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The Coronavirus – COVID-19 and Its Effects on Strata Corporations in South Australia and Australia.

Stratarama was a finalist in the SCA SA 2020 Small strata management business award

Tony Johnson won the SCA SA Essay 2020 award recognising an insightful essay surrounding a matter of topical interest to the Strata sector. This particular essay was on the effects of Covid-19 on the strata industry and Owner. This is the second time Tony has won this award, backing up his 2018 essay on communication and education of and for Strata and community owners.

COVID-19 has turned the entire world upside down. The one bright side is the ability to connect and share through the wonders of technology. Strata Corporations (or equivalent) in South Australia and around the Nation have had their own set of issues around the Covid pandemic.

Australian health organisations such as SA Health have provided as much guidance as possible around these complex pandemic issues whilst governing bodies such as the SCA have sought to provide much support and information around manoeuvring in this strange new world. 

As with most industries, Strata Management Companies have needed to quickly adapt to continue assisting their clients, but above all to ensure safety for Clients and Staff. With teams working from home, and many Strata Corporations unable to physically meet in person for their Annual General meetings, Companies have rapidly piloted new platforms for telephone and video conferencing. This has ensured groups continue to meet their requirements under the Strata Titles Act 1988 / Community Titles Act 1996 and relevant Acts Interstate, continuing to make decisions that are vital to the Corporations ongoing maintenance, costs and safety.

For some, this technological change has been welcomed and many will continue to utilise it for years to come. Members can choose to attend meetings from the comfort of their home, benefitting those who are interstate or have some distance impeding attendance. Even Members who do not have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, have been encouraged to join meetings through a phone call. This technology has allowed many groups to continue holding Annual Meetings in the set timeframes, make essential short-term decisions, managing finances and budgets, and set required insurance levels. The Strata industry may even see a reduction of Proxy voting as Owners gravitate towards remote attendance.

Communication has always been the building block of any successful Corporation with or without management. Since the introduction of reduced public gatherings and travel, undoubtedly Managers have been affected by increased telephone contact and emails. With some Owners now home permanently and perhaps unemployed, they have had greater personal opportunity to consider their Strata needs and works.  This increased interest may increase a Managers workload but should set the group for better engagement into the future.

Repairs and Maintenance

Due to COVID-19, protocols have changed, are regularly adapted and imposed differently around the Nation. For this reason, some maintenance and repair works have been halted by individual Corporations. Many works however cannot be stopped as emergencies and urgent situations arise daily. Contractors are now being engaged more so on these urgent repairs rather than on upgrades or long-term maintenance that can be postponed. This is partially due to the funding issues of some Strata Members and the continued uncertainty around the economic impacts of the virus.

Some routine items are also required to continue to ensure safety. Some examples include lift maintenance, fire safety inspections, intercom/Gate maintenance, security doors and exit lighting and air-conditioner maintenance.

Contractors who are still being engaged themselves have a new set of precautions to follow. Safety is the priority and so Contractors must ensure they do not work if unwell, maintain social distancing, clean areas well when working on-site and adhere to all other government regulations around COVID19.

Residents – Safety and Cleaning

Now more than ever, and particularly in Buildings with shared facilities and spaces, everyone is being asked to consider the safety of others. Group Members have been encouraged to consider wearing masks, increase the regularity of cleaning, provide hand sanitiser in common areas and disinfect frequently. As mandated across the country, owners should stay inside their unit if unwell and be tested if necessary. Committees should increase the cleaning regiment for high traffic areas or frequently touched objects, such as door handles, in terms of both frequency and coverage.

With the Corona pandemic and people staying at home to reduce the spread, creating awareness about how the virus spreads has been a key element to keep people safe. Some element that Residents have needed to consider include:

    • Avoiding the use of common areas or shared facilities, as these are areas highly susceptible to germs and viruses
    • When using the laundry, washing hands before and after using the facility. Ensuring the use of detergent and hot water washing and using the dryer. Remembering, to maintain social distancing
    • Arranging for parcel deliveries to be left at the front door of the apartment – or the lobby area, where necessary. Using gloves to take receipt of packages and disposing of the packaging immediately. When signing, using their own pen.
    • Remembering to stay up to date with information from the Australian Government, SA Health and following all restrictions around what facilities people should and shouldn’t be using. 

The future of Body Corporate Developments

As people isolate at home under direction of our various Governments, Developers will be considering the impacts on future developments. Strong considerations will need to be made around design of communal spaces, outdoor areas, more private subsidiaries and accommodations for social distancing. The impact of the pandemic on real estate developments won’t be known in the short term but could have lasting long terms impacts on design and management.

Final Words

The Covid19 virus has impacted how the strata industry and individual Corporations/Committees operate both in the short and long term. Residents and building support have had to work together to ensure that they stay virus free and to provide for ongoing maintenance works despite economic issues effecting many Corporation Members.

As Managers (and Community Members), we anxiously await further changes and developments of concern, such as the Towers which were locked down in Victoria and how we can prevent or limit exposure and safety risks for our Body Corporate Members in the future.

We are all in this together. It is Your Community.


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