We’re currently living in challenging times and whilst everyone must now be more vigilant when it comes to health and hygiene, those living in apartments in particular need to be on the ball.
According to the ABS, families with kids now make up a quarter of Australia’s total apartment population, with that number growing every year due to density issues.
Australia’s leading strata expert Amanda Farmer from Lawyers Chambers says at the moment the frequency of cleaning common areas in COVID-plagued NSW varies from one building to the next as NSW government public health orders are still unclear.
“People still aren’t entirely sure what’s going on with COVID restrictions and rules – it can change from one day to the next,” said Amanda who also hosts the podcast Your Strata Property. “So, the best course of action is to protect yourself and your family as much as you can, especially given ongoing breakouts in apartment complexes.”
Here’s Amanda’s top tips to living through COVID if you’re in a unit.
1. Move quickly throughout common areas
It goes without saying that you need to move quickly through common areas, wear a mask and don’t touch surfaces. Don’t share lifts with people other than your household members and avoid poorly ventilated areas like storage rooms.
2. Don’t let kids play in communal areas
Kids are best playing elsewhere such as a park. Otherwise, they could play in outdoor area of the common property such as a yard but not in an indoor area such as stairways and halls. They also need to distance as much as possible from other kids although granted this can be difficult!
3. Understand how often common areas are being cleaned
If you’re not sure how often your common area is being cleaned it’s a good idea to contact your body corporate to understand what days this takes place. If cleaning is infrequent, perhaps ask if it’s at all possible for cleaning to be increased during this time.
4. Take care in communal laundries
For places like a communal laundry which can’t be avoided, unlike a pool area, it’s a good idea to bring your own disinfectant spray before using machines and wear gloves.
5. Wear a mask when answering the door
It’s the law in NSW to wear a mask on common property, so always make sure you’re wearing one when opening your apartment door. You never know if a neighbour will be passing at that time. It may sound a little creepy, but if you have a spyglass in your front door, have a quick peek to make sure the corridor is clear before you open the door.
The Delta variant of the virus is highly transmissible and some experts believe that transmission is happening in hotel quarantine and, potentially apartment buildings, simply through doors being opened at the same time. If you do happen to be in the corridor at the same time as your neighbour, perhaps hang back and let them use the lift, stairs or bin room first.
6. Inquire about additional waste collection
Many communities are having to increase waste collection, in particular, to ensure bin rooms as kept as clean and empty as possible at a time when they’re seeing more use than ever before. Many local councils are doing additional weekly bin collections for a small fee. It’s worth enquiring – or asking your strata manager or committee to enquire – with your local council to see if this is a possibility for your building.
7. Be safe with online deliveries
For buildings which require residents to come to the front door of the building to collect online items, it’s a good idea to open the door wearing a mask for any interaction with a delivery person.
8. Negotiate loud noise
With more people now at home, noise stress is at an all-time high. If your kids are noisy during play time, maybe let your neighbours know what times the noisy periods usually are, so they can plan their meetings around it. Just knowing the schedule will can give your neighbours some relief. Also have compassion for others during this time. You might like to crank up the loud music, but given everyone is at home, perhaps pop on headphones instead.
9. Don’t let neighbour complaints escalate
If you receive a nasty note of complaint from a disgruntled neighbour, or you’re the one with the angst, then often the best course of action is to confront that person face to face, as soon as possible. Just remember to keep your distance in person. If that’s not possible, then a note under the door with your phone number and an invitation to speak may be the way to go.
10. What to door if arguments escalate
If attempts to talk something out fail, from a legal perspective, it’s important to keep a record of your attempts to engage with the person and address their concerns. This is in case they or you attempt to take things to the next level.