It’s summer in Strataland – where, it seems, one person’s sunshade can be another’s eyesore.
QUESTION: We are owner-occupiers in a strata scheme of five townhouses. Our neighbour wants to attach a sail shade to the building, covering the whole of their backyard. We are the only ones affected – it restricts our water views – but he told the other three owners that we were in favour and they approved the plan.
We explained our concerns to the other owners and they all revoked their approval. Now he says he can do with the air space whatever he wants.
Where do we go from here? Is he really allowed to do whatever the likes within his own backyard without Owners Corporation (OC) approval?
Blocked, Five Dock
ANSWER: Your neighbours certainly can’t do whatever they want with common property, nor can they make alterations to their own property that affect other owners without formal approval granted by a properly constituted meeting.
Even if their back yard is their own property, attaching one end of the shade to the building and sticking support poles in the ground would almost certainly be using common property. Also, at a certain height above the ground, the air space becomes common property too. Check your strata plan.
Beyond that, several basic by-laws support your position:
* they need written permission from the OC to have anything on their property that’s not in keeping with the appearance of the rest of the building;
* they can’t do anything that might cause a nuisance to another resident;
* they can’t use common property in a way that may interfere unreasonably with another resident’s enjoyment of their own, or common, property.
You have to continue living next door to these people so I suggest a polite letter (copied to all the other owners) quoting all the relevant strata bylaws. (Download Strata Living from the Fair Trading website http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/realestaterenting/strata.html – they’re all in there.)
But be prepared to compromise. Tell them you will support an amended application to the OC provided the shade doesn’t obstruct your view in any way or impact on your or any other owners’ lots. Failing that, call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 and ask for a mediation.