Don’t buy bad by-laws

Last week we explained why the first AGM of a few building may sound like a tedious bore but holds the key to your happiness and peace of mind for the next few years.
A very good example is the by-laws.  They will come up for approval on that first agenda and are often waved through with a few weary nods, mutterings of “standard practice”  and little regard to the details they contain.  That could be a huge and potentially expensive mistake.
But those by-laws are where the rules about pets, noise, common property, parking and other essentials of daily life are enshrined. What you agree to will take a another general meeting and the support of 75 percent of other owners to change.
The Office of Fair Trading suggests a set of “model” by-laws for new buildings in its Strata Living booklet and website (call 13 32 20 for a copy or download it from
But these by-laws are not law.  You can alter, add to them or take from them at any point and the first AGM of your building is by far the best place to do this.
They are also a very good guide to things that may be different about your building that may not be obvious in the sales brochure.
For instance, the prior removal of the by-law that forbids disturbing the “peaceful enjoyment” of units may be an indication that the developers know the walls are built to absolute minimum noise insulation standards and their annointed manager (a whole other problem to be dealt with next week) would rather not have to deal with demands to enforce by-laws.
So compare your building’s by-laws with Fair Trading’s suggested rules and, at that first crucial AGM, ask why they’re different. You can propose that your fellow owners accept the model by-laws in their entirety or with sensible  modifications to suit your specific building.
Letting them slip through unchecked could lead to years of frustration as you try to raise the 75 percent support required to rectify the problem.

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