Strata scheme

Understanding by-laws in your strata scheme

Rebecca Watters ||

When you buy an apartment in a strata scheme, you become part of a community that has certain rights and responsibilities specific to your strata complex. Many of those rights and responsibilities are protected by by-laws. It’s crucial that you understand those by-laws, as they control what you can do in your home or investment property.

This article will explore the different types of strata by-laws, how they can be changed and the consequences of a breach.

What are by-laws?

Essentially, by-laws are the rules that regulate the conduct and behaviour of residents, owners and (in some cases) visitors to a strata complex.

Most strata schemes will adopt a set of model by-laws established by the NSW Government. This can include rules regarding:

  • Parking
  • Pet ownership
  • Noise restrictions
  • Short-term accommodation (such as Airbnb)

Your owners corporation may go beyond that model and make changes specific to your strata scheme. By-laws can cover all kinds of topics including the keeping of pets, noise, smoking and use of communal facilities like pools and gyms.

How can they be accessed?

By-laws are typically provided to homeowners and tenants by their solicitor, conveyancer or real estate agent, prior to purchasing or moving into a strata scheme property.

If you haven’t been provided with a copy of your by-laws, they can be accessed via your strata committee secretary or manager upon request.

You can also access copies of strata scheme by-laws via the NSW Land Registry Services for a fee.

Are they regulated?

NSW by-laws are regulated by the Strata Schemes Management Act and the Strata Schemes Management Regulations which provide guidelines as to the type of by-laws that can be implemented by a strata scheme. This can prevent potentially oppressive or unreasonable by-laws being implemented into a strata complex.

Under these regulations:

  • Conflicts between existing laws and by-laws are prohibited
  • By-laws cannot be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive
  • By-laws must adhere to anti-discrimination laws
  • By-laws cannot interfere with an owner’s voting rights
  • By-laws must not unreasonably restrict an owner’s ability to sell or lease their property
  • By-laws cannot prevent pet ownership without a valid reason
  • By-laws cannot prevent short-term letting of an owner’s principal residence
Can by-laws be varied?

Adding to, amending or removing by-laws requires approval from the owners corporation through a special resolution. This is typically achieved via a vote at a general meeting by all owners. In order to be specially resolved, no more than 25% of owners can vote against the change.

If successful, a notification of change to strata by-laws must be lodged at the NSW Land Registry Services. This must occur within six months of the special resolution for it to have legal effect. Typically completed through a conveyancer or solicitor, this change must be presented in the form of a complete and updated consolidated set of by-laws.

It is appropriate to discuss proposed variations to by-laws with other homeowners prior to a general meeting. A motion of the change can be submitted to the strata committee secretary or manager, in writing, to add the proposal to the agenda ahead of time.

Remedies for breaches to by-laws

If a breach of a by-law occurs, the following process can be carried out by the owner’s corporation:

  1. Warning: the offender is contacted by the owners corporation or strata committee and is requested to cease breaching the by-law.
  2. Issue of Notice: via majority vote, a notice to comply can be issued via post or email to the offender, detailing the by-law broken and requesting that the rule-breaking behaviour end, or risk facing a fine.
  3. Mediation: if the breach is not rectified, NSW Fair Trading may be contacted for mediation services to reach a solution.
  4. Tribunal: If mediation fails, the owners cooperation can request a decision from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to determine the outcome of the alleged breach. The Tribunal can issue a fine of up to $1,100 in the first instance, which may increase up to $5,500 if the offender continually fails to follow the Tribunal’s orders.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to your strata by-laws or would like some advice about entering into a strata scheme, please contact Coleman Greig’s Strata team.

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