Common Strata Disputes and How to Resolve Them

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Living in close proximity to others in a strata scheme can be fantastic for social connections and access to shared amenities and common property. However, it’s inevitable that differences of opinion and conflicts can arise. 

Don’t worry, though! Resolving strata disputes doesn’t have to be a (complete) headache. Here’s some of our tips to navigating common issues and finding a path to a resolution.

To Start Us Off, Let’s Look at Some of the Most Common Strata Disputes and The Best Ways You Can Approach Them:

Noise Nuisances: 

Blaring music, late-night gatherings, or even noisy renovations can cause friction. Start with open communication: politely discuss concerns with your neighbour and refer to your scheme’s by-laws. If the issue persists, involve your strata manager, owners corporation or strata committee.

Parking Woes: 

Unassigned parking, guest vehicles, or even disputes over exclusive use can lead to frustration. Review the scheme’s parking rules and by-laws: If the issue remains unresolved, contact your strata manager, committee or owner’s corporation to discuss potential solutions, always remember clear communication is key.

Pets and By-Law Breaches: 

Barking dogs, leash violations, or unauthorised pets can be disruptive to strata communities. Refer to the scheme’s pet by-laws: If breaches occur, politely address the owner and then involve your strata manager if needed.

Maintenance and Repairs: 

Owners corporation issues, disagreements about responsibility for repairs, their timing, or even the quality of work to common property can arise. Consult your scheme’s maintenance schedule and by-laws: If issues persist, contact your strata manager or committee to ensure procedures are followed.

Renovation Headaches: 

Unauthorised renovations, noise disturbances, or damage that involve strata properties especially common property can cause tension. Ensure you and your contractor understand the scheme’s approval processes and by-laws: Communicate openly with your neighbors and strata management services to avoid unnecessary stress.

Building Bridges: Options for Resolving Disputes Amicably

Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR): 

Many strata schemes offer an internal dispute resolution process for minor issues. This informal approach can be a cost-effective way to reach a solution in a friendly atmosphere.

Negotiation: 

Direct communication with the other party can sometimes resolve issues effectively. Approach it with an open mind and willingness to compromise, remembering that empathy and understanding go a long way.

Community Liaison Officer (CLO): 

In NSW, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) offers a free CLO service to assist with informal dispute resolution, providing another avenue for finding common ground.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) plays a crucial role in strata management for an owners corporation. It offers a more efficient, cost-effective, and often less stressful way to resolve disagreements compared to formal litigation.

Here are some key aspects of ADR in strata settings:

Common types of ADR:

  • Mediation Services: An impartial mediator for example from NSW Fair Trading facilitates a mediation session between parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution. This is often the first step in ADR due to its focus on collaboration and compromise.
  • Conciliation: Similar to mediation, but the conciliator may offer suggestions or recommendations to resolve the dispute.
  • Arbitration: A neutral arbitrator hears arguments from both sides and issues a binding decision. This option is faster than litigation but less flexible than mediation.

What Happens When You Can’t Resolve Disputes Amicably? Formal Dispute Resolution!

Notice to Comply: 

If informal efforts fail to resolve a strata dispute, the owners corporation, strata committee or strata management can issue a formal notice requesting the other party to comply with by-laws or agreements. This is a serious step, so proceed with caution and clarity.

NSW Civil and Administrative (NCAT) Application: 

If the notice is ignored, you can file an application with NCAT for a hearing and a legally binding decision. Remember, this should be a last resort due to higher costs and time commitment.

District Court or Supreme Court: 

For complex or high-value disputes, legal representation and court proceedings may be necessary, but tribunal hearings such as these should be considered only after exhausting all other avenues.

Common Questions About Strata Disputes

Some common question we’re asked by an owners corporation or strata committee member include:

How do you deal with difficult strata owners?

Approach the situation with patience and understanding. Start by calmly engaging in dialogue, actively listening to their concerns, and showing empathy. Try to find common ground, be prepared to compromise and take note of the relevant by law. If direct communication is challenging seek assistance to facilitate constructive discussions.

What to do when your strata manager ignores you?

If your strata manager is unresponsive begin by documenting all attempts to contact them, including dates and methods of communication. If direct attempts fail, escalate the matter to their supervisor or the executive committee of your strata scheme. If it’s still unresolved consider changing strata management companies.

Can you take strata to tribunal?

Yes if all else fails, in NSW you can take the dispute to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for resolution. This avenue is available if other attempts at resolving the issue internally have been unsuccessful. 

What’s a strata manager conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest is when a strata manager’s personal interests or relationships interfere with their ability to fulfil their professional duties impartially. This could lead to biased decision-making or breaches of trust within the strata community. 

Can strata force you to sell in NSW?

Generally, the answer is no. However, there are specific circumstances where the NCAT may order a sale, such as severe breaches of a by law or for redevelopment purposes. These decisions are made based on the merits of each case and are subject to legal scrutiny.

What’s strata mediation?

Strata mediation is a voluntary process aimed at resolving disputes between parties within a strata scheme. It involves the assistance of an impartial mediator who facilitates discussions and negotiations to reach mutually acceptable solutions. 

How much does mediation cost in NSW?

The cost of mediation in NSW can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the dispute and the chosen mediation service provider. While some services may offer free or subsidized mediation for strata disputes, others may charge fees based on hourly rates or flat fees. Make sure you ask about costs upfront and explore available options for affordable dispute resolution services.

9. What are the steps of the mediation process?

The mediation process typically involves several key steps aimed at facilitating constructive dialogue and reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. These steps include:

  • Preparation: Gathering relevant information and identifying goals.
  • Introductory remarks: Setting the tone and outlining the mediation process.
  • Statement of the problem: Each party shares their perspective on the issues.
  • Discussion and clarification: Exploring underlying interests and concerns.
  • Negotiation: Brainstorming and evaluating potential solutions.
  • Reaching an agreement: Drafting a formal agreement if consensus is reached.

What are 3 ways to settle a dispute?

  1. Negotiation: Direct discussion and bargaining between the parties involved.
  2. Mediation: Assisted negotiation facilitated by an impartial mediator to help parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.Arbitration:
  3. Adjudication: by a neutral third party who issues a binding decision based on evidence and arguments presented by the parties.

Proactive Tips for Smooth Sailing in a Strata Community:

  • Communicate openly and respectfully: Address concerns directly and listen to the other party’s perspective, fostering a sense of community.
  • Be familiar with by-laws and policies: This helps ensure everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.
  • Be proactive: Raise concerns promptly and follow the proper channels for addressing issues, nipping problems in the bud before they escalate. 
  • Consider mediation first: It’s often quicker, cheaper, and less stressful than formal avenues, promoting a more collaborative and amicable resolution.
  • Seek professional help if needed: A lawyer or strata dispute specialist can provide guidance and representation, ensuring you navigate the process effectively.

To avoid sleepless nights over strata disputes, choose a management company dedicated to building a stronger, more peaceful strata environment.

Contact us today for a free consultation and discover how we can help you achieve just that.

Request a Free Quote

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