Should a body corporate reinforce compliance to public health guidelines from occupants of lots within the strata scheme? Despite doing a number on the economy, Covid looked like it had one mission; to change our lives forever. While having lots of time to stream endless content and having quality family time is the order of the day, so are the onerous restrictions on using common property.
The committees and building managers have been assigned more duties, and the workload before the pandemic was undoubtedly more manageable. Nowadays, they have to wipe down gym equipment after every use, enforce mask policies and make sure people adhere to social distancing regulations.
In a general strata meeting, it was decided that some by-laws needed to be introduced to mimic the restrictions in case a body corporate needed to have anything enforced. As a reaction, and in October 2020, the Government of Queensland introduced the Justice Legislation regulation 2020, a Covid-19 Emergency Response – The Community Titles Schemes plus other matters. It allowed the committees to decide on changes, privileges, and obligations of lot owners about the access or use of common property if fairly necessary to ensure compliance with the public health directives.
Times have changed indeed, and our behaviour is highly regulated. Strata communities host many people living in close quarters and sharing common facilities. So, is it up to the body corporate to enforce compliance within its scheme?
The committee’s role
The volunteer role of a committee member was disliked before Covid hit. To make it worse, it is now next to the strata and building managers with a laundry list of added responsibilities and problems. It is more undesirable, from answering a barrage of calls and constant emails to having uncomfortable conversations with dissatisfied residents ignoring the ‘closed’ signs around every common property or those forgetting their face masks.
Not to worry, as they won’t be carrying out the police work, like walking around waving batons, giving infringement notices, or arresting those who breach the guidelines. The body corporate powers are stated in the 1997 Body Corporate and Community Management Act (BCCMA) with the regulation modules (Qld).
The regulations that came to effect in October 2020 allow committees to make changes to the rights to use and access common properties. However;
- The decision does not create a by-law;
- By-laws are only enforceable with an issue of continuing and future contravention notices;
- Failing to comply with a contravention notice is an offence;
- According to the BCCMA, it is not an offence to fail to comply with the committee’s decision to change common property use and access rights.
That said, a body corporate hasn’t filed a dispute resolution application in the Commissioner for Body Corporate’s office until now. Neither has a Community Management seeking an adjudicator’s order to restrain an occupier from shared property use, contrary to a committee’s decision to ensure compliance with public health directives.
An adjudicator may consider they have the power to make such orders in resolving disputes relating to the exercise of rights under the BCCMA. The bad news is it is currently taking as long as six to twelve months to determine adjudication applications. Besides, the direction may no longer be enforceable when the application is finally made. Think of how much longer it could take for it to be determined?
If not the committee, then who?
You! The responsibilities of the strata community and building managers don’t extend to ensuring compliance or watching out for the mask-less. Their work goes as far as the duties established in the agreement. It doesn’t have to be you if it incorporates enforcing compliance with the directives!
We all have that one thing that wakes, eats, and goes to bed with us. It’s probably in your pockets as we speak, or your bag, perhaps? That would be your phone. It features a portable camera and an internet connection. With those two elements, you can help the Queensland Police fulfil their public duty by maintaining law and order in the state.
We all play a role in ensuring public safety, and everything starts with you. If taking a picture and forwarding it to the police is too much for your personality, you are not alone. Even Mr Abbott never thought that dobbing and snitching was part of the Australian character when he was reported for having no mask. Instead, we suggest that when you meet anyone without a mask, say hello, inquire about their day, and remind them about the health directive. At the same time, committees can incorporate signage around their buildings.