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New strata laws during COVID 19

The NSW Government has recognised the need for strata schemes to continue making decisions during these challenging times so that obligations to owners and occupiers can be fulfilled and has made temporary changes to the law to give schemes the flexibility they need to function.

The laws were passed by both houses in May 2020 to enable altered arrangement for meetings, affixing of the common seal and time periods specified within the Act. 

The updated Regulations were published on 5 May 2020. We can advise that the new Part 11 includes the following: 

  • Arrangements for convening and voting have been changed so that a prior resolution for meetings by electronic means is no longer required. 
  • Each owner or each strata committee member must be provided with an opportunity to vote. 
  • Pre-meeting electronic voting cannot be used for an election.  
  • Electronic signatures are deemed satisfactory where previously the affixing of a seal was required. 
  • 6-month extensions are now allowed for the convening of the First AGM and for the borrowings of monies from the Capital Works Fund to the Administrative Fund. Previously the timeframe was 3 months.

These new laws are effective as of Friday, 5 June 2020, and will be in place for six months to help strata and community associations manage their responsibilities during COVID-19.

Electronic Voting

Under these temporary laws, all strata schemes and community associations can now meet and vote electronically at general and committee meetings.

Previously, strata schemes could only meet and vote electronically if the owners corporation or strata committee had adopted a resolution to allow it. Community schemes laws didn’t provide for electronic voting.

For some owners, using technology to participate in meetings and voting will be unfamiliar. To ensure these owners aren’t excluded or disadvantaged, the scheme’s secretary must take reasonable steps to ensure all owners can participate in and vote at meetings.

At a minimum, the secretary should ensure the technology chosen:

  • is accessible to all lot owners
  • doesn’t incur unreasonable expenses for individual lot owners to use
  • has easy to follow instructions readily available.

Committee secretaries should consider the size of the scheme and the type of owners when deciding how to ensure participation.

For example, in smaller schemes, simple teleconferencing (phone) meeting may be suitable. Larger schemes will most likely need video conferencing platforms, voting websites, and other options.

Are electronic meetings mandatory for all schemes?

No. The new laws simply provide schemes with the option to meet and vote validly by electronic means.

Some schemes may be able to continue holding meetings in person and paper ballots for voting, as long as they follow public health advice about physical distancing and hygiene.

The new laws also allow for meeting notices and other documents to be served by email, rather than hard copy, reducing points of contact.

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