By Nicholas Taradilis
Due to COVID-19, people are spending more time living and working inside their strata properties. This can mean that people experience their strata property differently than usual. It is therefore important for all people living under strata to be aware of the specific by-laws that are in place in your strata scheme. Understanding your strata by-laws will ensure you continue to enjoy all of the benefits of living in a strata scheme.
What is a by-law?
By-laws are rules that have been voted on and adopted in a strata scheme by the Owners Corporation. These rules can be “made in relation to the management, administration, control, use or enjoyment of the lots or the common property.”
What can a by-law govern?
By-laws can cover all manner of things within a strata scheme: from noise, to where people are permitted to park their cars, to the size of a pet allowed to be kept in a lot. There are model by-laws in the Strata Schemes Management Regulations 2016 (‘the Act’) which may be adopted by a scheme however there is no requirement for a scheme to adopt the model by-laws. Typically, a strata scheme will come up with its own by-laws to meet specific needs within the scheme.
Owners of lots and tenants living within a lot are obligated to comply with the strata scheme’s specific by-laws because these parties are taken to know about the by-laws present within the scheme. Due to this requirement, it is highly recommended that all people living under strata are familiar with the current by-laws in place within your scheme. If there is any uncertainty around what these are, you should contact the Owners Corporation of your scheme for a copy of the by-laws.
How are by-laws enforced?
The Owners Corporation, or Strata Managing Agent (if delegated the authority), can issue a Notice to Comply with the by-laws in the scheme if they believe you are in breach of a specific by-law. This Notice must be accompanied by the specific by-law that has allegedly been breached. Within 12 months after issuing a Notice to Comply, the Owners Corporation may decide to pursue a breach of by-laws by applying to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. If found to be in breach of a by-law by the Tribunal, a civil penalty of up to $1,100 may be issued for the breach.
You can also approach a by-law issue less formally, and attempt to resolve the issue with your neighbour directly, or through Fair Trading’s Mediation services.
Are there any restrictions on by-laws?
A by-law cannot prevent a child from occupying a lot, prevent keeping an assistance animal, or be unjust, which is defined to be “harsh, unconscionable, or oppressive”. The full list of restrictions to by-laws can be found under section 139 of the Act. An owner may challenge a by-law’s validity on the basis that it contravenes this section, however it is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice on the issue prior to making any application to the tribunal.
This is a quick overview of how by-laws typically operate, and should not be taken to be comprehensive legal advice on your specific legal issue. It is always recommended that you seek out the advice of an experienced legal practitioner with expertise on the area of law pertaining to your issue before taking any action. If you have further questions about by-laws, or other issues within your strata scheme, you can contact our Strata Collective Sales and Advocacy Service by leaving a web enquiry here.