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SSKB is here to assist our communities, to help navigate these uncertain times.
Frequently Asked Questions
Due to the social distancing requirements, the Committee and SSKB will not be attending face to face meetings. SSKB are able to provide video conferencing via Microsoft Teams or Zoom, as well as via a teleconference. Other alternatives include the Committee voting on issues outside of the Committee Meeting via VOC (QLD) or email (VIC and NSW) or postponing any non-urgent meetings.
Yes. A Body Corporate Committee can decide to postpone Annual General Meetings (AGM). Under the Body Corporate and Community Management (BCCM) Act in Queensland 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, the Body Corporate can apply to the Commissioner’s office for an adjudicator’s order to extend the permitted date of the AGM. However, due to the unknow duration of the current COVID-19 restrictions, postponing a meeting any longer than a month or 2 could create other unintended consequences which would greatly affect the operation of the Body Corporate.
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 use of Voting Papers or using technology where available.
In short, maybe. But please be aware that SSKB does not receive the money from the payment of levies, this goes into the Body Corporate bank account and subsequently SSKB does not have the authority to discount or stop the flow of Body Corporate income via the levies.
As each Body Corporate is different, in our experience this matter can only be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with the Committee. SSKB have been initiating discussions with Committees to discuss the financial position of the Body Corporate regarding the personal circumstances of Owners, the proximity to the next levy notice and AGM, a relaxed approach to the payment of levies regarding penalty interest and discounts and the overall cashflow of the Body Corporate to ensure the continued operation of the common property with attention to the safety and liveability for residents. SSKB are here to work closely with the Committee to support you in navigating your community through this crisis.
Within the legislative landscape that every Body Corporate operates, decisions cannot be arbitrarily made without that first having been put to a vote of the Owners or at least the Committee. The annual Administration and Sinking Fund budgets and the levies are set by the Body Corporate at the Annual General Meeting to ensure the building is maintained. The day to day expenses are categorised and estimated within the Administration Fund and some of these expenses include electricity, insurance, fire equipment, maintenance contracts for regular services, swimming pools, gyms etc. This budget is circulated for Owners to understand and vote upon at every AGM.
The other component of the regular levies is the Sinking Fund budget and levy. The Sinking Fund accumulates funds to pay for the non-recurring expenses such as painting, lift refurbishment, fence replacement, roof and balustrading and the value of the annual budget is established with reference to the independent Sinking Fund Forecast.
If the Committee suggest the levies are to be reduced, then the Committee need to focus on either the Administration Fund expenses and or the planned Sinking Fund spending and accumulation of funds.
What aspects of the Administration Fund and Sinking Fund levies are essential, and which expenses are not or could be put on hold or deferred. In establishing the expenses that are non-essential, the quantum of the relevant expense is worthy of consideration because once you divide the annual cost by the number of Owners (ie Lot entitlements) over the balance of the current financial year, then the overall reduction in spending may insignificant. A pie graph of the budgeted expenses was provided by SSKB during the consideration of budgets at the last AGM.
Every building is different and has different contractual commitments, each of which are probably not able to be legally altered eg Lift agreement, fire equipment testing and maintenance, security, Resident Manager, Community Manager. While there is room for some discretion in the Administration Fund costs, the large opportunity to reduce the levies for the next levy period(s) would be to cease the collection of Sinking Fund levies. This is not a long term strategy but one which could provide short term levy relief during these unprecedented times of health and economic crisis. Considering this option should also involve consideration as to what will the Sinking Fund levies look like next year or what improvement are we delaying. Your Community Manager is only to happy to share with you the approved budgets, schedule of future levies, the Sinking Fund Forecast and current Term Deposit investments to analyse the best way forward for the Body Corporate for the period of COVID-19 and into the future.
If a reasonable percentage of Owners ceased to pay their levies, then the Body Corporate may cease to meet its obligations under law to maintain a safe common property environment which in turn could lead to further costs and restrictions in future operation. Eg Fire equipment maintenance, Insurance.
Any decision to place a levy on hold or to show compassion in the payment of levies during COVID-19 can only be made by the Committee. SSKB does not receive the money from the payment of levies, this goes into the Body Corporate bank account and subsequently SSKB does not have the authority to discount or stop the flow of Body Corporate income via the levies.
While you can’t currently access these facilities, it is still the Body Corporate’s responsibility to maintain common property in good condition. Levies are calculated on a total budget encompassing many administrative and maintenance costs. Although common property facilities are closed, it is still necessary to maintain these, which means there are still costs involved. Closure of these facilities is a direction by QLD Health and the Body Corporate must comply. If owners are suffering financial hardship, they should contact SSKB to discuss payment options.
“Owning a lot in a community titles scheme brings certain obligations beyond those of owning a detached house. When you buy a lot in a community titles scheme you are automatically a member of the Body Corporate.” – QLD Government
As part of the Body Corporate, you are still legally required to contribute to the running and maintenance of the building, by paying your contribution through levies, whether your lot is vacant or not.
All Bodies Corporate or Owners Corporation should close any shared facilities that come under the new Government restrictions. This includes the gym, swimming pool and sauna.
Government restrictions will apply to apartment blocks and we encourage all owners follow these new restrictions. Your Building Manager or Community Manager will be able to assist in locking these facilities, sending correspondence to owners or putting signs up if required.
For shared facilities not included in the restrictions, we highly encourage all owners to follow social distancing guidelines and sanitize high touch areas such as elevator buttons regularly for these areas. As more and more restrictions come in place, we will start to see more people in your communities working from home or in self-isolation so there may be an increased number of people using lifts etc.
Bodies Corporate and Owners Corporations should limit to 2 people (or 1 household) in the elevator at any given time. It is highly advised not to close the elevators due to people with disabilities etc. needing them.
We have received relevant information from Government sources, as well as liaising with an insurance broker regarding the issue. Following the consideration of insurance advice, the Body Corporate Committee needs to ensure all Government directives are being followed and failure to do so could jeopardise the cover under their Body Corporate insurance policy (which may result in any claim incident in respect of this being declined).
We recommend that any common property shared areas that have been closed should have relevant signage installed so that residents are aware of the closure of the facility. Ie Gyms, BBQ areas, swimming pools etc.
A Body Corporate/Owners Corporation Committee can make decisions about the appropriate use of common property and it must act reasonably when making decisions. A caretaking service contractor does not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the Body Corporate.
It is a legislative requirement in Queensland that Bodies Corporate must act responsibly. Similar legislation applies in Victoria and New South Wales. It is recommended that all Committees work on the basis that there may be someone infected within the building and take any necessary precautions. Individuals are urged to take a large amount of responsibility in following government guidelines.
- Install hand sanitizer at all lifts, reception areas etc. We understand supply is hard to get at the moment and are working on finding solutions/suppliers for our clients;
- If possible, use knuckles or elbows to press elevator buttons and to open doors;
- Install signs in the lifts, lobbies etc. (there are a number of free government downloads that can be printed and put up);
- Ensure all roll information is up to date. Give notices in the mailbox, under the door, via email etc. that outlines what precautions are being put in place by the Committee (hand sanitiser, extra cleaning, signs in the lifts).
If someone is required to be in quarantine and does not, it is a criminal offence. This should be a Police issue, not a Body Corporate/Owners Corporation issue. A large fine can be issued by the Police if someone does not self-isolate. This should not be actioned at all by the Body Corporate, instead alert Police (with evidence).
If you are notified of a positive diagnosis, we encourage you to only disclose to people that need to be made aware. Do not provide any confidential information such as lot number or the identity of the person and ensure that reasonable steps are taken to keep personal information secure and those who are informed are on a ‘need to know basis’.
The people who should be made aware include:
- Any contractors who service the building should be made aware so that they can make necessary precautions (PPE).
- The Community Manager and Building Manager should be advised of which apartment so they can be aware in case of any emergencies.
- Residents should be advised that there is a confirmed case (no details on who or which lot) and that they should adhere to government guidelines on social distancing.
- Provide information to the affected resident around deliveries, rubbish, restrictions and any other important information relevant for your particular building.
For further information in regard to your obligations and adherence to the Privacy Act (1988) in reference to Covid-19, go to oaic.gov.au/updates/news-and-media/covid-19/.
It is a requirement that the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation must maintain any common property in good condition. This may include cleaning common property if it becomes contaminated. For information around cleaning shared areas see this link.
Contractors, site inspections etc. may still be going and there is no set answer as each company appears to have a different response.
We highly encourage all building managers, caretakers, facilities managers or strata managers to communicate with any contractors, trades etc. and advise of the following:
- Ask them to avoid close personal contact with any one on site;
- Sanitize hands and equipment if they are coming on site before and after conducting their duties;
- If they have been overseas or are feeling unwell, contact immediately and postpone the works – they should not attend the site;
- Bring their own pens/pencils if any signatures etc. are required;
- Avoid shaking hands;
USEFUL INFORMATION AND UPDATES
IMPORTANT UPDATES FROM SSKB
Your Levies & COVID-19 – SSKB are here to assist
At SSKB we understand we are experiencing an unprecedented economic environment with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SSKB is operating as close to business as usual with all of our staff working from home with full functionality of the regular Body Corporate processes and we are holding Committee Meetings and General Meetings via Video or teleconference.
SSKB is very proud to be your service provider for the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation and will continue to undertake our role as per the instructions from the Owners and the Committee via the previous General or Committee meetings. As SSKB is here to administer the Body Corporate for the Owners, we are not in a position to make decisions in regard to the financial management of your scheme but can advise your Committee on various strategies they can consider in making these decisions regarding the financial future of the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation. We have 25 years of shared experienced with our valued clients.
Over the past few weeks we have engaged each Committee with a view to consider how they would like to operate in this new economic environment with the previously approved levies and the previously established levy arrears payment policies, which may include discount incentives, penalty interest charges and levy arrears reminders.
During a brief initial period of the onset COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent job losses, SSKB established a position whereby no levy recovery action was undertaken to ensure an empathetic approach was taken to your owners. However, after Easter the previously established resolutions regarding levies will be reinstated unless a Committee wishes to undertake an alternative approach.
The various essential services and related expenses that are incurred in the daily operation of your scheme cannot be turned off. For example, the electricity, the lifts, your insurance policy, fire equipment maintenance, roller doors, swimming pool maintenance and many more functions need to continue. Similarly, the Administration Fund levies cannot be turned off either. SSKB is flexible and here to offer possible solutions to the Owners and Committees regarding the Body Corporate finances while ensuring the safe and effective operation of the Body Corporate common property for all Residents.
Our Client Solutions Team and your SSKB Community Manager are always available to talk with you to understand your position at this time and will liaise with the Body Corporate Committee to achieve your desired and best possible position for you and the Body Corporate/Owners Corporation.
Daniel Herbert, CEO
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