Strata schemes are structured carefully to ensure an enjoyable lifestyle within the strata community, but what happens when two or more parties disagree on an issue? Whether it’s nuisance smoke, someone hogging the visitors’ parking bay, a barking dog or a noisy neighbour, it might be time to do something about the matter. The first step is naturally to try and talk the problem out, but if that doesn’t work then one of the following strata dispute resolution steps could prove successful.
Internal dispute resolution
Your owners corporation will ideally have its own internal dispute resolution handling process to deal with minor disputes. Many issues can be worked out within a friendly and informal discussion, or speaking about the issue at a meeting of the owners corporation. Quite often, simply checking the strata by-laws (or asking your strata manager) can clear any ambiguity about the rules and the most common reasons for strata disputes.
A Notice to Comply from the owners corporation
If the issue regards a breach of the strata by-laws, then the owners corporation can choose to issue a Notice to Comply to the person who is breaching the by-laws. If this notice is ignored then the dispute could be escalated to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), which can choose to issue fines.
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If parties are struggling to find common ground or reach an agreement, then independent mediation can be an ideal way to arrive at a resolution. This is a particularly useful option for disputes between an owner (or owners) and the owners corporation. Fair Trading NSW provides free mediation services, and this can be an effective solution for certain issues such as noise problems, pets, insurance matters and issues with repairs and maintenance.
Where an issue isn’t resolved by mediation, an application can be made to NCAT to have it brought before a Tribunal hearing for a definitive decision. Certain issues can’t be accepted for a tribunal hearing unless the formal mediation process has been tried first. NSW Tribunal hearings take place in Sydney, and if you have a matter in the Tribunal you should plan to attend the public hearing. You can also request a hearing by phone or to present your case in writing. Once the evidence is examined, the Tribunal will make a final ruling.
More information on each of the strata dispute resolution steps can be found at Fair Trading NSW. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that most disputes can be cleared up early in the process with effective communication.
Remember, your strata manager can be an essential resource when it comes to answering questions, clarifying legislation and supporting dispute resolution with strata issues.