When does your body corporate resort to contravention notices?
Breaching body corporate by-laws is always frowned upon. This not only disrupts the way of life and creates discord amongst residents, it also sends a message that people can get away with ignoring the rules that define and enable community living.
In a body corporate where there are all kinds of people sharing common property and amenities, one person’s actions could affect everybody else’s quality of life. By-laws help all owners and residents be aware of the property’s rules for community living and when they’re not followed as intended, it can create problems and frustration.
When an owner or resident continues to breach the by-laws even after being approached about the problem by other owners or the committee members, a notice of contravention is necessary to formalise the warning. Your committee can take the following steps to address by-law breaches:
Speak with the rule-breaker
Often, having an open chat with the person or parties breaching the by-laws may do the trick. Perhaps they are simply unaware of the by-laws or the consequences of their activities on community living. Helping them understand the situation, discussing their options and offering alternatives can help them see the bigger picture. In such situations, it is important for an articulate committee member or a knowledgeable body corporate manager to step in and mediate matters.
Issue verbal and written warnings
When an owner or resident ignores requests from other residents, the committee can speak to the person directly. They can also send out an informal letter or email requesting the person to cease their activity that is in breach of the by-law.
Issue a notice of contravention
If informal warnings are being continuously ignored and the problem persists, the committee can issue a notice of contravention against the owner they believe is breaching the by-laws. The notice should acknowledge the breach formally, explain the impact of the breach on the body corporate property and its residents, and outline the consequences of breaching the by-laws.
Take the matter to court
If the person does not comply even after being issued with contravention notices and disputes remain unresolved, the body corporate may take up the matter with the Magistrates Court. Based on the court’s ruling, the owner could be fined or penalised for the breach.
Resolve disputes in emergency cases
In some cases, a body corporate may be required to make a dispute resolution application instead of issuing a contravention notice or as an interim step before taking matters to court. This may also be done in certain special circumstances when a dispute is required to be resolved urgently or in case of emergencies that may result in serious damage to property, health or safety of the body corporate property residents.
Why are contravention notices important?
These notices are usually sent as a last resort, but they’re a necessary step taken by the committee when verbal requests or written letters are ignored by the person breaching the by-laws. They let the rule breaker know that their activities are being taken seriously and the notice can be upheld in a court of law.
There are two types of contravention notices:
- A continuing contravention notice: This is given if the body corporate believes the person who has breached the by-law may need a certain time to address the breach. For example, if an owner has made an unapproved renovation on the property that affects the appearance of the lot, they may be issued with a continuing contravention notice. The notice should explain the issue sufficiently and offer a certain time period to fix the problem.
- A future contravention notice: As seen with complaints of noise and unruliness where by-laws are breached repeatedly, there are chances of the problem continuing in the future. In such cases, the body corporate may issue this kind of a contravention notice to the rule-breaker.
Who can be given a contravention notice?
Any owner or resident who is continuously breaching a by-law in the property can be sent a notice. If a tenant or guest is at fault for by-law breach, your body corporate can send the warnings and notices to them directly, but they should take care to keep the owners in the loop as well. The owner or landlord is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of their tenants and guests living in the body corporate and should make sure the by-laws are clear to them.
PICA Group tip: If talking to your neighbours isn’t helping, you may contact your body corporate manager or committee to address the matter with a notice of contravention. In doing so, you should take care to keep records of the instances of breach and retain any evidence in the form of communication emails, photos, etc. This would help with any future references in case the matter is taken before a law enforcing body or external dispute resolution process.
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