Disputes in a strata scheme can be many and varied. They can occur because of living close to others, behaviour on common property, by-law breaches, policies and procedures of the building manager or other service providers, disagreements between owners and the executive committee, or between owners and other owners, failure to pay levies and a range of other issues.
The actual disputes that arise are many and varied. Some common ones are:
- alterations to common property
- appointment of managing agents
- repairs to walls, ceilings and bathrooms
- noise problems
- validity of meetings
- keeping pets
- water penetration problems
- use of air conditioners
- parking on common property
- insurance matters
How disputes are handled by the executive committee does a lot to set the tone and amenity of the building. Ideally disputes are addressed and resolved before they have a chance to escalate into a full blown war. A face-to-face approach is always the best first step. Try to understand the other parties’ concern and needs first before conveying your side. It may illuminate an easy fix, a misunderstanding, a gap or too tight a restriction in policy, a need for more investigation or to check the legal obligation of both parties. It may just be a difference of opinion that both parties will have to live with.
Pages 34 – 37 he NSW Office of Fair Trading’s booklet Strata living: What you need to know about living in your strata community has an excellent overview of dispute resolution called ‘If things go wrong: A guide to solving disputes’.
If a dispute proves unresolvable a third party intervention may be the only option. In NSW the Department of Fair Trading provides mediation through the NSW Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT). The mediator’s role is to:
- help the parties identify the issues in dispute
- assist the parties to raise and consider options and strategies by which the issues may be addressed
- assist the parties to discuss the issues and options with a view to negotiating a settlement they can all live with.
Mediation is not available in cases of appointment of a compulsory strata managing agent, compensation, allocation of unit entitlements and penalty disputes.
Relevant NSW Legislation: Strata Schemes Management Act (1996)
Chapter 5, Part 4, Division 1, Section 138 General power of Adjudicator to make orders to settle disputes or rectify complaints
Chapter 5: Parts 1 thru 7: Disputes And Orders Of Adjudicators And Tribunal
Relevant NSW Legislation: The Strata Schemes Management Regulation (2010)
Part 7: Regulations 21 & 22: Proceedings Of Tribunal
Part 8: Regulations 23 thru 26: Mediation