Preventing Common Disputes
Tuesday July 31st, 2018
In every strata scheme there are a set of governing by-laws. These by-laws serve a variety of purposes including; protecting residents from harm and potential hazards, ensuring building processes run smoothly and maintaining a harmonious and dispute-free community. If you are involved in strata, it is important to familiarize yourself with your scheme’s by-laws in order to better understand the building’s processes and avoid the possibility of a dispute or breach.
The by-laws regulate the conditions applying to the use of the common property and the Lots within Scheme and the Committee is required to enforce by-laws to the mutual benefit of all members of the Scheme, the normal process being:
• If a by-law is breached, the body corporate may issue a notice of a continuing or likely future contravention of a by-law to the offender
• Failure to comply with a notice issued could result in a dispute application lodged with the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management
• An order made by the Commissioners Office may be enforced by a Magistrates Court
The most common disputes have come to be known as the 4 P’s; Pets, Parking, Parties and more recently Passive Smoking. Most disputes occur due to a simple misunderstanding of the by-law or because residents remain ill-informed about what behaviours and practices are restricted within their scheme. Below we have provided important tips on what there is to know about the 4 P’s:
• Most schemes have by-laws stating pets are permitted subject to body corporate approval
• The body corporate cannot unreasonably refuse a request to keep a pet
• Guide, hearing or assistance dogs are permitted under the Act
• Most parking issues are due to visitors using the visitor parking in excess of the allowed time, permanent residents using the visitor parking, parking in a neighbouring resident’s space or parking where there is no defined parking boundaries.
• There are no effective remedies in the BCCM Act other than breaching offenders.
• Your scheme may have a by-law stating that towing of vehicles may occur if parked in contravention and towing may be practiced by your scheme under direction of the Committee. The Body Corporate should ensure that due notice of pending towing is issued to the offending vehicle owner so that the opportunity to remedy the by-law contravention and comply with any orders sought is given.
• If you are in a large scheme, where the parking is governed by a Building Management Statement (BMS), as your governing legislation is the Land Titles Act, you can enact effective site rules to enable towing.
• A party may breach the by-laws if the excessive noise caused by occupants & their guests disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of other occupiers
• If your neighbours are having a party and the noise is causing disruption, the first step is to politely and directly address them about it. Often neighbours are unaware that their activities may be causing problems for other occupants
• Should a noise complaint persist beyond your initial approach, then your strata committee may consider issue of a Breach Notice that places the resident ‘on notice’ that further breaches may result in action
• Local government will have a time frame in which excessive noise is considered acceptable. Outside of this timeframe, police can be called and a report made seeking their enforcement
• The legislation does not prohibit smoking within the boundaries of an occupant’s lot
• Bodies corporate can restrict smoking on the common property with an appropriate by-law
• Bodies corporate should make all efforts to inform a resident when their smoking is affecting others
• If you are affected by smoke drift from a neighbouring resident, the first step is to politely and directly address them about it. A direct approach is often appreciated and will resonate better than a written notice or a call from the body corporate
This article was contributed by Grant Mifsud, Partner – Archers the Strata Professionals.