National News

Strata owners urged to be cautious as they get back to ‘normal’

Strata corporations looking to re-open social or recreational facilities as COVID-19 restrictions gradually ease must exercise extreme caution, warns Australia’s peak body for strata properties. 

Strata Community Association (SCA) is the industry body for Body Corporate and Community Title Management (also referred to as Strata Management, Strata Title or Owners Corporation Management) in Australia and New Zealand.   

As state governments re-examine the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on March 25, SCA National President Andrew Chambers said some strata property owners felt that strata operations could return to normal just because businesses are restarting. 

“It doesn’t mean strata corporations can return to normal operations just yet,” Mr Chambers said. “It’s not the all-clear to start using communal facilities again. 

“When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, Public Health Orders were put in place which affected what we can do in strata environments. They were applied to strata schemes to help residents adopt common-sense practices that keep everyone safe and reduce liability on owner’s corporations. 

“The restrictions were imposed on gyms, pools, hot tubs and meeting or social spaces and other amenities to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

“Strata corporations may soon be able to start re-opening some closed social or recreational facilities but must do so with caution under advice from health authorities.” 

With more than two million Australians living in strata, Mr Chambers said property owners may see a rise in people using lifts, shared facilities and lobbies. 

“But we urge people to continue practising social distancing and good hygiene and limiting the number of people in lifts,” Mr Chambers said. 

“All strata owners have a duty of care to ensure their property is a safe environment that doesn’t pose a potential risk to the health and safety of neighbours and anyone who visits.” 

Mr Chambers said this duty of care extended to contractors or employees to ensure safe workplaces for people carrying out essential maintenance. 

And with more people at home in the last few months, there has been a significant increase in the need for more maintenance with cleaning and disinfecting, garbage disposal, plumbing, water, utilities and other issues which add to expenses.      

This prompted an earlier call from SCA for strata owners to keep up ongoing property maintenance during the pandemic because cancellation of any maintenance work would have a severe impact on the future workflow and budgets of strata ecosystems. 

“As more people have been working from home, many have decided to renovate their homes and while it is important to keep carrying out ongoing maintenance, it may not be the right time to renovate,” Mr Chambers said. 

“If you are not under the pressure of a renovation timeline, you might want to rethink it during the public health crisis for a variety of reasons including the possible impact of noise to others who are also at home. 

“Building contractors may be prevented from finishing the work due to staffing issues or forced closures and the building industry may be impacted by a shortage of materials and products, causing delays.” 

The advice from SCA is: 

  • Avoid the use of common areas or shared facilities, as these are areas highly susceptible to germs and viruses; 
  • When using a communal laundry room, wash your hands before and after using the facility. Ensure you use detergent and a hot water wash, and using the dryer is recommended. Remember to maintain social distancing; 
  • Arrange for parcel deliveries to be left at the front door of your apartment or the lobby area, where necessary. Use gloves to take receipt of packages and dispose of the packaging immediately; 
  • Stay up-to-date with information from the Australian Government and your public health authority. Restrictions around what facilities people can use are changing quickly and you don’t want to put yourself or others at risk. 

Government Information – useful links 

COVID-19 Government Updates 

These sites will link you to the latest Coronavirus news, updates and advice from government agencies: 

Australian Government