By-laws that someday you’ll want in your block

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Few if any apartment residents love the idea of by-laws telling them what to do … until a neighbour does something they don’t like and they discover there’s no easy way of stopping them.

You probably think you have too many strata by-laws or rules (in Vic) in your life already but there’s a couple of non-standard examples that, sooner or later, many strata residents will wish they had.

For instance, how do you define a visitor when it comes to visitor parking?  We’ve heard of strata schemes where a resident’s girlfriend, boyfriend, parents or grown-up kids take over one of a limited number of visitor parking spaces for entire weekends at a time.

They are not, their hosts would argue, residents therefore they must be visitors. And it’s hard to argue against that when you don’t have a definition of what visitors are.

The same applies to Airbnb guests – are they not visitors too, even if your visitor parking spaces are offered as part of their holiday let deal?

In short, there’s not much you can do you about residents and their guests misusing visitor parking when you can’t give them the definition of a visitor.

However, you are dealing with common property so strata owners can collectively decide what a visitor is and isn’t when it comes to parking.

It could be setting a maximum of two or three hours per day and limiting overnight stays, for instance.  Adjust the definition to suit the way your specific building’s parking is used (or misused) and how much parking you have to spare. It’s very much up to the majority of owners to decide.

Generally speaking and setting aside our natural resistance to being told what to do, good by-laws will simply enforce what considerate people would do anyway and provide a mechanism for bringing the selfish and inconsiderate to heel.

Should you have a by-law that tells people who’ve been in the swimming pool to dry off before they get in the lifts? 

How about one that forbids residents from playing music on radios or bluetooth players (or even worse, their tinny iPhone speakers) by the pool when other residents are trying to relax?

On a more serious note, how about one that bans any renovation or home handyperson work after, say, 6pm during the week and all day at weekends? Tough cheese, hobby renovators – people are entitled to rest.

Anther handy by-law would include a set of “standing orders” or rules by which meetings should be conducted, and a code of conduct for those who attend.  

For those schemes plagued by serial disruptors who shout down fellow committee members, or observers who don’t wait to be invited to speak, it would be handy if the chair had a process for controlling the meeting and sanctioning the misbehaved.

How about if you had a by-law that allowed the chair to propose that the committee votes to name a resident for disrupting a meeting?

That would remove the taint of “naming and shaming” that many strata committee chair bullies employ to silence their critics while letting other owners know how miscreants are misbehaving and interrupting the smooth running of the strata scheme.

A by-law that required residents to recycle their garbage according to the notices near the bins would remind the lazy and the deliberately disruptive to do the right thing.

Believe it or not, there are people on the “spectrum of the credulous” (it has anti-maskers at one end and Q-anon at the other), who think not recycling is an act of rebellion.

It’s great if you live in a unit with a good working gym and you have a personal trainer. But how would you feel if another resident brought their personal trainer and the whole of his or her boot camp into your gym?  By-law please!

And every block should have a rule that says you can’t have a barbecue on your balcony that can be smelt by anyone else in the building.  Hard to enforce but it might make the beef-burners clean their hotplates occasionally.

Okay, maybe you have enough rules and restrictions in your life.  But I’ll bet for every person who groans about the prospect of having any of these ideas applied in their strata scheme, someone else is going “ooh, I wish we had that one!”

Is there a by-law you wish you had – or one you don’t like? Log into the Flat Chat Forum or write to mail@flatchat.com.au.

A version of this column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

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  • This topic has 8 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 5 months ago by .
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  • #61792
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    What a wonderful idea

    EXCEPT

    Whilst a by law may exist, residents and managers can’t enforce them on the spot. One needs an order from NCAT to do that.
    Where the contravention is behavioural, the miscreant has probably departed long before the matter is heard.

    Its really annoying, but in my opinion bylaws regulating some behaviours are just not worth the paper they are written on, as enforcement is entirely impractical.

     

    #61794
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    Its really annoying, but in my opinion bylaws regulating some behaviours are just not worth the paper they are written on, as enforcement is entirely impractical.

    I hear you but I’m interested in how different people respond to by-laws, regardless of how robust and enforceable they are legally.

    My view (based on zero quantitative research) is that most people when made aware of a by-law will comply with it.

    Some people will ignore by-laws until they get a warning or Notice To Comply, and they will then pull their heads in.

    A minority , for whatever reason – and I would suspect bolshiness rather than a sophisticated understanding of strata law –  will allow the matter to proceed to NCAT in the hope that they don’t get fined.

    As for those who have moved on by the time the tribunal’s wheels have ground into action, well, at least they are no longer in the block and causing problems.

    Which makes me wonder if there is any sanction against landlords who don’t take any responsibility for the calibre of tenants they introduce to strata schemes.  Probably not, but worth a thought.

    #61795
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    I agree with JT that by-laws (aka Rules or Articles elsewhere) can be useful as a statement about agreed expected behaviour. Even when difficult to enforce, they can be useful.

    It is not so different from the situation in the wider world. Most people, most of the time could easily get away with doing all sorts of things that are illegal but the mere fact of the illegality provides considerable deterrent.

    #61807
    kaindub
    Flatchatter

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting it’s impossible.

    However the days when you could register a bylaw for some $130 is passed, since we went to PEXA.

    it’s now nearer to $500 and if you get a lawyer to draft the bylaw you’re over $1000.

    I think it’s irresponsible for the OC to spend money on bylaws which are mere paper.

    If I recall correctly, Amanda Farmer suggested that there was a way to write a bylaw that referred to a schedule of rules. Since the schedule of rules is unregulated, the schedule can be changed even by the committee without requiring registration.

    Maybe if Amanda reads this she can confirm or deny.

    #61819
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    I hadn’t really thought of the cost aspect, I must confess.  Those fees are a real deterrent against by-law changes (which may be a good or bad thing).

    I think the schedule of rules idea is good, Something like “Residents must abide by the rules relating to the use of [insert facility here] which may be changed from time to time as minuted by the strata committee and posted on the notice board.”

    The problem with that is that residents can say they didn’t see the latest update. Incredible as it may seem, I recall tenants being let off with a failure to comply with a Notice To Comply because they said they weren’t aware of the by-law even though it was included in the NTC (as it must be).

    Of course, if you were using unenforceable by-laws to deter bad behaviour, you wouldn’t need to register them as they are unenforceable anyway.

    And if you’re saying that even enforceable by-laws can be a waste of time (in your previous post) I have to ask, what’s the point?

    #61820
    Sir Humphrey
    Strataguru

    We had a rules review some years ago since many of our rules adopted decades earlier were no longer relevant or had been superseded by provisions in the Act. We had a strata lawyer assist in this. One of the suggested rules was as follows:

    “(1)     The Owners Corporation (OC) may adopt by special resolution House Rules that shall be interpreted and adopted by the OC with the same force as the Rules of the OC.

    (2)      The House Rules are not OC Rules and shall only explain how the OC Rules shall operate.

    (3)      The Executive Committee shall have the power to enforce the policies in the House Rules adopted by the OC.”

    This would let us tweak the details of some of our existing rules but it would still need a special resolution of a general meeting, not just the whim of the committee, to be enforceable.  We have not made use of this rule. However, I imagine that it could be used to add specifics and detail to some of the generic default rules about not causing nuisance, excessive noise, interfering with ‘reasonable use and enjoyment of the common property’ etc. without the bother of registering a new specific rule.

    #61871
    pisces
    Flatchatter

    I wish we had a bylaw where we could pass on charges that were generated by spurious claims, it might make people think twice before a callout fee is generated only for the technician to find no apparent problem.  For example when a resident claims there is something wrong with his telephone connection, complains to the Strata Manager who sends out a comms technician to test the line only to find ($500 later) that there’s no fault!!! We are constantly haemorrhaging funds because people think it’s a fun sport to make the Strata do stuff and pass on costs that are rightfully the occupants responsibility. Grrr 🙁

    #61939
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster
    Chat-starter

    There’s a very interesting article on our sponsors Bannermans website about unenforceable by-laws, specifically the those that NCAT ruled out of order in a dispute over short-term letting.

    The by-laws that were knocked over concerned the right to cancel access to the properties and charging the breaching owners costs.

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