Mistake 1: Changing the model by-laws
The regulations that were made under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 contain a set of 18 model by-laws for new residential strata schemes. These only apply to new strata schemes or existing schemes that choose to adopt them.
Many owners corporations of old strata schemes have chosen to adopt the new model by-laws thinking they reflect best practice in this area. However, these new model by-laws have some subtle but important differences which have not been picked up by every owners corporation.
By-law 13 – Moving in and out
The model by-laws for existing schemes contain a by-law dealing with moving in and out by residents. It requires residents to notify the strata committee before they transport any furniture or large objects through or on common property to give them time to arrange for its nominee to be present.
However, the new model by-laws do not contain any by-laws dealing with this topic, which in many cases will prove to be a glaring omission from the by-laws.
By-law 14 – floor coverings
The model by-laws for existing schemes contain a by-law which requires owners to ensure that the floor coverings in their lots are covered or treated to prevent noise likely to disturb other residents.
The new model by-laws do not contain any by-law dealing with floor coverings. This may end up proving to be a big mistake for many owners corporations particularly in older buildings which are plagued by noise transmission problems from floor coverings.
By-law 18 - noticeboard
The model by-laws for existing schemes have a by-law that requires a noticeboard to be maintained on the common property.
The new model by-laws do not contain any noticeboard by-law which can prove helpful to share information with residents and to serve tenants with notice of tenants’ meetings. It also allows an owners corporation to display notices it receives from NCAT including orders instead of having to serve a copy to all of the owners.
Additionally, notice of an adjourned meeting of a strata committee is able to be displayed on a noticeboard rather than serving the notice on every owner. Therefore, a noticeboard by-law is still useful and should not be dispensed with by every owners corporation.
So why adopt the new model by-laws?
The new model by-laws contain many useful by-laws including some that are not included in the older schemes. For example, the new model by-laws dealing with smoke penetration (by-law 9) and fire safety (by-law 10) are very useful and should be adopted by most owners corporations.
Some are improved versions such as the new model by-law dealing with the change in use of a lot (by-law 17).
However, it is often a bad idea to simply repeal all of the existing model by-laws and replace them with the new model by-laws without carefully considering what will be lost.
Mistake 2: Repealing renovations by-laws
Many owners corporations, particularly of older strata buildings, have, over time, made multiple by-laws authorising individual owners to carry out renovations in a number of lots in the scheme.
During the by-law review process, some owners corporations have expressed a desire to remove those renovations by-laws to declutter the common property title and have repealed them.
As a result the by-laws that regulate renovations undertaken by various owners in the building come to an end. This means that the owners corporation will often become responsible for the maintenance and repair of those renovations.
Mistake 3: Adding new renovations by-laws
The Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 identifies three categories of work owners are able to carry out to the common property in connection with their lots. These are cosmetic work, minor renovations and major renovations.
Many strata buildings already have a by-law that regulates renovations undertaken by owners. These are often called “blanket” or “generic” renovations by-laws.
During the by-law review process, many owners corporations have made new by-laws dealing with cosmetic work or minor and major renovations.
However, the problem arises when an owners corporation makes a new by-law dealing with minor and major renovations but does not repeal or amend its existing renovations by-law. This results in the scheme being governed by two (often inconsistent) by-laws governing renovations when it is often not clear which prevails and will apply to a particular renovation.
There is merit in every owners corporation reviewing its by-laws but it’s a task that must be undertaken carefully to avoid unintended and undesirable consequences.
Unfortunately, some owners corporations have made mistakes when reviewing their by-laws which will have a detrimental impact on the management of their strata schemes.
The good news is that, normally, any mistakes that have been made can be fixed through further amendments being made to the by-laws.