Strata living often brings people of diverse interests and backgrounds close together. While most people live harmoniously together, on occasions disagreements and disputes sometimes arise. Some common examples of disputes that may arise include:
- Noise complaints
- Parking on common property without approval
- Unauthorised keeping of pets
- Alterations to common property
Most disputes can be easily resolved if the parties involved talk through the issue – an initial step that the NSW Office of Fair Trading also recommends. Should the parties be unable to resolve the matter directly, the next preferred method of resolution is by way of mediation via the NSW Office of Fair Trading.
Mediation is an informal process where a neutral and independent mediator assists those involved in a dispute to achieve their own resolution.
If no resolution can be achieved, either party may apply for an order by an Adjudicator or the Tribunal. In many situations mediation must be attempted before an application for adjudication can be considered. The registrar of the Tribunal will decide which matters do not need mediation although some matters are automatically exempt such as interim orders, variation of unit entitlement and the appointment of strata managing agents.
Application forms to apply for mediation are available online, from your nearest Fair Trading Centre or from the Strata Schemes and Mediation Services located at Level 6, 234 Sussex Street, Sydney. Once the application has been submitted, a mediator will contact the parties involved and coordinate a suitable time and date for the mediation session. The parties must first agree to the mediation session before it can proceed.
Notice to comply with a by-law
All owners and occupants that reside in a strata titled unit must adhere to the schemes by-laws. The by-laws are a set of rules designed to assist with the running of strata schemes which must be obeyed by all owners and occupants.
Where the owners corporation is satisfied that an owner or occupier has breached a by-law, the owners corporation can decide by majority vote at a general meeting or executive committee meeting, to serve a form called a Notice to Comply with a by-law on that person requiring future compliance with the by-law.
If the Notice is not complied with, the owners corporation may ask the Tribunal to impose a penalty of up to $550. This must be done within 12 months of issue. It is important to note that the Notice may only be issued by the owners corporation, not an owner or occupier.
If the dispute cannot be resolved by mediation, the Act allows an application to be lodged with the Strata Schemes Adjudicator who can rule on certain disputes including:
- Repairs to common property
- water penetration through windows, shower floors
- enforcement of by-laws
- appointment of a strata managing agent
- validity of meetings
- variation of insurance
A letter will be sent to each party involved in the dispute asking for their respective views (submissions). When applying for an order by an Adjudicator, you will need to submit relevant information and documents to support your argument, such as a copy of the strata plan, minutes of relevant meetings, resolutions and the registered by-laws for the scheme.
The Adjudicator considers the application and submissions as well as decisions made in similar cases when making an order. The Adjudication process can take between six to eight weeks after the application has been lodged.
For more information on resolving disputes, please contact your strata manager at Netstrata.