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How the lockdown affects community schemes and their residents

As you know, community schemes have not escaped the effects of COVID-19 and need to comply with additional restrictions over and above the rules of the scheme.

Here are some of the ways in which schemes have been impacted during the lockdown period:

Utility services and facilities

The use of utility services such as electricity, water and sewerage have increased as most residents are confined in their homes for an extended period. More refuse will accumulate as many people will use this opportunity to spring clean their homes and prepare more meals.

As a result of higher utility consumption charges not budgeted for, this may potentially strain the financial wellbeing of the scheme. Furthermore, the combination of less activity on the streets and an increase in refuse may lead to more rodents in the refuse areas.

Common property facilities like pools and club houses are off-limit and may not be used during this time. Trustees must ensure that these facilities are locked and signage is placed at appropriate entrances indicating this.

Although there is currently a lively debate regarding the interpretation of lockdown regulations, trustees should decide on where they stand on people walking or exercising on common property and walking their dogs, and communicate this clearly to all residents.

Maintenance, security and staff matters

All maintenance work to the complex is suspended during lockdown. Only urgent maintenance related to essential services may be attended to. This includes incidents such as burst pipes or a power outage of the scheme’s electricity supply.

Contractors who supply essential services must have permits issued by the Department of Trade and Industry to show that they have been approved as providers of essential services.

Staff employed by the scheme’s residents such as gardeners or domestic workers are not considered essential services and are not allowed on the premises as they are not allowed to leave their homes.

Keeping the scheme clean and safe

Cleaning and security staff employed by the scheme are considered essential services and may continue their duties. Consideration must be given to the health of staff directly employed by schemes. This may mean that the scope of their services is reduced during lockdown to minimize exposure and keep them safe. Cleaning services can be reduced to only allow for cleaning of the refuse areas on the day that refuse collection is done.

Most complexes will be fully occupied during the lockdown which will reduce the security risk of schemes significantly.

Payment of levies

As the lockdown is having a negative impact on the country`s economy, thousands of businesses have been forced to stop trading, leaving them with little or no income. This has forced businesses to retrench staff to reduce overheads.

Owners of sectional title units who have been affected by retrenchments face the difficulty of not being able to pay their bills which may include their body corporate levies. The decision to give owners payment relief is not a decision the trustees can make on their own.

Levies are determined at the annual general meeting by approving the proposed budget for the year. The members of the scheme must pass an ordinary resolution (51% of the participation quota value) approving the proposed budget. Trustees may approach the members of the scheme asking them to vote on the reduction of levies for all members.

Levies are used to maintain common property and to pay service providers of the scheme. Without levies a scheme cannot function properly and will lead to neglect of common property and financial distress for the scheme.

As a gathering of people is not allowed during lockdown, the trustees will have to send the resolution to all members via email. Each member will have to complete the resolution by indicating their vote and returning it to the managing agent. Only once the votes have been tallied up and 51% of the votes are in favour of the changes can the trustees implement the reduction in levies.

Leaving the complex and receiving visitors

The regulations are very clear that no person in a scheme may receive visitors. Residents may only leave the complex when they need to purchase essential goods or receive essential services such as medical help.

Conclusion

Since sectional title living remains a community of people sharing services and common spaces, residents of a scheme must consider each other and decisions cannot be made unilaterally. Working together to maintain a harmonious living environment, is even more important in such unprecedented times.