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Covid confusion over who can go to work in strata

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It’s been another weekend of covid confusion in strata with, on the plus side, a pretty nifty toolkit for building managers and committees being issued.

However, that was followed by mixed and muddled messages about who can and can’t travel to work in apartment buildings in Sydney.

The strata toolkit is covered here and if your committee or building facilities manager hasn’t already downloaded it – point them in its direction.  It’s pretty good and has the latest information and resources to deal with this rapidly changing health crisis, specifically for strata.

But then there is the de facto quarantine of the Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown areas – including the super-heated hotspot of Fairfield – with strict limits on residents who could travel out of the area to work.

The official government website says: “If you live in the Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas, you can only leave the local government area you live in to go to work if the business is allowed to be open and you are an authorised worker.”

Authorised workers

And who exactly are authorised workers? The government website invites you to “explore the authorised workers list by industry sectors.”  Those sectors are as follows (and you can click on the links to see what they actually mean).

To save you the trouble, even “other services” do not include cleaners and managers of strata schemes.  Or do they?  The website specifies “essential services for the maintenance, safety and upkeep of public and recreational spaces.”

Strata schemes are neither public spaces nor recreational.  Over the weekend we understand that the Owners Corporation Network (OCN) was trying to get NSW Health to clarify that people living in those areas who work maintaining and managing apartment blocks outside those areas would be exempt.

Instead there are amendments to the Public Health Order that say “a person is not authorised to visit a place of residence in Greater Sydney to engage in work that is cleaning or carrying out repairs, maintenance, alterations, additions or other trades at the place of residence.”

However, it adds that this does apply “if the work is urgently required— (a) to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or the members of the household, or (b) because of an emergency.

“Example. Waste disposal work can be carried out on common property of residential premises.”

So it looks like essential services in strata can be maintained and people living in the hot zone can travel to do that work?  Or can they?

Has NSW Health even considered the impact of an unclear message on apartment residents? Don’t we need our lift buttons, handrails and door handles cleaned now even more than ever?

A spokesperson for the Owners Corporation Network said: “They [the state government] need to directly and explicitly provide for the continuity of services to residential strata schemes.  OCN supports the prohibition on non-essential repairs and maintenance, and we applaud the NSW government for prohibiting noisy renovations whilst people are trapped at home in lockdown.

“They also need to provide certainty to building managers, without whom these services would not be managed. Right now we’re receiving conflicting advice and fielding far too many calls from confused committees. Already anxious apartment owners need clarity and certainty!” 

Simply acknowledging the fact that more than one million people in Greater Sydney live in strata, where common property is neither public not privately owned, would go a long way to avoiding messy messaging.

Free Online Webinar

If you are still confused about what can and can’t be done in strata during the lockdown, Amanda Farmer of YourStrataProperty.com is conducting a free online webinar tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 20) from 8 to 9pm.

Topics will include:

  • the cleaning of common property areas: can this legally continue?
  • which construction and maintenance work must cease and which can continue
  • whether building managers can go to work on-site
  • whether fire safety inspections can proceed
  • what to do about strata records inspections

You must register for the webinar and you can do so HERE.  

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