Guide to coronavirus isolation or lockdown in a body corporate
This document is intended to provide body corporate managers and committees with a concise guide to managing their bodies corporate during the coronavirus pandemic based on legislative compliance and best practice.
General meetings and voting
Any meetings that have already been called should proceed on the basis that a quorum will not be reached so that:
- voting papers are completed and sent to the secretary in advance;
- physical attendance at meetings should be avoided; and
- where possible, electronic video conferencing or teleconferencing is provided, where the meeting issues can be discussed in anticipation of the adjourned meeting.
This will allow the meeting to be quickly formalised one week later where the same procedure can be observed without the need to discuss in detail any meeting issues.
Committee meetings and voting
Informal committee meetings should be held through electronic video conferencing and any decisions to be made later formalised through votes outside committee meeting.
Caretaking duties should still be carried out pursuant to the agreement where the duties do not contravene government advice or create a hazard.
This will require some give and take on the part of both the caretaker and committee in that some cleaning duties may require additional attention by the caretaker above what is ordinarily performed and the committee may be required to grant some allowances for other duties not related to cleanliness.
For example, additional cleaning of lift buttons, letterbox areas and facilities may be required over an extra mow of the lawn for the fortnight. The committee may also consider arranging for hand sanitising stations to be placed at the entry to the scheme.
If the caretaker is quarantined, they should ensure there are sufficient subcontractors engaged to perform the duties.
It is expected that building management and caretaking services will be treated by the Government as an essential service, such that there will never come a time when a caretaker is prevented from carrying out its duties. If that circumstance does arise, we suggest a sensible conversation be conducted with the caretaker about a revised scope of duties and salary. It would be worthwhile seeking legal assistance at this point.
The committee cannot close or restrict occupiers of lots from using the common property facilities of the scheme unless the by-law facilitates those restrictions.
However, such use should be discouraged and the committee should arrange for notices to be placed and circulars sent discouraging such use.
Occupiers should abide by any mandated impositions by the Government, but the committee cannot enforce these.
The committee has an obligation to enforce by-law contraventions in the scheme – but only where it is reasonable to do so.
Depending on the circumstances this may mean the committee should:
- enforce the by-laws – particularly if a breach would relate to conduct that would spread a virus; and
- not enforce the by-law – if the by-law is something relatively minor and brought on by the pandemic, such as washing being put on a balcony.
External contractors at the scheme should be avoided subject to the:
- contractor being required for urgent works; or
- terms of the contractor’s engagement (for example if the body corporate would be subject to a significant penalty by requiring the contractor to reschedule or cancel).
Any contractors who attend the scheme should not have any symptoms and before work is carried out, should sign a register confirming their entry and exit times at the scheme and any travel in the last 2 weeks. This register should be managed by the caretaker (or if there is no caretaker, the committee – if there is a member onsite).
The body corporate has an obligation to recover unpaid levies but the committee may want to consider:
- providing extended timeframes for payments; and
- waiving penalty interest or recovery costs.
New legislation has also been recently passed that has made it more difficult to progress bankruptcy and insolvency issues. This does not change the body corporate’s rights to recover levies but makes it the process harder in practice. Committees should recognise the added time, difficulty and cost to recover more progressed levy recovery action (and consider negotiating a manageable payment plan with the owner).
Ideally occupiers would notify the body corporate if they are placed in quarantine.
If occupiers are within their lot for the purposes of quarantine, the committee should then ensure that the occupier has a means of:
- communicating with the committee; and
- obtaining essential supplies without the need to exit their lot (whether this is through another lot owner or visitor).
The committee should ensure that it communicates with owners about any changes to the day to day arrangements of the scheme, including those facilities that the committee is asking occupiers refrain from using. This can be done through signage, notices under the doors of lots and through email.
The committee could also look to confirm if any occupiers are in quarantine by asking them to notify the committee so the committee can communicate and ensure essential supplies can be provided.
Work health and safety
If the scheme has a letting agent who conducts a business onsite, the body corporate and the letting agent will have obligations under the Work Health and Safety legislation.
This means that the committee and letting agent must ensure they are exercising due diligence (and documenting any decisions) to protect persons on the common property. Depending on the circumstances this may require putting in place the recommendations in this guide.