By-laws are a set of rules that the owner of a lot must follow when living in a strata scheme. They cover issues like how smoking is regulated, whether pets are allowed and if so, what kinds of pets, noise regulation and so on. Body corporate enforces these laws through the tribunal which can punish you if you breach them. Changes to existing laws require a meeting within the Owners Corporation and a resolution vote. Here are some pointers so you can get familiar with how the by-laws work in a strata scheme.
1. They aren’t draconic
While it may seem excessive that body corporate can dictate parts of your living in a strata apartment, it’s not as invasive as it sounds. The Owners Corporation can’t just make up any law they please. The laws can’t be too harsh or unconscionable for the low owner, and can’t limit them from doing some important things. For example, by-laws most certainly can’t forbid you from having kids and then raising them on the lot.
Renting the lot you own is also all up to you and nobody can stop you. There are regulations in place to prevent the by-laws from being oppressive. It cannot be enforced unless the rule in place is also registered with the NSW Office or Register General. Model by-laws are available on the Fair Trading website, from which body corporate usually takes examples from when setting their own.
Residents or other persons visiting the strata aren’t allowed to park on another owner’s property, spaces for emergency vehicles, or common property. Without a parking space within the lot you own, you can’t really park anywhere within the area of the strata scheme. It’s possible for you to make a deal with the strata corporation to reserve a part of the common property for exclusive parking rights.
The Owners Corporation will usually put up a sign that signals where the designated parking area is, and where it is forbidden to park your vehicle. A vehicle placed unlawfully in some part of the common property can be removed. A notice must first be placed on the vehicle and then after some time body corporate will move the vehicle to a nearby place where it can be lawfully moved.
3. Pet rules can vary
The Owners Corporation can set certain by-laws regarding pets. They may choose to allow any pet as long as the tenant gives ample notice before introducing it into the lot. Others will choose to ban pets entirely. Another option is allowing a pet only if the tenant requests written permission from Body Corporate, with corporate not being able to refuse without a good reason.
There are exceptions for which animals the body corporate is allowed to ban. Assistance animals are fair game and can’t be forbidden. The tenant must only provide evidence in the form of documents that the animal in question is an assistance animal, and they are in the clear. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 of the Commonwealth makes sure of this.
4. They can’t stop you from renovating your place
The Owners Corporation has jurisdiction over parts of the lot, but remember that you do, too! Just about anything on the inside of your six walls is up to you. Things you can renovate include floor tiles, the way you want to paint your walls, wall coverings, cabinets and so on. Anything that isn’t considered common property is within your creative grasp.
The only thing to watch out for is inner walls which are a bit tricky. Decorating them is free game, but if you want to knock them down or construct new ones you may have to request permission from Body Corporate. If you find yourself confused by the regulations, you can opt to find a designer or renovator familiar with strata management in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or basically anywhere in Australia to guide you through it or do the renovating for you.
5. Breaching them
If a rule is broken, there is a system in place to resolve the issue. The first thing body corporate does is contact the offending individual and ask them to not repeat the offense done. If this doesn’t succeed, they will likely receive a notice to comply with a by-law from a delegated authority.
Further breaches of the by-law will lead to body corporate appealing to the Tribunal to penalize the individual. The resident is given a fine that increases with repeated offenses until a maximum of $2,200 is reached. After this, the Owners Corporation isn’t required to appeal to the tribunal when issuing a fine.
In conclusion, you’ll find that most of the by-laws in a strata scheme are rather reasonable and serve a purpose. If you don’t interfere with another owners’ lot or common property or any services that are provided to them, you will probably be in the clear with body corporate and the Tribunal.