Where to Hang the Washing, and Other Weighty Legal Matters

A wise man (and good solicitor) I know is convinced that every time the government brings in a new regulation they should have to get rid of an existing one. He’s convinced that we are over-regulated and that a measure such as this was keep our governments at bay.

If ever there was an area where regulation is contentious and intrusive into our everyday lives (well for those of us living in a strata scheme) it’s the laws and regulations surrounding strata schemes.

This area has recently received a revamp in New South Wales with the passing of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, and more recently the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016. The regulation is set to commence on 30 November 2016.

Human beings living in close proximity to each other is a recipe for disputes (as any who’s married will well know!) and strata management has traditionally been an area where disputes both petty and major are rife.

The new act and regulations are an attempt to cut out some of more widely complained about elements of strata management, including “proxy farming” whereby a small percentage of the eligible persons dominant the management of a building by gathering a large percentage of proxies, streamlining the collective sale process, and a clearer and simpler renovation process.

By-laws are fertile grounds for a fight. The new act allows the owners corporation to give notice to an individual owner if the owners corporation is satisfied that the individual owner has contravened a by-law. The owners corporation can pursue any unrectified contraventions in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal where a civil penalty of up to $1,100 can be imposed, and if the same contravention happens again within 12 months a further maximum penalty of $2,200 can be levied.

So what are the types of matters that can be included in by-laws? Helpfully the new regulations include model by-laws which may be adopted. To the outsider some of these by-laws can appear to cover somewhat minor or petty matters but again human beings living in close proximity aren’t always rational beasts.

Some of my favourite of the model by laws include:

“An owner or occupier of a lot may hang washing on any part of the lot other than over the balcony railings. The washing may only be hung for a reasonable period” (my reasonable period may be somewhat different to others!);

The requirement that owners or occupiers “must be adequately clothed and must not use language or behave in manner likely to cause offence or embarrassment” on common property (presumably saying things like “c’mon Doggies” is now outlawed then) and;

“The owner or occupier of a lot must not, except with the prior written approval of the owners corporation, maintain with the lot anything visible from outside the lot that, viewed from the outside of the lot, is not in keeping with the rest of the building” (again Doggies flags seem to be in the bad books!).

In all seriousness though where we live is a source of great pride and should be somewhere we are all able to enjoy without being imposed on by others. If anyone out there in a strata scheme is unhappy with their owners corporation or their neighbours and haven’t been able to get anywhere themselves it is worthwhile seeking legal advice. There may well be something you can do about it (although I’m told being a Canterbury Bulldogs fan is an incurable condition).

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