Playing by the rules vs. breaching by-laws

Strata community living should be about sharing, caring and “playing nice”, but breaching by-laws can disrupt the harmony and create problems for everyone.

Your by-laws and rules are there for a reason – to maintain peace and harmony in your strata or body corporate community. They also ensure everyone is on the same page regarding what’s permitted and what’s not. In addition to being aligned with the law, by-laws help with the governance and management of strata properties and body corporates.

If you’re facing an issue with another owner or resident regarding breaching the by-laws, let’s look at what course of action you can take:

  • Have an honest chat

Having an open conversation helps in most cases. Whether they’re violating parking rules, being noisy, leaving their pets unsupervised or hosting unruly guests, you can always let them know how their actions are affecting you and other owners. It’s possible they’re simply unaware of the by-laws or what they mean for strata – so make sure your committee considers providing owners, tenants and residents a copy of the by-laws and rules. 

honest chat
  • Ask your committee or manager to assist

If direct communication isn’t doing the trick, you can always request the committee or your manager to help resolve the matter. Having an unbiased party negotiate matters can help sort issues in a more formal manner, and they may already have a protocol in place to deal with any conflict situations that may arise. Your committee can also explain the nuances of community living to the problem makers, and make them aware of the implications of breaching by-laws and rules. 

  • Keeping records and evidence of the by-law breach

If by-laws are breached intentionally and continuously, make sure to have the breach recorded to include who, what, how, when and how long it has been happening. Retaining evidence in the form of documents, photographs, etc. can further formalise the matter to highlight the seriousness of the breach.

keep record by-laws
  • Issuing a formal notice of breach

When verbal warnings fail, your committee can issue the problem-makers with a formal notice to comply with the by-law and ask them to cease the activity that’s creating trouble. If the by-law is being breached by a tenant or occupier, the notice should be addressed to them, but the owner or landlord should also be issued a copy of the breach notice to keep them in the loop.

  • In New South Wales, the strata committee can issue a formal letter to the rule-breaker outlining the notice of breach
  • In Queensland, body corporates are required to issue a by-law contravention notice to the person breaching the by-law
  • In Victoria, you can lodge a formal complaint with your owners corporation through an approved form and seek formal action from them
  • Handling emergencies from by-law breach

When there’s an emergency situation arising out of a by-law breach that may cause injury, threat to life or damage to property, the committee or body corporate can make a dispute resolution application without issuing a contravention notice of breach. Conversely, if the owners corporation or body corporate chooses not to take any action on the person breaching them, they should provide clear reasons regarding their decision to the owners and examine the effectiveness of the by-laws.

Handling emergencies from by-law breach
  • Resolving disputes in court

If all verbal and formal warnings from the owners corporation are being ignored and by-laws are being continuously breached creating a nuisance for the property, your owners corporation can refer to the state Tribunal, Government (e.g. Queensland Government body corporate and community management) or a magistrate who can then issue fines and penalties depending on the seriousness and frequency of the offence.

  • Amending your by-laws

If your by-laws appear to be unfair, obstructive, impractical, outdated, ineffective or downright unlawful, you can work towards having them amended through a special resolution in an annual general meeting or extraordinary general meeting with majority owner votes. Make sure your new by-laws are then registered in your state within the required time so they become functional.

  • In New South Wales, the new or amended by-laws are required to be registered with the NSW Land Registry Services within six months of drafting them
  • In Queensland, the body corporate must get the new by-laws registered with the Titles Registry Office within three months of passing the general meeting motion to change the by-laws
  • In Victoria, any changes to building rules can be approved only after the owners corporation lodges a copy of the consolidated rules with Land Use Victoria

The idea is to have strong and fair by-laws that are applicable to everyone and are abided by all owners and residents within a strata community.

If you have more questions about by-laws and how they impact your strata property, submit them via StrataFAQ.com.au. Sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Facebook to know more about enhancing strata or body corporate living.