One of the biggest, and most frequent issues those living within strata communities face, is disruptive behaviour. The most common disputes between owners include unauthorised parking of vehicles in another resident’s car bay, nuisance pets, and excessive noise complaints.
ESM aim to assist the strata council in reaching an effective resolution and maintain harmony within the strata community. This is best done via communication tools and techniques, in line with our processes, and in accordance with the act.
The by-laws are rules for the entire strata scheme and are in place to minimise issues. Each resident is required to adhere to these by-laws.
The elected Council of Owners of each strata company manages and enforce the by-laws.
If you believe that a by-law is being breached, you should contact your Council of Owners, through your strata manager, to report the matter. Remember that disruptive behaviour would constitute actions which are not considered normal in our everyday lives. For example, children playing and making noise, whilst annoying to some people, is quite normal.
Although there is a duty to enforce the by-laws, it is sometimes difficult for the strata council to do so. Everyone living within a strata scheme has the right to peaceful enjoyment of their lot. When residents are not doing the right thing, ESM suggests taking the following steps:
1. Speak to them
Some people tend to go into battle at the first sign of trouble, rather than approaching the person or people concerned with the matter. The resident/s may not be aware that their behaviour is impacting others, or that their actions are a breach of the by-laws. It is important to realise that the situation is, in most circumstances, not personal and that it is vital to have good communication. The goal is to resolve the issue before the problem escalates further. Sometimes, the best way to encourage considerate behaviour is to encourage it through your own.
2. Issue a warning letter
A warning letter to advise that a letter of complaint will be issued with a reminder of the by-laws. The Strata Manager (under instructions from the council) can send a letter to the resident outlining the alleged behaviour, explaining how it is affecting others, and advising them that that they must comply with the relevant by-law(s).
3. Commence breach process
If they continue to breach the by-law, the Council of Owners can act to send a formal breach notice. The breach notice will contain information such as:
- Specification of the by-law that is alleged to have been contravened
- The particular facts relied on as evidence
- What action must be taken or refrained from being taken to avoid continuing or further contravention of the by-law/s
- Further action the strata company proposes to do in respect to the matter.
Evidence of any complaint must be collected so that the matter can be progressed if required. Evidence can be photos, videos, sound recordings, or you may wish to keep a log of any ongoing incidences, including dates and times.
4. State Administration Tribunal
The State Administrative Tribunal (SAT), is a court that holds powers to resolve disputes if the strata company has exhausted all other options as per the Act.
The SAT is more of an informal court, and through this avenue, the strata company can resolve their disputes during a direction’s hearings or, if deemed appropriate, mediation.
The SAT may dismiss an application if it is considered ‘frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, or lacking in substance or if there is an unreasonable delay in compliance to a request for additional information.’ (Landgate)
The council of owners must be willing to represent the strata company at SAT. If the matter is a particularly complicated one, the council could consider legal representation (if there is an approved amount in the budget) but can represent themselves.
When the amendment act is proclaimed, Strata Company’s no longer need an additional by-law for a penalty to be applied. If the matter is considered serious, or the by-law has been breached on 3 separate occasions it can be taken to State Administrative Tribunal and a penalty of up to $2,000 can be enforced.
Consider drafting some house rules that can be prominently displayed in the foyer, so that all occupants are aware of the expected behaviour. Don’t forget that house rules assist in the control and management of the common property but cannot be enforced unless they are registered as a by-law.
If you consider the disruptive behaviour of the tenant to be dangerous if you feel threatened in any way or your safety is compromised you need to call the police.