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
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
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
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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