Often, when an owner, resident, or manager resort to harassing or intimidating tactics, it can affect the community. If several people are affected by a person’s uncivil behaviour, you may take a collective step to address this behaviour in a general meeting of the owners corporation.
You may seek to file a motion on the agenda that addresses bullying behaviour and amend your by-laws or building rules with this provision – aligned to federal and state laws. Make sure to keep any evidence that may help your case – pictures, emails, messages, screenshots or recordings that prove bullying or threatening behaviour is occurring.
If a bullying situation creates an immediate health and safety risk to someone, you should bring it to the notice of your strata committee immediately and urge them to call an extraordinary general meeting to remedy the situation.
Model by-laws or model rules in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales all have a provision that deals with offensive behaviour on common property (generally where bullying takes place in person).
Rules aren’t merely suggestions, they are legally binding on all residents and your strata committee is legally responsible to act if a person is in breach of a by-law by acting or speaking inappropriately to another resident or owner on common property.
If the committee fails to be able to resolve it, the matter may be taken further, such as to a state tribunal or governing body.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading, Queensland Government Body Corporate and Community Management, or Consumer Affairs Victoria) is responsible for strata and community title legislation offer mediation services which can help address bullying issues.
Bullying behaviour does not always happen on common property. It also occurs in emails, phone calls, and intimation from within so what is the recourse then?
Under the Fair Work Act, the Fair Work Commission can make decisions and orders about bullying in the workplace. A worker is deemed to be bullied at work if, while at work, an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. The definition of “worker” under the Fair Work Act is given a much wider meaning than just the traditional employee/employer relationship.
Case study: In a recent application by Ms A  FWC 4147, a strata management company in Brisbane, was successful in obtaining an order to stop bullying behaviour from the chairperson of a strata committee. The Commission ruled that a “war engaged in by email” was not an appropriate way to raise management issues. Particularly, the use of sarcastic and derogatory language in emails, combined with the excessive amount of emails, and the publication of those exchanges to other members of the committee was unreasonable.
Safe Work Australia outlines how bullying may affect the health and safety in the workplace. Harassment can range from abusive or threatening behaviour, to offensive language, insulting comments, unjustified criticism or complaints to malicious gossip.
Mental health is an important concern, your strata committee must align with the law and take steps to protect the peace of the property and curb such behaviour.
The New South Wales Government recently amended the residential tenancy laws to protect the rights of tenants who may be victim to domestic abuse. If you are a tenant facing harassment at home, you should take note of this provision.
If you’re renting your strata property, you should take care to protect the interests of your tenants who may be victims of domestic abuse, so they’re not further distressed with undue increase in rent or compelled to move out as a result.
If you’d like to find out more on dealing with bad bullying behaviour, download your free Community Living guide on managing disputes. Or for a consultation to review your by-laws by our Kemps Petersons Legal team, click here.