Understanding the by-laws in your strata scheme – Properties

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When you buy a flat in a strata scheme, you become part of a community that has certain rights and responsibilities specific to your strata complex. Many of these rights and obligations are protected by law. It is important that you understand these bylaws because they govern what you can do in your home or investment property.

This article will explore the different types of strata bylaws, how they can be changed, and the consequences of breaking them.

What are by-laws?

Bylaws are essentially rules that regulate the behavior and conduct of residents, owners, and (in some cases) visitors to a strata complex.

Most strata schemes will adopt a set of model statutes set out by the NSW Government. This may include rules regarding:

  • Parking

  • Owning a pet

  • Noise reduction

  • Short-term accommodation (such as Airbnb)

Your owners company can go beyond this model and make changes specific to your strata scheme. Regulations can cover all sorts of topics, including keeping pets, noise, smoking and the use of communal facilities such as swimming pools and gyms.

How can they be accessed?

Regulations are usually provided to homeowners and tenants by their solicitor, conveyancer or estate agent prior to purchasing or moving into a loss property.

If you have not been provided with a copy of your bylaws, you can access them on request through the strata committee secretary or manager.

You can also access copies of statutes of strata schemes through Land Registry Services NSW for a fee.

Are they regulated?

The NSW statutes are governed by statute Loss Schemes Management Act and Regulations for the administration of strata schemeswhich provide guidance as to the type of by-laws that may be implemented by a strata scheme. This can prevent potentially oppressive or unreasonable by-laws from being implemented into the strata complex.

According to these regulations:

  • Conflicts between existing laws and bylaws are prohibited

  • Statutes cannot be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive

  • Bylaws must comply with anti-discrimination laws

  • The articles of association cannot interfere with the owner’s voting rights

  • The statutes must not unreasonably restrict the owner’s ability to sell or lease his property

  • Statutes cannot prevent pet ownership without valid reason

  • The statutes cannot prevent the short-term rental of the owner’s principal residence

Can the articles of association be changed?

Addition, amendment or deletion of the bylaws requires the consent of the owners’ society by means of a special resolution. This is usually achieved by voting at a general meeting by all owners. To specifically address this, a maximum of 25% of owners can vote against the change.

If successful, a notice of change of constitution must be lodged with NSW Land Registry Services. This must occur within six months of the issuance of the special resolution in order to have legal effects. This amendment, which is usually completed through a conveyancer or solicitor, must be submitted in the form of a complete and up-to-date consolidated set of articles of association.

It is advisable to discuss the proposed changes to the articles of association with the other homeowners before the general meeting. A proposal for a change can be submitted in writing to the secretary or head of the strata committee so that the proposal can be placed on the agenda in advance.

Remedies for Violation of Bylaws

If there is a violation of the bylaws, the owner’s company can take the following process:

  1. Warning: the offender is contacted by the owners’ society or loss committee and asked to stop violating the bylaws.

  2. Issuing notices: by majority vote, a compliance notice may be mailed or emailed to the offender detailing the violation and requiring that the offending behavior cease or face a fine.

  3. Mediation: if the breach is not rectified, NSW Fair Trading may be contacted to request mediation services to find a solution.

  4. Court: If mediation fails, Owners’ Cooperation can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision to determine the outcome of the alleged breach. The Tribunal can in the first instance impose a fine of up to US$1,100, which may increase to US$5,500 if the offender persistently fails to comply with the orders of the Tribunal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the issue. Professional advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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