Strata living has become increasingly popular in Australia, with around 1 in every 7 people in NSW living in buildings with strata schemes. Strata living refers to a type of ownership where individuals own their own unit or apartment, but also share ownership of common property with other owners in the same building or complex.
Living in a strata property can come with many benefits, such as access to shared amenities and community spaces. However, it can also result in disputes and conflicts that can be stressful and time-consuming to resolve. These disputes can often escalate if not addressed promptly and effectively, leading to frustration and tension among residents.
As a property owner, it’s important to know your rights and obligations, as well as how to handle strata disputes. While it’s always best to try and resolve disputes amicably, seeking legal advice from a property lawyer who specialises in strata disputes can help you understand your legal options and develop an effective strategy for resolving the dispute.
The Rights and Responsibilities of a Strata Property Owner
Purchasing a property within a strata scheme entails automatic membership in the owners corporation, which comprises all property owners within the said scheme. The term ‘body corporate’ was previously used to refer to the owners corporation.
As a strata property owner, you need to understand your legal rights and responsibilities to ensure a harmonious living environment for all residents. Here are some key things to know:
- The Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 governs strata living in New South Wales. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of owners, tenants and strata managers.
- As an owner, you have the right to access common property and facilities, attend strata meetings, and vote on important decisions.
- You are also responsible for paying levies and fees for maintenance and repairs of common property.
- The owners corporation is responsible for maintaining and repairing common property, as well as enforcing by-laws and resolving disputes between owners.
- You need to be familiar with the by-laws of your strata scheme, as they outline rules and regulations for living in the building. By-laws can cover everything from noise and parking to the keeping of pets and alterations to your unit.
What To Do If You Have A Strata Dispute
If you find yourself in a strata dispute, it’s crucial to take action to try and resolve the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible. The following are some steps you can take:
- Review your bylaws and regulations
Before taking any action, it’s important to understand the bylaws and regulations that apply to your property. This can help you determine your legal rights and obligations, as well as identify potential areas of dispute.
- Communicate with the other party
Often, disputes can be resolved through open and honest communication. Try to have a constructive conversation with the other party involved and see if you can reach a mutually agreeable solution. They may not be aware of how their actions are impacting you.
If the issue is with another resident or owner, such as a noisy dog or smoking, communicate the problem and the outcome you want. Give them a chance to fix it. If the issue is related to the management of the strata scheme, inform the strata manager or committee. Strata committee members can use the internal dispute resolution process, which may involve talking to the resident/owner or issuing a warning letter before taking formal action like issuing a notice to comply or applying for mediation.
- Seek mediation
If direct communication doesn’t work, you may want to consider mediation. This is a process where an independent mediator helps both parties come to a resolution. Mediation is often quicker and less expensive than other forms of dispute resolution.
In NSW, if resolving the issue remains unsuccessful, mediation through NSW Fair Trading is often an option. This is a free service that can be accessed online. Fair Trading’s mediation service only applies to disputes governed by strata law, where the Tribunal has the authority to issue an order on the issue at hand.
Mediation is suitable for various matters, such as repairs and maintenance, by-laws, noise, pets and fire safety. However, there are exceptions where disputes bypass the mediation process and need to be heard directly by the Tribunal. These exceptions include the compulsory appointment of a strata manager, allocation of unit entitlements and penalties, among others. The owners corporation must apply for mediation if the issue concerns an agreement with a building or strata manager or a neighbouring scheme.
If mediation fails, you may need to seek adjudication. This involves making an application to the relevant body (such as the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal) to make a decision on the matter. Adjudication is a formal legal process and can be costly and time-consuming, so it should be used as a last resort. When you file an application with the Tribunal, your strata dispute becomes a legal matter, and the Tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding.
Note that the dispute resolution process can differ depending on your state or territory, as well as the specific circumstances of your case. If you’re unsure about what steps to take, it’s best to seek legal advice from a qualified property lawyer.
Why Do You Need Property Lawyers for Strata Disputes?
Strata disputes can be complex and time-consuming, especially when dealing with legal issues. It’s important to have a knowledgeable and experienced property lawyer on your side to help you navigate the complexities of strata law in Australia.
Property lawyers, including property dispute lawyers and commercial property lawyers, have a deep understanding of property law and regulations, which makes them well-suited to handle strata disputes. They can provide guidance on issues such as by-laws, levies, repairs and maintenance, building defects, and disputes between owners and the owners corporation.
In addition, a property lawyer in Sydney can represent you in mediation and other forms of dispute resolution. They can also represent you in court if necessary and help ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you receive a fair outcome in any dispute.
How Madison Marcus Can Help You
Do you need expert advice on strata and community living matters? Our team of experienced property lawyers at Madison Marcus have the knowledge and insights required to resolve strata disputes quickly and cost-effectively. Whether you are a strata manager, body corporate or builder/developer, we are here to help.
Contact us today to see how we can assist you with all your strata and community living needs.