It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who first noted that “man is by nature a social animal”, a concept that has since been explored by many others. In primitive times humans lived in groups because they depended on each other for survival, and families and societies gradually developed as a result. The general consensus now is that humans live in groups because they rely on each other for their well-being.
Nowhere is the practicality of this concept more tenuous than in a strata scheme, as those of us who manage them on behalf of the many owners know from experience. Sometimes these so-called “social animals” get along with each other and sometimes they don’t. Here at WA Strata Management we have experienced both extremes and had to resolve many issues, some petty and some quite justified.
Do Owners in Strata Schemes Have Unrestricted Rights?
Owners in these schemes often question their civil rights when they are confronted with a situation where their actions conflict with restrictions enforced by their management. Often they do something like establishing a home business in their apartment without checking first if that is a permissible use of their property. The business causes disruption to other residents who complain to the building management and the whole situation ends up as an issue for the Council.
We have had a lot of experience at trying to resolve these types of disputes. Unreasonable restrictions cause conflict but at the same time, where large numbers of people live in close proximity to each other, some restrictions are necessary for everyone to enjoy their space equally.
Establish Restrictions when the Plan is Registered
It is possible to impose restrictions or conditions on activities provided they are noted on the strata plan and registered at the time the plan is registered. A typical example is restricting use to over 55s schemes. This creates the transparency needed by purchasers who know what uses are or are not permitted and form part of their decision to buy. An elderly couple, for example, may look for something more suitable if the complex they are inspecting has an obvious singles scene.
One of the attractions of living in an apartment complex is the uniformity of use. Where no restrictions have been registered with the plan, this uniformity can be achieved by establishing by-laws that restrict certain activities. Indirect restrictions can be imposed for activities, which may jeopardise the building insurance, for example, or introduce health and safety hazards such as noxious substances on the premises.
Getting Resolutions through General Meetings can be Difficult
Restrictions can be established after the plan is registered but only by passing a resolution without dissent at a general meeting. These situations can become volatile and we would recommend that any Council in this position consult first with experienced professionals before going ahead.
With our many years of experience in these situations, WA Strata Management can examine a situation and provide advice about the practicalities of some restrictions. Taking this step first may prevent an escalation of the situation and have everyone in the complex behaving like social animals.