First, a confession, this is a little different to my normal blogs, please bear with me as I sit at the dining room table in isolation having somehow picked up COVID. While it has dropped off the media cycle COVID is still around and affecting us: whether it is you, your family, your neighbours, your strata manager, strata lawyer or your local shops or delivery systems. Although us lawyers tend to be pessimistic creatures as we are trained to consider the pitfalls and often see stressed people, I like to make a concerted effort to look for the positives. What are the effects of the pandemic, on our strata and community title schemes?
First, we are still standing and even thriving. This is often overlooked in media coverage and it should be acknowledged. Our lot owners, owners corporations, strata managers, contractors, tradespeople and strata professionals have all managed to overcome the limitations that the lockdowns and the lack of staff due to illness and isolation periods. Yes, as a small business owner I can tell you it has been stressful but with a sense of humour (sometimes dark humour) we have gotten the job done. It may not have been in as timely a manner as it could have been pre-pandemic but we’ve managed. This is despite an uptick in people adopting the squeaky wheel syndrome.
Secondly, we have adapted quickly seeing the uptake of new technologies. In particular the new meeting and voting provisions and alternatives to affixing the owners corporation’s or association’s seals. I’ve singled this out in particular as electronic meetings were available to owners corporations who had passed a resolution permitting them from 30 November 2016, the date the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 commenced. Despite some schemes passing resolutions to allow electronic meetings very few used them. What we saw during the first lock down was a number of schemes having difficulties holding meetings as they had not yet passed a motion authorising electronic meeting. Now, meetings by video and telephone conferencing appear to have become the norm. This has been a boon for both time poor people who could not previously leave work to attend meetings and for your strata managers. Attending a meeting is easier and, frankly, more convenient and safer with meetings being able to be attended from anywhere meaning your strata manager can attend from work or home. This poses the question: what other new technologies are out there or are being developed now that could further
The most important change to me is that we have also seen an increased interest in the functionality and liveability of our homes, whether it be a unit, townhouse or a house in a strata scheme. This has many aspects that will structurally affect design of new schemes and renovations in existing schemes and functionally affect how we live in our schemes. For instance, what amenities are important in your community? Is it the ability to have enable secure, contactless deliveries? A communal open space for gatherings? An open private space? A green focussed scheme with balcony gardens, rooftop or common gardens that can also be used for producing fruit, vegetables and herbs? Or, is it as simple as needing a reliable way to contact resident owners and occupiers in your scheme to pass on urgent information – and yes, the humble noticeboard competes with more high tech methods.
Increasing interest in how we live is a shift that will have consequences for years to come and, I can only hope, increased participation & diversity in our schemes and investment in alternative building methodologies, materials and in technology.