The Strata Schemes Management Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 (Regulation) commenced on 5 June 2020 and amended the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016. The new Regulation has been enacted as part of the ever-expanding range of legislative measures, which have been introduced in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Regulation specifies changes to the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (Act) and provide for variations to usual processes arising in the context of strata scheme administration. So, what are the changes?
Notice of annual general meetings, or other general meetings of an owners corporation; or strata committee meetings may be provided by email, so long as notice is sent to the email address nominated by the recipient as an address for service. Documents relating to these meetings may also be provided via email.
Voting at relevant strata meetings may occur by way of teleconference, video-conferencing, email or ‘other electronic means’.
Prior to the enactment of the Regulation, the methods described above were only valid if an owners corporation or strata committee had adopted them by way of special resolution.
These electronic voting methods will now apply regardless, so long as the secretary of the owners corporation or strata managing agent has taken reasonable steps to ensure each owner of a lot in the strata scheme or each member of the strata committee can participate and vote on issues at the relevant strata meeting.
Also, if a person who votes or intends to vote at a relevant meeting, does so by means other than a vote in person, then that person is taken to be present for the purposes of determining whether a quorum has been satisfied.
The Regulation allows for instruments and documents, previously required to be affixed with the seal of an owners corporation in the presence of certain persons, to be signed by those persons. These signatures must be witnessed and the instrument or document must indicate the following:
- the date on which it is signed and the signatures are witnessed
- the name of each signatory and witness
- the relationship of each signatory and witness to the owners corporation.
For the purposes of witnessing, a person is taken to have been in the presence of a signatory if the signatory or witness is present by audio visual link (technology that enables continuous and contemporaneous audio and visual communication between persons at different places).
This requirement for witnessing is not required in the case of strata managing agents.
The Regulation has also extended the time to comply with the Act’s requirements for the convening and holding of the first annual general meeting of the owners corporation.
This is relevant as annual general meetings are required to occur after the initial period. The initial period refers to the time between the registration of the strata plan and the time at which one third of the unit entitlements have been sold. The Regulation has increased the time from 2 months to 6 months in relation to when the first annual general meeting must occur, after this initial period.
The Regulation also specifies that within 6 months of funds being transferred from the administrative or capital works fund that a levy must be determined to reimburse the amount paid or transferred from an administrative fund or capital works fund.
The changes to the Strata Schemes Management Regulation are another example of the Government’s temporary measures enacted in response to the COVID-19 emergency. It remains to be seen how long the measures remain in place, however it is possible (particularly in relation to measures that were previously “opt-in”), that the measures may become part of a new normal, and may lead to a new normal for conduct of Owner’s Corporation business. As with any action taken in relation to a strata scheme, it is important for owner’s corporations to seek expert advice, and comply with the laws in place governing their scheme.
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