Did you know that all owners and residents are obligated to comply with building by-laws, and there are consequences for failure to do so?
By-laws can be considered over-stepping, or ‘strata’ trying to tell people how to live, but in reality, when so many people live together, sharing common spaces, rules are essential.
By-law set the expectation within each individual community, and should be something to check and consider before moving into a community. You can read more on by-laws here.
This blog details the process for enforcing by-laws.
In New South Wales (NSW), the enforcement of by-laws within a strata scheme is primarily the responsibility of the owners’ corporation. Here are the typical steps involved in enforcing by-laws in NSW:
- Awareness and education: Knowing what rules need to be followed is the first step. It’s important that committee members and strata managers don’t assume people know what they by-laws are. Regular distribution of the by-laws and reminders of important ones is a must.
- Communication and resolution: If a by-law is being breached, in the first instant assume the person doesn’t know they are breaching a by-law. Let the know. The strata committee, can initiate communication, directly or through the strata manager, with the parties involved. This may include an informal chat, sending emails, or holding meetings to discuss the issue, and remind residents of their obligations.
- Breach notices: If informal communication fails to resolve the issue, the owners’ corporation can issue a breach notice to the person(s) responsible for the by-law violation. This is called a Notice to Comply, and is a prescribed form. A breach notice outlines the specific by-law that has been breached, provides details of the violation, and requests compliance within a specified timeframe.
- Mediation and dispute resolution: If the breach continues or there is disagreement regarding the breach notice, the owners’ corporation can suggest mediation through the Office of Fair Trading. While this isn’t a required step, it can assist in reaching a resolution without the escalating to NCAT for a penalty.
- NCAT orders and penalties: There are two options when going to NCAT: The owners corporation can either seek a financial penalty for breach of a notice to comply, or orders to remedy the breach. The financial penalty for failure to comply with a notice to comply can be up to $1,100. However, if an order to remedy is given, and a further breach occurs, the fine is far more substantial, as the matter escalates to failure to comply with an NCAT order. In all cases, the owners corporation is obligated to provide sufficient evidence that the by-laws has been breached, and after the date the notice to comply has been served.
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