Reducing Disputes in Strata Situations Requires Lateral Thinking

First-time purchasers of a unit or apartment who have previously lived in freehold dwellings often find this new style of living a challenge. It is not so much about the close proximity to neighbours, as this is only to be expected. What they find difficult is getting used to living within the confines of the by-laws set by the Council. Where previously they could make their own decisions about their property, they now have to consult others.

Western Australia’s Strata Titles Act places an obligation on strata companies to enforce their by-laws and many owners and occupants do not understand this. Disputes arise when they feel victimised by the actions of the management companies, not realising that this is a legal requirement. It is all so unnecessary, and we believe that providing some competent strata title knowledge would go a long way to minimising these unpleasant situations.

Granting Permission for Reasonable Requests Diffuses Disputes

At WA Strata Management we also believe that there are a number of other things that could be done to reduce disputes and gain respect for the intent of the by-laws. On top of our list is something that seems obvious, but often is not considered and that is to simply grant permission for reasonable requests. By-laws that prohibit activities without the consent of the Council were intended to be exercised with some flexibility and offering that flexibility where it is warranted removes all reasons for a dispute.

As we alluded to earlier, educating the occupants about the by-laws and giving them the opportunity to participate in any reviews of them fosters ownership and understanding. Publish them regularly and invite comment about their viability and relevance and you will see breaches of these by-laws begin to decrease. When these reviews identify by-laws that are unworkable or inappropriate, we recommend that they be abolished.

Leave Anti-Social Behaviour to the Law

If disputes about noise or inappropriate behaviour continue unabated, don’t treat it as purely a breach of the by-laws. It is a civil matter, as it would be in any other suburban neighbourhood. Call the police or the local council who have much more authority than the strata company to put a dampener on anti-social behaviour. We have found this tactic to be particularly effective in several locations managed by WA Strata Management.

There are other techniques that will achieve the same result, but the message we try to give to our clients is to be more flexible, use external legal resources and make sure the occupants actually know what by-laws apply.