COVID-19 & the Community Titles Sector
The following Q&A is an updated version of the FAQs sent as part of the original release of the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management (BCCM) Common Ground Issue 25.
Q: 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’s coming up to two years since they have paid levies. Do we have to commence debt recovery against them?
A: 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.
Q: Can we delay our body corporate annual general meeting due to COVID-19?
A: 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’s 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.
Q: If we decide to proceed with a meeting, how do we make sure people don’t attend in person?
A: Currently, only two people need to be present personally to form a quorum for a body corporate meeting, so it may be reasonable for the body corporate to encourage all others to return a voting paper by email or post. Bodies corporate may also wish to include details in meeting notices on how members can attend by telephone or video conference. People who attend a meeting in person should consider social distancing guidelines from health authorities and any restrictions currently in place.
Q: Can we re-open our pool?
A: With the gradual easing of restrictions in relation to social distancing it’s best to keep updated from the Queensland Health website.
Q: Can a body corporate postpone when our levies are due?
A: 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.
Q: Can the body corporate adjust its budgets so that we can reduce our levies?
A: 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.
Q: I have lost my job. Will I have to pay late penalties if my body corporate levies are overdue?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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 $6,000.
Q: Do the social distancing rules apply in body corporate lifts?
A: 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.
Q: Do owners have to notify the body corporate if they are infected with COVID-19?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: Body corporate legislation doesn’t 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.
Q: Who cleans the complex if one of the lot owners gets sick and contaminates it?
A: The body corporate must maintain any common property in good condition. This may include cleaning common property if it becomes contaminated.
Q: 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?
A: 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 doesn’t 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.
For more information from the BCCM during the COVID-19 period, including an update on amended laws, click here.