Our Strata team is constantly being asked about what types of meetings can be held during the Government restrictions brought about due to COVID-19. The Strata Regulations make allowances for electronic meetings, such as pre-meeting email votes, telephone, videoconferencing or voting website. These are the preferred options. Pre-meeting email votes cannot however be used to elect a strata committee.
However, sometimes face to face meetings are preferable, and the scheme might be big enough to make video-conferencing impractical. What do you do?
Below is a summary of the relevant parts of the new legislation as it affects strata meetings.
1. Some strata meetings are required to be held at certain times. For example, an annual general meeting once in each financial year, an EGM if requestioned by 25% of owners, and the First AGM within 2 months of the end of the initial period (Required Meetings).
2. Public Health (Covid-19 Gatherings) Order (No 3) 2020 (Covid Order 3) says a person must not:
(a) Allow, organise or attend a mass gathering; or
(b) Allow another gathering to occur (smaller than a mass gathering) unless the premises are of sufficient size to ensure there is at least 4m2 for each person.
3. A mass gathering is a gathering of:
(a) more than 500 people in an outdoor space; or
(b) more than 100 people in an indoor space,
unless it is one of the exemptions in Schedule 1.
4. This means that under Covid Order 3, you are permitted to do any of the following:
(a) Hold a general meeting outdoor with less than 500 people, as long as there is at least 4m2 per person; or
(b) Hold a general meeting indoor with less than 100 people, as long as there is at least 4m2 per person
5. Subsequently, the Government issued Public Health (Covid-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 (Covid Gathering Order).
6. Clause 6 of the Covid Gathering Order says, “a person must not participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 persons”, with the relevant exceptions being:
(a) a gathering of persons for the purposes of work;
(b) a gathering necessary for the person to fulfil a legal obligation (including attending a court or tribunal, satisfying bail requirements or participating in legal proceeding).
7. Firstly, general meetings of owners corporations are usually held in a private space. Clause 6 of the Covid Gathering Order does not apply.
8. Whilst a general meeting is a work meeting for the strata managers and building managers, it is not a work meeting for most of those attending (the owners).
9. Required Meetings are a “gathering necessary for the person to fulfil a legal obligation”.
10. Therefore, I think there are 2 reasons why clause 6 of the Covid Gathering Order does not apply to Required Meetings:
(a) the meeting is held in a private place (assuming it is held there); and
(b) the gathering necessary to fulfil a legal obligation, as the owners corporation is required to convene those meetings.
11. As the Covid Gathering Order does not apply to Required Meetings or other meetings held on private premises, we revert back to Order 3, which still applies. Under Order 3, general meetings are permitted if they comply with the requirements set out in paragraph 4 above regarding numbers and spacing.
12. A further issue is that Clause 5 of the Covid Gathering Order requires people not to leave home without reasonable excuse. One reasonable excuse is travelling for work when the work cannot be done at home. This clearly applies to the staff of a strata manager.
13. In terms of owners, they are allowed to leave home to undertake legal obligations. Whilst owners are not legally obliged to vote, they are obliged to attend these meetings if they want to exercise their vote.
One strata manager client had one of these meetings where police were called by certain owners. The police arrived after the meeting has concluded and the building manager showed the police our advice letter, which reflected the comments above. The police then left satisfied and took no further action.
In summary, sometimes face to face meetings are preferable if they can be legally held. If you are not certain about aspects of your meetings, please contact us to check they comply with the current requirements.
For all enquiries in relation to strata matters or advice, please contact our expert team today.
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