COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Update #10
We hope that you are all enjoying a relaxing Victoria Day long weekend, and that some of you have begun to see family members and others that you have been separated from these past 2 months. We write to you today with a number of important updates on COVID-19, our firm’s operations and your Strata Corporation:
- Stratawest Operations– The Province’s Restart Plan and Worksafe BC requirements combine to form the basis for continued operations within office environments such as ours. While we have been operating all along, as our industry was designated an Essential Service, we have turned our attention toward ensuring strict compliance with the requirements they have outlined for us. We are refining the policies and procedures we have developed to make sure that we are doing everything we need to in order to keep our staff safe, especially in light of the Province’s guidance that most transmission of COVID-19 occurs within homes and workplaces. We do not want any of our staff (or their families and connections) getting sick and will continue to prioritize our staff’s safety over all other considerations, especially considering how devastating an in-office outbreak would be to our operations;
- Your Operations– Strata Corporations are also obliged to ensure compliance with the provincial requirements linked above if you have employees and/or regular contractors such as Concierges on site. We encourage you to review those and provide any instructions to your Property Manager on any changes to existing policies or alterations that you will need to make to your work environments for your staff, particularly those that may require physical distancing measures to be stepped up (such as installation of plexiglass barriers in strategic locations, or increased cleaning, which we can assist with);
- Meetings / Office Visits – In keeping with the most recent guidance from the Province and Worksafe BC, company policy will continue to prohibit our staff from attending in-person meetings at this time. Virtual meetings have replaced in-person meetings for the past 2 months and by and large, this has worked very well for both our staff and our clients (indeed, many of our clients have expressed a preference to continue virtual meetings after the immediate danger has passed, as it allows them a great deal more flexibility with their days). It allows Property Managers to work from home, where they are safest, and avoids unnecessary contacts between unrelated individuals outside of their “bubble”. Likewise, our office will remain closed to visitors as this policy best reflects the goal of minimizing unnecessary in-person connections. Until we are confident that these restrictions can be lifted without putting our staff and their families at risk, our policies will remain in place;
- Pools & Fitness Facilities– With some restrictions being eased by provincial authorities, Strata Councils are starting to consider lifting restrictions they have imposed in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19. In particular, Councils across our portfolio are deliberating whether to re-open fitness facilities and pools. Whether or not you are permitted to do so depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction within which you reside (for instance, Vancouver Coastal Health did not order gyms to be closed, while Fraser Health and others did). Other considerations include the physical layout of your facilities, the cost and capacity for increased cleaning, the demographics of your residents, Airspace/Cost-Sharing agreement obligations and more. It is a complex topic, and each Strata Council will need to balance the many competing interests. We are not a substitute for legal advice in this regard, and encourage Strata Councils to seek legal advice if they are concerned about the implications around re-opening or keeping facilities closed (keeping restrictions in place is also likely to cause at least some angst among residents who wish to get closer to something resembling “normal”). While authorities have provided some guidance to us, it is non-specific in nature. In particular, we have attached the Vancouver Coastal Health Guidelines for Swimming Pools that outlines high-level concerns and minimum requirements for re-opening. Our friends at Clark Wilson LLP also published this article on re-opening Strata Corporation Recreation Facilities that summarizes many of the challenges Strata Corporations will face in this regard. We encourage you to review these articles, and discuss amongst yourselves what you feel comfortable with. Your Property Manager can assist with implementing any new procedures you decide upon.
We will write to you again later this week on other subjects including Late Penalties and Electronic General Meetings.
We wanted to close out this update with a note of thanks. Many of you have written to us over the past few weeks to express your appreciation for the information provided in these bulletins. We hope to continue to provide guidance to you as best we can, so that you can make the difficult decisions ahead of you armed with the information you need. We do not take for granted the extra burdens placed on Council members during COVID-19, and we are sincerely appreciative of your efforts as well.