Your strata scheme in NSW may be lucky enough to have a shared pool, gym, tennis courts, office spaces, meeting rooms or other facilities. You might be wondering if your owners corporation is required to shut these facilities down for the safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, or whether these amenities can stay open with sensible use. While there are currently no explicit regulations under NSW strata laws regarding common property during COVID-19, there are some important considerations which lead us to suggest that common facilities be closed for now.
The current Public Health order is currently restricting the use of facilities such as amusement centres, public swimming pools and indoor recreation facilities, although these do not explicitly refer to strata schemes.
However, there are a few important considerations worth thinking about. The owners corporation might choose to close facilities in order to minimise the risk of a negligence claim, in the case that a resident or guest becomes unwell. Managing the safe social distancing of other residents and visitors as per the regulations is difficult and largely impractical. You can read more on this point and topic in a recent newsletter by Grace Lawyers.
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A second point regards costs. To adhere with their strata scheme obligations an owners corporation would need to be prepared to keep public areas regularly cleaned, for example disinfecting door handles, railings and change rooms. This would have a considerable cost, and at a time that the owners corporation might be aiming to keep costs as low as possible due to the financial burden that COVID-19 has placed on many Australians. There may be an intention to minimise non-necessary spending to control strata levies, and as such these facilities may be deemed unnecessary in the short term.
A third point – and really the most important – is that the Public Health order is in place to protect us all as a community. Even if strata schemes aren’t explicitly forbidden from keeping common facilities open, it’s still in everyone’s interest to minimise contact between residents and guests. It’s for this reason that most owners corporations have made the choice to close common property in their strata schemes for the time being. If your owners corporation is making the decision to close shared facilities such as pools, gyms or spas, this is likely to only remain in place for the short term and for the wellbeing of everyone on site. We would suggest that owners corporations consult with their strata lawyer, public health orders and their strata manager on an ongoing basis to ensure optimal safety for everyone.