QLD: COVID-19 Update – Frequently Asked Questions

This article provides an update on the current situation in Queensland Strata during the COVID-19 pandemic in Oct 2020.

Question: We have a number of owners in our body corporate who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. They were already overdue prior to the pandemic. It is coming up to 2 years since they have paid levies. Do we have to commence debt recovery against them?

Answer: No, usual obligations to start debt recovery proceedings on debts that have been outstanding for 2 years have been suspended to 31 December 2020, so a body corporate can decide to wait until 31 December 2020 to commence debt recovery proceedings.

Question: Can we delay our body corporate annual general meeting due to COVID-19?

Answer: Yes. Depending on the number of owners wanting to attend your annual general meeting physically, you may wish to check the current Government health directives to see if it is necessary to postpone.

A body corporate committee can make a decision to postpone annual general meetings (AGM). Generally, an AGM must be held within three months of the end of the body corporate’s financial year. However, if a body corporate determines it would be reasonable to postpone an AGM based on advice from health authorities, and it would fall outside of the legislated timeframe, it can apply to the Commissioner’s office for an adjudicator’s order. More information about these types of orders can be found in Practice Direction 19.

Alternatively, if a body corporate decides to proceed with an AGM, the committee should consider other options for meetings, including practising social distancing and using technology where available.

Question: Can I still access body corporate records due to COVID 19 restrictions?

Answer: Yes, the body corporate must supply access to body corporate records within 7 days of receiving a written request and payment of the prescribed fee. However the body corporate can satisfy this requirement by providing you with a copy of the record or electronic access to the records.

The fee for giving electronic access to an interested person to inspect a body corporate record is the same as the fee for inspecting the records.

Question: If we decide to proceed with a meeting, how do we make sure people don’t attend in person?

Answer: The committee of the body corporate is empowered during the emergency period to decide to change the way committee and general meetings are conducted to comply with health directives. The committee must act reasonably in any changes made. If arrangements are made for remote attendance at meetings, the committee must take reasonable steps to ensure remote access is available to anyone who wishes to attend the meeting.

Any decisions already made in this regard from 19 March 2020 until the commencement of the new amendments – 2 October 2020 are also retrospectively validated.

Question: My committee has told everyone they can vote electronically at the upcoming general meeting. Can they make this decision?

Answer: Yes, during the emergency period the committee can make the decision to arrange for electronic voting provided they have the ability to accept votes electronically and take reasonable steps to allow access to electronic voting to all voters.

Any decisions already made in this regard from 19 March 2020 until the commencement of the new amendments – 2 October 2020 are also retrospectively validated.

Question: Can we re-open our pool?

Answer: Committees have been empowered by the amended regulations to restrict access to the common property during the emergency period in order to comply with health directives.

With the easing of restrictions in relation to social distancing, it is best to keep updated from the Queensland Health website.

Question: Can a body corporate postpone when our levies are due?

Answer: Yes, the committee can extend the dates that levies are due. This can be done for a particular owner if the committee is reasonably satisfied that the owner is suffering financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatively, the committee can extend the date for all owners.

Question: Can the body corporate adjust its budgets so that we can reduce our levies?

Answer: Yes, for the current financial year of the body corporate, the body corporate can decide not to include provision for major anticipated expenditure in future years in its sinking fund budget. As a result the levies may be adjusted.

If the body corporate has already passed its sinking fund budget for this financial year it can amend it to reduce or remove major anticipated expenditure amounts for future years. Any levies already collected for these amounts must be adjusted and the owners refunded. No written request is needed for owners to be refunded.

Question: I have lost my job. Will I have to pay late penalties if my body corporate levies are overdue?

Answer: The body corporate cannot charge late payment interest for overdue levies from 25 May 2020 until 31 December 2020.

For any levies outstanding prior to 25 May 2020, the committee can decide to waive interest if they consider there are special circumstances. You need to make a request to the committee in writing.

Question: There are quite a few lot owners who are unable to pay their levies. The body corporate will not be able to cover its bills. Can it borrow money to cover its expenses so that owners can recover financially?

Answer: Yes your body corporate may now borrow up to $500 per lot by passing an ordinary resolution at a general meeting. However, for a small scheme, the total of all the borrowings must not exceed $6000.

Question: Do the social distancing rules apply in body corporate lifts?

Answer: The Federal Government has provided social distancing guidelines based on expert information from health authorities. People who reside in or visit community titles schemes should use their best judgement when deciding to enter a crowded lift. The body corporate may decide it is reasonable to display signage reminding residents of social distancing guidelines in common areas, including lifts.

Question: Do owners have to notify the body corporate if they are infected with COVID-19?

Answer: A body corporate may make a by-law that requires people to notify the body corporate that they have an infectious disease but this may be difficult to enforce.

You can read more about making and enforcing by-laws.

Question: Our body corporate / caretaker has sent out a health survey to all residents and threatened to not allow us into the building unless we complete it. Do we have to complete this survey?

Answer: Body corporate legislation does not provide bodies corporate or caretakers with a power to require people to complete a survey about their health. Nor does the legislation give power to a caretaker to prevent owners or occupiers from entering their lots or common property.

Question: Who cleans the complex if one of the lot owners gets sick and contaminates it?

Answer: The body corporate must maintain any common property in good condition. This may include cleaning common property if it becomes contaminated.

Question: We have people who are staying in a unit in our complex that is a short term rental through Airbnb. They are only staying for two weeks. Do they have to tell us if they are in self-isolation?

Answer: No. Body corporate legislation does not compel occupiers to disclose the circumstances for staying in a property. Bodies corporate need to remember that just because someone is in self-isolation, it does not mean that they have the COVID-19 infection.

Bodies corporate should stay up to date on the COVID-19 health situation, including monitoring advice from Queensland Health and announcements from state and federal authorities.

Author: Michelle Scott, Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management

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