Same Strokes for Different Folks

Another New Year and, it seems, the same old problems out there in Strataland. But you learn something new every day.

My strata building has a number of tenants and one owner-occupier who, despite warnings, frequently breach the by-laws, for instance, insisting on drying their washing on their balconies. I would like to know if there is there is any possibility for the offenders to be fined for breaching the by-laws (photos could be taken as
evidence).
CC – RYDE

Up until this week, I thought that owners and tenants had to be treated differently, as did the first person I spoke to at the Office of Fair Trading. However, they checked again after I had pointed out a line from the OFT’s own website that says: “if an owners corporation is satisfied that the by-law is being breached, a
notice to comply may be served on the person allegedly breaching the by-law.”

The key phrase in all this is “the person allegedly breaching the by-law”. My OFT contact went back to the legislation and found, contrary to what I and many others thought, tenants CAN be treated exactly the same as owners if they are the ones believed to be causing a problem.

That means owners corporation can issue a notice to comply to both owners and tenants alike, and then, if the problem continues, apply to the OFT for mediation or, failing that, an adjudication. If the resident, whether owner or tenant, then fails to comply, they can be fined up to $550. A subsequent failure to comply could see them hit with fines up to $5500.

So the answer to CC is, do take photographs to reinforce your case. Then get the executive committee secretary to send the culprits letters telling them that they are in breach of the by-laws and if they don’t cease immediately you will be referring the matter to the OFT which can then fine them up to $5500.

If they fail to comply, contact the OFT and ask for a mediation at which you can request an enforceable ruling. In the case of the tenants, you could also copy this letter to the owners, tell them that there is a recurring problem and demand that they do something about it. Nothing like a double whammy to get the tenants’ attention.

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