Each strata scheme has its own set of by-laws which must be adhered to by owners, tenants and sometimes visitors. By-laws are rules or regulations specific to each strata scheme that addresses the behaviours of residents and the use of the common property. They can cover issues such as noise, the keeping of pets, smoking, short-term rental accommodation, parking and more.
Breaches to by-laws can happen for various reasons including not knowing what by-laws are in place, forgetting about them or just plainly disregarding them. Fortunately, there are many ways to resolve a strata by-law breach, with serious breaches facing more severe punishments including fines.
To help you resolve a breach in your strata scheme, we outline five key steps you can take below.
1.Face to face communication
One of the first things to do whenever a dispute occurs, such as excessive noise late at night or smoke drift into a neighbour’s apartment is to speak directly with your neighbour face to face in a friendly discussion. Most of the time, voicing the issue with them can often solve the problem, particularly if they are not familiar with the strata scheme’s by-laws. If you’re not comfortable talking to the neighbour alone, consider bringing a friend with you or the Strata Manager. We also recommend keeping a note of the time and day the breach took place, what happened and any other important details that could assist you later on if the matter escalates or repeatedly occurs.
2.Advise the breach in writing
If after the initial conversation the offensive behaviour continues, a written letter can be sent to the person in breach on behalf of the Owners Corporation, advising them of the offensive behaviour. The letter should detail which by-law is being breached, when the breach happened and what action needs to happen to resolve this matter. Although this initial letter isn’t compulsory, it is helpful to send, particularly if the matter escalates to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) which requires the Owners Corporation to provide evidence that they have taken steps to resolve the breach.
3.Issue a Notice to Comply with a By-Law
If a person continues to breach a by-law within a strata scheme, a formal Notice to Comply with a By-Law can be served, under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. This document will include details about which by-law has been breached along with the specific details such as dates, times and the offence. It will also give the action that needs to be taken to comply, otherwise, a monetary penalty may be imposed.
Keep in mind that before a notice can be served to the breacher by the Owners Corporation, a resolution must be passed in a meeting approving the issue of the notice and what details are provided.
If the Notice to Comply with a By-Law doesn’t result in any action, the next step to take is mediation. This is where both parties are brought together to try to resolve the dispute with an impartial mediator which can be appointed by NSW Fair Trading. The mediator’s role is to help identify the issue (in this case the breach) and assist each party to raise their concerns proactively and how the breach can be addressed.
Before an Owners Corporation can apply for mediation, a resolution must be passed at a meeting to confirm that a breach has occurred and obtain approval for the application to proceed.
5.Apply for an NCAT order
If mediation is unsuccessful, the last step that can be taken is for the Owners Corporation to make an NCAT application for an order. If successful, the person in breach may face the following:
(a) A fine of up to $1,100 with the possibility of a further fine of $2,200 if NCAT is satisfied that the breach has occurred again within 12 months of the initial penalty; and/or
(b) An order requiring the person to comply with the by-law.
Before the Owners Corporation can commence proceedings in NCAT, a resolution must be passed at a meeting that it is satisfied that there has been a breach of the Notice to Comply and it will commence proceedings.
Other steps to take
Along with the above five steps, it might be worthwhile for the Owners Corporation and Strata Committee and Manager to review the current by-laws and determine whether they are all still relevant, such as rules around pets. This is particularly true for an older strata scheme that may be using outdated by-laws that don’t suit today’s owners and residents. It is up to the Owners Corporation and Strata Manager to represent the best interest of its residents which might mean amending, deleting or adding a by-law.
Get in touch
Need help with resolving a breach in by-laws within your strata scheme or looking to update your by-laws instead? Speak to the friendly team at Strata Master today.