There are so many benefits to strata living, but it’s inevitable that there might also be some downsides. One of them can be disputes among the inhabitants of a strata scheme, be it disputes over noise, smoking, levies, agreeing on work to be done, approving renovations and accepting quotes from tradespeople. Today, we will outline the processes necessary to resolve these disputes and how you can navigate them without major headaches.
What is mediation and when is it necessary?
Mediation is what happens when simply talking doesn’t do the trick. In New South Wales, disputing parties can apply to receive the free mediation services of Fair Trading NSW, and the process essentially involves an unbiased third party – the mediator – attempting to identify the issues, and assisting in resolving the conflict by finding compromises and strategies to address everyone’s concerns. Often, a strata manager will accompany the disputing parties to the mediation session.
Not all issues are suited for mediation, such as personal differences with a neighbour that have no grounds in the strata’s by-laws and do not influence the owners corporation, or issues like the allocation of unit entitlements. However, there are still a wide range of problems that mediation is suitable for. Issues with repairs and maintenance, by-laws, pets, noise, parking, insurance matters and building managers all fall into this category.
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Adjudication as the (second) last resort
If mediation doesn’t do the trick, there’s adjudication, which involves applying to an adjudicator to issue an order on the dispute. This is usually done through the post, as there is no adjudication hearing.
Both disputing parties are given about a month to submit supporting documents for their side of the argument and the adjudicator will then make a decision. While it is not as lengthy as a tribunal hearing, which would be the next and final step if matters aren’t resolved, the whole adjudication process takes at least 3-4 months and can become quite costly.
Communication is key In general, any type of official dispute resolution will only commence after the respective parties in the disagreement have tried to talk it out on their own. This is actually a crucial way in which strata inhabitants can avoid the more lengthy processes of mediation and adjudication.
Sometimes, resolving a dispute is a simple matter of clearing up a misunderstanding between neighbours.
Attending General Meetings regularly, double-checking by-laws and with the owners corporation before doing things like adopting a pet, installing a clothesline on a balcony or commencing minor works in your unit will further protect you from the frustration of lengthy disputes.
The talented team at Jamesons has years of experience in conflict resolution. Head on over to our handy document bank to help you find pet applications, model by-laws and everything else you might need to avoid conflicts in the future!