Stephen Goddard of Goddard & Co Solicitors (and spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network):
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is correct. Section s.139(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act renders any by-law prohibiting or restricting the leasing of a lot as invalid.
The Parliament has included a restriction like that in s.139(2) in all strata legislation since 1961. The public policy motive behind that restriction was to address a perceived need to distinguish strata title from company title. Under company title, an owner could not lease an apartment unless the Board of Directors for the company approved of the tenant.
That historic concern to prevent obstacles to residential leasing of strata lots remains legitimate. But section 139(2) needs to be amended to enable owners in general meeting to have the democratic right to decide whether or not short term letting will occur in their building.
It is a relief to see the OFT at long discharge its duty to the public interest by acknowledging short term letting is an issue in the strata space. For too long the OFT has ignored short term letting as a change of use in the strata space for which Owners Corporations are struggling in a sea of forced illegality.
Failure by the Government to remediate the issue now acknowledged by the OFT will only result in a degrading of public confidence in strata living as a lifestyle of choice in our community.