Australian tenants have all been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s how to stay safe and abide by the rules in your strata building. 

Strata living has its benefits in the forms of affordability, community and easy living. 

However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many tenants have found themselves feeling concerned about being in such close quarters with dozens and even hundreds of other people. 

Where common areas have been no threat to safety in the past, suddenly it can feel daunting to traverse an area many others have passed through. 

Here is some helpful information for tenants about staying safe during COVID-19 and what your strata managers should be doing to ensure the virus doesn’t spread in your complex. 

Tips for common area safety during COVID

One of the most important ways to stay well during the virus outbreak is to wash your hands often. Do so as soon as you enter your apartment and before you leave. 

When you are on your way to the car or leaving your complex by foot, avoid touching surfaces with your fingers. Many health advisors recommend you avoid handling stair rails, light switches, door handles and lift buttons. This is because the COVID-19 virus has the potential to ‘live’ on these surfaces, if someone who is unwell has inadvertently sneezed or coughed and droplets have ended up landing on them. 

As shared by consumerreports.org, “Simply touching a contaminated surface won’t give you COVID-19. But then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes can transfer the virus to those sensitive spots, allowing the virus to enter the body and cause infection.”

Use your elbow when you can to press buttons and open doors. Otherwise, protect your hand with a tissue. If you must handle something directly, avoid touching your face. Wash your hands for 20 seconds as soon as you can. 

Right now, everyone is being urged to limit the number of people gathered in one place. When it comes to lifts between floors, your building may have introduced restrictions. If they haven’t, common sense applies; if getting into a lift means people will need to squash together, wait for the next one, for the safety of yourself and others. 

Common area shutdowns

Unfortunately, the areas designed for people to gather with other residents and their guests are no-go zones for the time being. 

For most strata complexes, this applies to gyms, swimming pools, saunas and bbq areas. If your strata has asked you to stay away from these spaces, respect the rules. The time will come when they can be enjoyed again but you don’t want to be the resident who everyone is frustrated with.

You may have a pet who needs to pop out from time to time for a quick frolic or a toilet break. Again, common sense applies. Keep your outings short and purpose focused, and don’t get too close to others when you’re out of your apartment. 

If you’re unsure about the restrictions on common areas, reach out to your strata committee or strata manager. Ideally, they will have already communicated with you via email and portal messages, and by placing signs on common areas. 

Car parks, rubbish areas and visitors

Australians are still free to leave home for essential purposes like work or going grocery shopping. 

It’s not an offence to take the bins out or go to your vehicle. What’s important is to take care. This includes respecting social distancing recommendations to stay at least 1.5 metres apart, and to avoid gathering in groups of more than two people. 

Speaking of gatherings, you may also hear from your strata manager to remind you these are strongly discouraged and even banned. If possible, avoid having visitors to your home. 

As ACT Health shares:

Visitors are not permitted if the number of people exceeds two people (excluding those living in the household). However, people providing the following services are exempt:

  • Medical care or support
  • Law enforcement
  • Emergency services
  • Urgent or essential repairs

Your strata manager should update you once these regulations change. 

What to do if you are feeling unwell

While the spread of COVID-19 is alarming, having a sniff or a cold doesn’t mean you have picked it up. 

In these times, however, your neighbours won’t appreciate you being out and about with a runny nose. As a precaution, stay home as much as possible if you are feeling sick. 

Should you contract COVID-19, get in touch with your strata manager or property manager. Let them know which common areas you passed through so they can do a thorough clean and make decisions about who needs to be informed. 

The COVID-19 outbreak will highlight the effectiveness and professionalism of your strata management. They should be clearly communicating with all relevant tenants and owner-occupiers in order to clarify rules and let people know what is acceptable behaviour.