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Understanding by-laws in strata properties

What are strata properties?

Strata in Latin means a ‘layer’ or a ‘level’. In real-estate, the term refers to properties that share common space, facilities, or infrastructure. For example, apartment buildings, blocks of units, resorts, retirement villages, etc… are all strata properties. In this blog post, we will explore what by-laws are, why they are necessary, and how they work.

What are By-Laws and Building Rules?

Unlike living in a standalone house, living in a strata property requires tenants to follow a set of rules and regulations known as by-laws or building rules or Owners Corporation (abbreviated as OC, also formerly known as the Body Corporate) rules. By-laws are enforceable rules and regulations established by the Owners Corporation that govern the behaviour and activities of owners and residents within a strata property. These rules cover various aspects of strata living, such as parking, noise, use of common property, pet ownership, smoking, and more.

Why do strata properties need By-Laws?

By-laws play a crucial role in promoting harmony, safety, fairness, privacy, and an enjoyable living experience for all residents. They also empower the Owners corporation to manage and maintain common property areas such as driveways, foyers, lifts, gardens, swimming pools, and gyms.

By-laws and building rules address a wide range of issues, including:

  • Parking and storage of vehicles such as cars, caravans, and boats.
  • Damage or alterations to common property.
  • Keeping and supervision of pets.
  • Behaviour of owners, tenants, and guests.
  • Displaying of signs.
  • Use of communal swimming pools.
  • Control of noise and nuisance.
  • Prevention of overcrowding.
  • Smoking regulations and the impact on neighbours.
  • Fire safety measures.
  • Storage of flammable substances.
  • Individual lot repairs, maintenance, renovations, and external appearance.
  • Waste and garbage disposal.
  • Dispute resolution.

If you are a renter, this information will be provided to you via the property manager and/or the rental provider. As a resident of a strata property, it is important to familiarise yourself with the by-laws that apply to your property to understand how they may affect you.

How come Owners corporations can create enforceable laws?

All by-laws are governed by state legislation, and state and territory governments provide minimum “model by-laws” that serve as guidelines for creating property-specific by-laws. The Owners corporation can either adopt the government model by-laws or create their own rules, referring to the model by-laws as needed. If there is no specific rule for a particular issue, but a model by-law exists, the model by-law generally applies.

The most effective by-laws are tailored to the property, aligning with existing rules and the way of life within the community. All by-laws must be registered with the state or territory governing body.

Certain principles underpin the creation of by-laws, including:

  • By-laws must not be unreasonable, burdensome, or oppressive.
  • They cannot prevent a resident from owning an assistance animal.
  • By-laws must not conflict with existing laws.
  • They should not discriminate between different types of occupants.
  • By-laws generally cannot restrict the sale or lease of a lot, with some exceptions like short-term rentals.
  • They cannot ban children from common areas or living in the community.

Accessing your By-Laws

When you move into a strata property, the Owners corporation (or your property manager / rental provider) should provide you with a copy of the by-laws and building rules. Updated copies should be provided in case of any changes. Many reputable strata management companies offer access to by-laws through online property portals, allowing you to view your property documents at any time.

If you are considering buying into a strata property, the real estate agent should provide you with a copy of the by-laws. You can also obtain a copy from the governing body in your state or territory, typically for a fee.

Breach of By-Laws

If you witness a resident breaching a by-law, it is advisable to approach them politely in person (if you feel safe doing so) before reporting the matter to the strata manager. They may be unaware of the rules or may not have received a copy of the by-laws initially. However, if the breaches persist after being made aware of the rules, you may need to report the issue to the strata manager or committee.

Owners corporations generally follow a series of steps when addressing by-law breaches, which may include a verbal warning, a written notice to comply, mediation to resolve disputes, or seeking a determination from a state administrative tribunal or magistrates’ court. Persistent breaches may result in fines for the person violating the rules.

In conclusion, each Owners corporation has the authority to establish and enforce by-laws tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the property owners. It is vital for both owners and tenants to understand their responsibilities and obligations under these by-laws to maintain a harmonious and thriving community.

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