By-laws (known as building rules in Victoria) help make sure residents and owners are on the same page about what’s allowed and what’s not.
Here are eight things you can do if someone is breaking by-laws in your strata property:
If someone breaks by-laws in your strata property, start by having a friendly, honest conversation. Open communication can really help in most cases. Whether your neighbour is violating parking rules, being noisy, leaving their pets unsupervised or hosting unruly guests, you can always let them know how their actions affect you and other owners. It’s possible they’re simply unaware of the consequences of their actions or that they are in breach of by-laws. Make sure your strata committee or strata manager provides owners, tenants and residents with a copy of the by-laws or building rules.
If direct communication isn’t doing the trick, you can always ask the strata committee or your strata manager to help resolve the matter. Having an unbiased, fair party negotiate matters with empathy and transparency can help solve issues in a more long-term way, and they may already have a strategy in place to deal with conflict. Your strata committee can also explain to the offender the rules around community living, and make them aware of the effects of breaching by-laws or building rules.
If by-laws are breached intentionally and continuously, consider keeping a record of the breach. Your record should include who, what, how, when, and for how long it has been happening. Keeping evidence in the form of documents and photographs or video will help if further steps need to be taken in the future.
When verbal warnings fail, your strata committee or strata manager can issue a formal Notice to Comply with a by-law and ask the by-law-breacher to stop the activity that’s creating trouble. If the by-law is being breached by a tenant, the notice should be addressed to them. The owner or landlord, as well as the property manager, should also be given a copy of the breach notice.
In New South Wales
The strata committee can issue a Notice to Comply with a By-law to the by-law-breaker outlining the notice of breach.
The body corporates can issue a By-law Contravention Notice to the person breaching the by-law.
The owners corporation can issue a Breach Notice. If the person continues to break the rules, a final notice in writing may be issued ordering the breach to be resolved in 28 days and if it is not, VCAT action may be taken.
If an emergency occurs due to someone breaking strata by-laws that may cause injury, threat to life or damage to property, the strata committee can apply for dispute resolution without issuing a notice of breach.
The strata committee must enforce the by-laws if they think there has been a breach. If they don’t, they should be able to clearly explain why they thought it was reasonable not to enforce the by-laws.
If all verbal and formal warnings from the strata committee or owners corporation are being ignored and by-laws are being continuously breached, your owners corporation can refer to the state tribunal or governing office (e.g. Queensland Government Body Corporate and Community Management, NSW Office of Fair Trading, or Consumer Affairs Victoria) or a magistrate. They may be able to issue fines and penalties depending on the seriousness and frequency of the offence.
In New South Wales
If the conduct or problem continues and the strata committee cannot put a stop to it, then the next step is usually to escalate the problem to Fair Trading for mediation. If this also fails, the owners corporation can make an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).
After issuing a contravention notice, the body corporate can enforce a by-law further by either applying for dispute resolution with the BCCM Office or looking to have a fine applied at the Magistrate’s Court. QCAT can hear appeals of adjudicators’ orders. They do not deal with by-law enforcement.
If your by-laws appear to be unfair, impractical, outdated, ineffective or downright unlawful, you can work towards having them amended through a special resolution in an annual general meeting or extraordinary general meeting. Make sure your new by-laws are registered, so they become functional.
In New South Wales
The new or amended by-laws need to be registered with the NSW Land Registry Services within six months of drafting them. The change in by-laws must be lodged as a consolidated version that includes the change (Clause 24 Strata Schemes Development Regulation 2016).