Level 3 to Level 2
Community Living and Body Corporate | Read Time: 5 Minutes | May 2020
We answer your questions and explain what Alert Level 2 means for those living in community environments.
If you live in an apartment, unit, Residents Society or other community living entity you may be wondering what the recent change to Alert Level 2 will mean for you. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your complex successfully navigates the transition.
At Alert Level 2 New Zealand is in business again. No longer restricted to our family bubbles or household groups, we need to be more alert than ever to ensure we remain safe while beginning to get back to our normal way of living. This is particularly relevant for those residing in community living environments.
Contact tracing plays a major role in the management of Covid-19 and measures should remain in place at Alert Level 2 to keep track of maintenance workers and suppliers who come into your complex. Gyms, pools and other common areas such as community lounges should continue to monitor visitors where possible. However, at this level it is not necessary to track everyone who comes into or out of your building. In areas where contact tracing is advised, Crockers recommends using the app app.covidregister.nz to simplify the process and eliminate the need for pen and paper, which in themselves pose a risk.
Communal pool facilities, lounges and gyms can re-open but cleaning is a high priority in Level 2. A pool servicing company should thoroughly check your complex pool before you re-open, and regular servicing should occur. Thorough cleaning of all surfaces should take place at least daily and Crockers recommends shared enclosed showers in pool facilities remain closed for the time being.
Hand sanitiser should be readily available in gyms, as well as lobbies, and thorough and regular cleaning regimes must be adhered to throughout common areas. People should be reminded to bring a towel to the gym, to wash their hands thoroughly and to sanitise machines and equipment before and after use. It’s also imperative everyone adheres to physical distancing requirements of at least 2 metres.
Complexes that house retail shops should display appropriate signage regarding physical distancing, and owners should discuss entry into the complex. Tape to indicate where people should queue, showing a 2-metre gap between customers, may also be necessary, and you may need to agree to common areas being marked up in this way. The Covid-19 website covid19.govt.nz is a great resource for businesses and provides up-to-date guidance as tweaks are made to rules.
Maintenance can be carried out at Level 2 and contractors may be engaged for maintenance work but it is important they following social distancing guidelines, their details are kept for contact tracing and that they are only allowed on the property if they are well.
Community entities should be monitoring that gatherings of more than 10 people are not taking place in common areas of complexes. The community entity only has powers and responsibilities in respect of common property, however, and individuals are responsible for following guidelines on the numbers gathering in their own units.
Whether meetings such as AGMs can now take place in person at Level 2 is another question that Crockers’ clients have been asking. Crockers’ advice is to continue to hold meetings online for the time being. As the current maximum number of in-person attendees is capped at 10 this poses challenges for many entities, and many owners (especially those classified as vulnerable) have reservations about in person gatherings. If your complex is able to observe the 10 person cap and decides on a physical rather than an online meeting, to maintain the safety of our team and all of the communities we serve, your Crockers representative will attend by online means. We will review this policy each fortnight after each Cabinet review of the levels.
While online meetings have been very popular during recent months there were initially some concerns around their legality for a body corporate, as the Unit Titles Act (UTA) did not specifically provide for attendance at meetings by virtual means. We were pleased that, in response to calls from Crockers, the NZLS, ADLS, the Body Corporate Chairs Group and other industry players for change, section 88 of the UTA has now been amended to provide that attendance at meetings may be by virtual means. Proxies and postal votes will no longer be required to conduct virtual meetings. This change is retrospective and will continue for 12 weeks following the expiry of the Epidemic Notice. This is great news and a pragmatic response to the current need. Crockers (and many of our clients) would like to see virtual meetings remain an option beyond this time period, although this is not yet the case. Crockers would be keen to see the UTA reviewed in future to make this possible, as well as to address other areas where the UTA has not kept up with modern development needs.
Recent lockdown conditions at Level 4 and Level 3 have left some owners at a financial disadvantage and struggling to pay their levies. This is a difficult area as in most cases the only resources a community living entity has are the levies it raises from its owners. Without those funds, the entity can’t pay its own bills – which are often for critical services such as insurance, water and power to the common property. A committee may like to consider the following:
- What interest rate are you charging on late payments, and can this be reduced?
- What delegated authority have you given the committee to provide for payment plans? And if you put payment plans in place, can someone on the committee monitor those, to keep collection costs low?
- Do you have money in your Contingency Fund? If so, consider authorising your committee to use these monies to address short-term cash flow challenges, so that the body corporate is always able to pay its bills.
- When you’re setting your budget, consider the amounts you provide for contingencies and even your long-term maintenance fund. You don’t want to reduce those for long, at most a year, as you’re building up a longer term problem; but it could be something to consider for the very short term.
If you have further outstanding questions on what the move to Level 2 means for your community living entity, you may find the answers in the following helpful resources: