includes “fire protection and safety” as an authorised role.

Maintaining harmony in your strata scheme

Living in an apartment means that we are all a lot closer and things like noises and smells have a greater impact. Our mental health can also be put to the test with added stresses such as balancing working from home with homeschooling, a business closure, loss of income, or perhaps you’re a shift worker who is struggling to sleep due to the increase of noise.

For these reasons, it’s never been more important to be mindful of your behaviours and its impact on your neighbour as everyone has a right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s home and we have to work together to achieve this. We have created a video called Strata Harmony, which can be found on our homepage. The video provides some guidance on maintaining harmony. 

Electronic voting and meeting

As of 21 July 2021, owners corporations and community land associations are once again able to validly meet and vote electronically without having previously adopted a resolution in this regard. The existing regulations on executing documents without the common seal and serving notice of meetings by email have been retained.

These changes have been made through two new COVID-19 regulations, published just now at the NSW Legislation website as follows:

Disposing of waste

Waste items from people in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID, should be placed in the red-lidded rubbish bin.  

As there is no state-issued guidance to date for people living in strata on how to dispose of waste appropriately without risking further infection, we recommend the following common-sense approach to removal of garbage:  

If you have been identified as COVID positive, or a close contact, and have been requested to self-isolate: 

  • Dispose of all used personal care items such as tissues, disposable masks, gloves in a rubbish bin that’s lined with a plastic bag.  
  • When the bin is three-quarters full, tie off the plastic bag to prevent spillage of the contents. Avoid touching the inside of the bag.  
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands and double-bag the rubbish. Use disposable gloves to move the rubbish to a location for pick up.  
  • Contact your building manager, or a strata committee representative to discuss the proper arrangements for disposal of your rubbish.  

Committee COVID Checklist

  • Do cleaners have an updated scope of works to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting? 
  • Are there mandatory mask posters located on the entries of the building? 
  • Are common property facilities closed? Do they have a visible closed sign on the entries? 
  • Are there hand sanitiser dispensers located in the lobbies? 
  • Do we have a procedure in place for the collection of rubbish for self-isolating units? or if the building has to go into lockdown? 
  • Do we have enough in the administrative fund to cover an increase in utility bills and required maintenance costs? 
  • Is the strata roll up to date? If not, how can we encourage residents to provide their details to facilitate communication?  
  • Do our by-laws allow for electronic meetings and voting?  
  • Have we decided, by way of resolution, on our status for payment plans and/or waiving of interest for overdue levy contributions? 
  • What scheduled works should go ahead and what should be deferred? 
  • Is there a large portion of non-English speaking residents in our building? Do we need to translate important notices? 
  • Do we have a plan in place if our building needs to be evacuated for deep cleaning?  

Useful documents

NSW Govt Communication Toolkit for Strata Bodies and Building Managers (pptx)

NSW COVID Financial Support for Individuals and Businesses

NSW Health on Residential Hygiene

Wear a Mask Poster in 10 Languages

NSW Fair Trading – COVID and Strata & Community Schemes Guidelines

NSW Fair Trading support package for tenants and landlords

NSW Health Vaccination Advice 

NSW Govt – Current cases and restrictions

^
X

Step 1 of 2

  • Give us a compliment

X
  • Your suggestion

X

Step 1 of 2

  • Your complaint

Translate »