Singapore’s coronavirus cases have crossed the 10,000 mark on 22 April 2020.
With the worsening of coronavirus infection in Singapore, the Government has since implemented stricter laws to help curb the spread of the virus nationwide. With stricter laws such as ‘stay home notices‘, ‘work from home’ policies and businesses being forced to cease business operations, there’s no doubt that the passing down of laws at uncommon speed can bring about its bout of paranoias and worries.
To help break the confusion, we’ll be answering some of the pertinent questions that you may have concerning pockets of the business operations within property and facility management sectors. We’ll iron out the do’s and don’ts that adhere to BCA’s latest guidelines for Management Corporation Strata Title and Managing Agents within the residential sector.
Convening of Annual General Meeting (AGM)
How long can MCST defer the AGM?
If the due date for holding AGM falls between 27 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 (‘bracket period’)*, MCST can defer holding the AGM latest by 30 September 2020. If the due date for holding AGM falls outside the bracket period, MCST has to hold the AGM in accordance with the timeline provided in the BMSMA – in each calendar year or not more than 15 months from the last preceding AGM.
* This shall also apply to the first AGM of MCST. Under Section 26(1) of BMSMA, theowner developer shall hold the first AGM of MCST latest by the 13th month from the date of constitution of MCST.
If a MCST serves on the subsidiary proprietors the notice of a general meeting on a date before 1 October 2020, but holds the general meeting on a date after 30 September 2020, can the MCST conduct the general meeting via electronic means?
The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings for Management Corporations, Subsidiary Management Corporations and Collective Sale Committees) Order 2020 applies to a general meeting of MCST held on a date before 1 October 2020.
Regardless of when the notice is served on the subsidiary proprietor, if the general meeting is held on a date after 30 September 2020, the MCST will not be able to conduct the general meeting via electronic means, and have to comply with the relevant provisions in the BMSMA.
What must a subsidiary proprietor (SP) do if he/she wishes to stand for election of council member in a general meeting conducted via electronic means?
If an SP wishes to be nominated to stand for the election of council member, we encourage him/her to send his/her name by writing or email to the Secretary of MCST at least 48 hours before the start of the meeting.
Alternatively, he/she may attend the general meeting via electronic means and inform the Chairperson of the meeting of the intention to be nominated for election of council
If a MCST wishes to defer holding an AGM, but has prepared the statement of accounts (and auditor’s report) for the original due date of holding AGM, does the MCST need to prepare another statement of accounts (and auditor’s report) for the deferred AGM?
Section 38(10) of BMSMA provides that the MCST shall prepare the statement of accounts for a period ending on a date not earlier than 4 months before each AGM.
If the deferred AGM is held on a date which is beyond the timeline for the statement of accounts in Section 38(10) of BMSMA, the MCST should consult its appointed auditor on how to meet the aforementioned timeline. This could be by way of preparing a statement of accounts for a longer period up to a date not earlier than 4 months before the AGM, or if a statement of accounts is already prepared, by preparing another (interim) statement of accounts for the relevant period up to a date not earlier than 4 months before the AGM.
How does an MCST go about arranging for an AGM conducted by electronic means? Will BCA recommend any vendor for this purpose?
The MCST should refer to the circular and guidance notes, dated 27 April 2020, issued by BCA. The MCST should also engage or appoint a vendor who can provide the services of conducting the AGM via electronic means, which can meet the requirements set in the guidance
BCA does not recommend or restrict the type or group of vendors whom MCSTs can engage or appoint for this purpose.
Safe Distancing Measures
Why must the MCST limit/suspend or cease operation of common facilities amid the COVID-19 situation?
All common facilities in strata-titled developments that are used for sports and recreational purposes such as the swimming pool, playground, club house / function room, tennis court, gym room, barbeque pits, roof top gardens etc must be closed with effect from 7 April 2020. These are areas where crowds may congregate. The closure of these areas is in line with the enhanced safe distancing measures announced by the Government to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community. The MCST should notify residents of the closure of common facilities. Walkways, access paths, lifts and escalators, etc. which are necessary for movement remain open, and safe distancing measures should be practised there.
Can condo residents exercise within the compound during the circuit breaker period? / Can residents walk their pets within the estate?
From 5 May 2020, residents living in strata-titled residential buildings may exercise within the common areas of these private residential developments such as footpaths, but must continue to practise safe distancing measures. This includes walking, jogging (with or without pets). Residents are reminded to wear a mask when they go out for exercise. Please refer to the guide on mask wearing while exercising issued by Sport SG.
BCA enforcement officers will continue to conduct periodic checks and inspections. Management Corporations (MCST) and Managing Agents should also do their part to ensure compliance with these measures. All sports and recreational facilities within these private residential developments such as playgrounds, pools, gyms, barbecue pits and club houses are to remain closed.
For more information, please refer to the press release on MOH’s website.
Are children allowed to play within the common areas of the estate?
The heightened safe distancing measures which started from 7 April are meant to function as a circuit breaker to significantly reduce movements and interactions in public and private places. Hence, no sports or recreational activities (which includes playing) should be carried out within the common areas of the estate.
Do MCST and security guards have the power to enforce if residents report non-compliances to safe distancing measures?
MCST and security guards should step up patrol of the common areas and ensure that residents observe the safe distancing measures implemented by the Government to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Residents can alert the security guards or MA of any evidence of non-compliances to social distancing measures. Where necessary, the MA can escalate the report to BCA via BCA’s feedback form with detailed information (e.g. location, date and time, and photographic evidence).
Our MCST is not following the guidelines to close facilities that are used for sports and recreation. What will BCA do?
Can the common toilets remain open in the development?
Yes, common toilets may remain open as there are site staff maintaining the MCST during the control period. For toilets which are necessary to remain open, the MCST must ensure safe distancing measures are observed and implemented.
Some residents are not following guidelines to maintain safe distancing and are still gathering beside the pool or at their homes, what can we do?
Social gatherings of any size, in homes or public spaces, are no longer allowed under the new law [COVID-19 (Temporary Measures)] to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Individuals must not allow others to enter his or her home except in very limited circumstances, such as the provision of an essential service. Failure to comply with all relevant requirements is an offence, and BCA will not hesitate to take enforcement action against errant parties. Any non-compliance to the circuit breaker measures should be reported to your MCST or Managing Agents (MAs) immediately. During this control period, MCSTs are expected to diligently monitor the situation within their estates, and promptly deal with any contraventions of the requirements. For recalcitrant cases, MCSTs/MAs may provide feedback to BCA via BCA’s feedback form with detailed information pertaining to any contravention of the requirements.
Residents/members of the MCST are not wearing masks while going about within the estate and the MCST/security guards are not enforcing this new rule. What can residents do?
MCSTs and managing agents (MAs) should step up efforts to remind residents of the elevated safe distancing measures with the help of security guards as compliance with the measures is critical in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Residents should also cooperate and work together with MCSTs and MAs to ensure that the safe distancing measures are observed, and report any non-compliance to the MCST and MAs so that they can follow up immediately. Where necessary, residents can escalate the report to BCA via BCA’s feedback form with detailed information (e.g. location, date and time, and photographic evidence).
Can the renovation works still proceed during this period? What can I do if I need to renovate the unit for my housing needs?
All non-essential services, such as renovation works are suspended with effect from 7 April 2020. This is part of the nation-wide effort to reduce movement and interactions, to bring the number of COVID-19 infections down. Only essential services such as emergency repair of roofs, ceilings, walls, floor water leakages, electrical repairs, aircon repairs and plumbing repairs in homes are permitted. For more information on the list of essential services, you may refer to MTI’s website and BCA’s website.
To meet your housing needs during this interim period, you may wish to negotiate the terms of your existing housing arrangements, such as extension of rental duration or deferral of transaction completion date, to reach a mutual agreement. If you have a property agent, you may wish to request your agent to facilitate the conversation between the parties to extend their current housing arrangements. The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has also issued an advisory on this matter. You may also wish to consider alternative housing arrangements, such as staying with a friend or family member(s).
Can residents move into their units during the circuit breaker period?
During the nation-wide circuit breaker period, we strongly urge residents to stay at the current accommodation and refrain from moving into the new home during this period. This is to minimise movement and interactions as far as possible, to to bring the number of COVID-19 infections down.
If there are special circumstances where the current accommodation is not going to be available, the resident may wish to seek the help of an agent to negotiate the terms of existing housing arrangements, such as extension of rental duration or deferral of transaction completion date, to reach a mutual agreement. The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has also issued an advisory to property agents on this matter.
Does the advisory to close common facilities also apply to non-strata titled buildings?
Operation of preschools in MCST developments
Are preschool operators allowed to remain in operation within MCST developments during the circuit breaker period?
Yes. Preschools are deemed as ‘Essential Services’ to serve a limited group of parents/guardians who are working in essential services companies. For more information, please refer to the advisory issued by ECDA.
Maintenance of Common Property
The MCST would still be maintaining the common facilities while they are closed. However, some residents are asking if their monthly contribution to the maintenance fees can be reduced as the common facilities are closed. What can MCSTs do?
MCSTs need to ensure that there are sufficient funds for the maintenance of all common facilities including those sports and recreational facilities that are closed during the circuit breaker period. MCSTs can discuss the monthly contribution rate in a general meeting.
Can MCSTs continue to maintain the swimming pools and water fountain within the estate during this period?
Yes. Should the contractor engaged by the MCSTs be required to maintain the water features during this period, the water treatment contractors shall ensure that no more than 2 water treatment personnel are allowed to visit the site once every 2 weeks to conduct necessary water treatment. For more information, please refer to NEA’s guidelines:
Managing Agent Services as Essential Services
Can my managing agent firm continue to operate during the circuit breaker period?
MAs will need to submit details of the operations via information for providing essential services/ construction work form in order to continue operating. Employees who report for work on site must be kept to a minimum. Safe distancing practices must be in place, for employees who must work on site. For work that can be done off site, such as backend operations, employees should telecommute.
How will MAs ensure that their service level to MCSTs is not affected by the restrictions?
MAs should ensure that essential services continue to be carried out in the developments. The MA should advise the MCST on the types of essential services required in the development and the service level or standard of performance expected of the managing agent during this period.
Other Essential Services
Are residents allowed to engage electricians and plumbers for emergency repair works during the circuit breaker period?
Yes. Residents may engage the following essential services for emergency repair works.
- Air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems;
- Fire protection systems;
- Security and surveillance systems (such as CCTVs);
- Electrical and plumbing works; and
- Building management systems
However, all non-essential services, such as the routine servicing of air-conditioning units in residential units and new installation of equipment in residential units and common areas, are not allowed.
Are residents allowed to engage window contractors during the circuit breaker period?
Installation of windows in new projects or in premises that are under renovation are not considered as essential services. These works are required to cease with effect from 7 Apr 2020. However, urgent window repair and replacement works are allowed.
Apart from adhering to these rules and regulations, MCSTs and MAs should not forget to continue abiding to safety measures such as arranging for regular disinfectant of common areas, performing temperature checks for unavoidable guests, as well as continue to diligently monitor the situation within their estates and caution isolation and safe distancing wherever possible.
Remember, the more we encourage and caution social distancing practices, the sooner we can get things under control and have things back to the new normal!
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