Strata Living Know Your Rights And Obligations
More than three million people live in strata titled homes in Australia and the number is growing fast. Not many people realise it, but living under strata title is like a fourth and extremely close tier of government. If you own a dwelling in strata title you democratically elect leaders, raise taxes, set laws and have enforcement powers for the building you share with others.
You are in a legally binding relationship with your immediate neighbours for the communal upkeep and maintenance of the property. You set rules for living in your homes such as making noise, smoking, parking, using communal space such as halls, corridors, gardens and joint entrances.
Last week a major study of strata living by the University of NSW found most people were not aware of their rights and responsibilities as strata owners. A survey found a great deal of apathy among owners and one in three found it difficult to recruit owners to sit on executive committees that run the buildings. Many found it difficult to reach agreements, especially when it came to spending money on repairs.
NSW Fair Trading offers advice for strata owners through their website
About 40 per cent said they had to resort to formal mediation measures to resolve a dispute but even after that one in four said they never managed to settle their dispute. It would be wise to get legal advice before you enter the mediation process so that you can present the best possible case, especially if the dispute involves an expensive matter. Even though the mediator is trained to help people resolve disputes, you can have a lawyer or support person with you in the mediation process to help present your case.
If a dispute is not resolved through mediation, an adjudicator can make a decision on the matter. An adjudicator assesses submissions by both parties to the dispute and issues a decision in private.
After that you can appeal to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal which is held in public like a court. You can appeal the Tribunal’s decision to the District Court.
The University of NSW survey also made the surprising finding that 85 per cent of strata owners in new buildings – those built since 2000 – reported their buildings had defects such as leaks, shoddy workmanship and structural faults. It’s important for strata owners to know their rights in getting builders and developers to finish their job properly. It suggests there is a problem in the way new buildings are inspected and certified and the NSW government is currently reviewing strata laws.