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Changes to Strata Laws

Changes To Strata Laws

There were more than 90 proposed changes to strata laws announced by the NSW Government this week, to commence on 30 November 2016.  Some big changes such as the concept of property ownership, other smaller changes to existing laws, bylaws and rules.  Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello, announced the changes, the most important effect on strata residents are as follows:

  • Limiting the number of adults who can live in an apartment (although that limit can’t be set at fewer than two adults per bedroom), with fines for over-crowding to be raised to $5500.  The purpose is to curb the multi-occupancy of apartment blocks because of health, safety and the detrimental effect these apartments have on other residents of the building.  So owners will be able to limit the number of people in a flat, then take effective measures at the NSW Civil Administration Tribunal to get apartments cleared and fines imposed.
  • To allow owners’ corporations and local councils to let council parking inspectors patrol strata car parks and issue fines to people who have parked in prohibited areas.  Until now, owners’ corporations were limited in this area, but once the new laws come in to place illegal parking will carry fines.
  • To change the standard or default bylaw to state that pets are allowed, provided that the strata committee approves, although that approval can’t unreasonably be withheld.  The idea is to create a default situation where pet ownership under reasonable conditions is allowed.  This may not apply to the older buildings with established bylaws, or new buildings where they have written their own bylaws, but for those that just go with the ASIC bylaws recommended by Fair Trading, a resident can have a pet unless the owners’ corporation has a very good reason for saying no.
  • Developers will have to place a bond of 2 per cent of the value of the building to cover potential defects after completion. This is to protect buyers of new units, and create more confidence in the industry. Owners of new apartments will not have to accept and rectify defects themselves, and bad developers will be forced to have the same diligence as the honest developers.  This particular amendment will commence on 01 July 2017.
  • A significant note on the section on residents’ behaviour identifies smoke drift as a potential “nuisance” under the legal meaning of the word, so that rather than placing a blanket ban on all smokers, this allows strata communities to police their own buildings where, for instance, people might be able to smoke like chimneys without bothering anyone. “A property owner has certain rights to do as they please in their home but they also have a duty of care to ensure they don’t cause a nuisance with their neighbours,” says leading strata lawyer and chairman of the Owners Corporation Network, Stephen Goddard. “By identifying smoking as a nuisance, this allows owners to take action without passing a bylaw imposing a ban on people smoking in their homes, which would be a serious reduction of property rights and almost certainly illegal.”
  • To allow 75 per cent of residents of older buildings to agree to their sale to a developer for redevelopment, regardless of the wishes of the minority. Currently this requires a 100 per cent vote. This removes the opportunity of individual owners to prevent redevelopment of their aging and high-maintenance unit block, or even hold their neighbours to ransom by holding out for an inflated price. About 8000 apartment blocks in established communities in NSW will be viable redevelopment sites where newer, safer and healthier buildings can be built, accommodating two or three times as many residents. An advice hotline and advocacy services are to be provided for the vulnerable and elderly, and fair compensation mechanisms will be established but, inevitably, some people will be evicted from their homes.

You can read more here.

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