The Canberra Times

Dispute resolution in strata communities: strategies for keeping the peace

Dispute resolution in strata communities and how you can employ strategies to keep the peace. Picture Shutterstock
Dispute resolution in strata communities and how you can employ strategies to keep the peace. Picture Shutterstock

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We all need somewhere to live - housing is a fundamental human right. Rent, own or share housing - all are valid and reasonable ways to live.

For those looking to buy on a budget, a strata community such as an apartment block, unit or townhouse development can be a great way to break into the housing market.

These types of properties are often cheaper than a standalone home and are an excellent way for younger people or those on more modest incomes to own a property.

However, strata living is not without its challenges, as is any situation where humans have to coexist near each other. This helpful article will share all about dispute resolution in strata communities and how you can employ strategies to keep the peace. Read on to learn more.

Contact the strata manager

All strata-governed properties will have a management committee or company, such as a building strata management in Melbourne. It's their job to ensure that the property is managed in accordance with the Owners Corporations Act 2006 and Owners Corporations Regulations 2018.

The strata manager is responsible for a range of tasks, including but not limited to:

  • Prepare annual general meetings (AGM), and run them
  • Take minutes and list actions arising from the AGM
  • Prepare and send any notices required by the Act to owners or tenants
  • Attend to all correspondence for the owner's committee or management
  • Keep all relevant records, such as financial records and other relevant records
  • Charge owners levy fees and manage the budget
  • Prepare account statements and annual budgets for the strata community
  • Pay any outgoing expenses/accounts, such as trades and cleaners
  • Deal with insurance claims
  • Arrange emergency repairs to lifts and other common areas
  • Ensure compliance with the Act at all times
  • Appoint chairpeople/secretaries or committees of management

You should always contact the strata manager if any disputes arise within the community. The strata manager can act as a mediator or a go-between if the parties aren't on speaking terms. It's within their job description to support owners and tenants who live in a strata community.

Common disputes in strata living

Now, let's detail some common disputes between people living in a strata community. We'll share what they are and how you can deal with them to ensure everyone can live comfortably and enjoy their properties quite well.

Parking disputes

A common dispute in a strata community with visitor parking spots is owners or tenants parking their vehicles in designated visitor parking spots. This can be frustrating, as legitimate visitors cannot find a park nearby when dropping in for a shared meal or a social event.

The first port of call should be a friendly conversation with the person who parks incorrectly. If you can't find them or they don't answer the door, a polite note on their car is another strategy you can employ.

If these tips don't work, and they continue to park in the visitor parking, the next step is to escalate the issue with the owner's corporation management company. They can issue a breach notice, notifying the offender that they have breached a strata guideline by parking in the visitor's parking.

This will usually work, but if it doesn't, the owner's corporation manager can escalate the issue to the relevant state tribunal, which could enforce an undertaking. In some states, they can issue a fine to the party who keeps parking in the wrong spot.

Noise pollution

Another common dispute in strata properties is noise pollution. This could be loud music late at night, power tools or lawn mowing in the early morning hours on a weekend, a rowdy party or other noise pollution.

Again, the first step is to approach your neighbour and request they turn the music down or stop using loud tools early in the morning. After that, you can either escalate the issue with management or report them to the EPA for breaching noise pollution laws.

The EPA can fine them - which might deter the behaviour in the future. You can also make a noise complaint with the local police station, who might send a patrol to investigate the noise if it's after the legally allowed time.

Secondhand smoke

This is a common issue in apartments or units that are close together when an occupant smokes on their balcony or courtyard, and the smoke drifts into your home. This is concerning for various reasons, especially the health implications of secondhand smoke.

State laws usually govern this, so by complaining to the relevant authorities, you should be able to get the issue addressed. Consider being cautious about raising it with your neighbour, as people can often become defensive or aggressive about their perceived right to smoke on their property.

Hard rubbish dumping

Yet another common dispute in strata communities is when an occupant dumps hard rubbish in a common area - such as old furniture, white goods, household items, old bicycles or other hard rubbish.

The first thing to do is check with the local council if it's a legitimate hard rubbish collection - in this case, your neighbour has a right to put it out, which should be collected within a week or so.

However, if it's illegally dumped, you can report it to the EPA, local council or even the police if hazardous waste such as asbestos or chemicals is dumped. There can be severe penalties for dumping waste, and the offender could incur a hefty fine or even criminal charges depending on the waste that has been dumped.

Pet disputes

Pets can be a common dispute in apartment blocks if occupants have allergies or the pets bring an infestation of fleas into the complex. This is a complicated area, as various by-laws and guidelines govern pets in apartments.

It's worth researching the relevant local by-laws and strata guidelines before you make a complaint, as your neighbour might have followed all the correct steps, and you don't want to look a fool for complaining.

A strata summary

This informative article has shared all about dispute resolution in strata communities and some strategies you can employ to keep the peace.