New strata laws in New South Wales could ban barbecues, but at least owning a pet might be easier.
Under the new changes, neighbours could put an end to your outdoor cook up. It’s one of 90 updates to strata laws which came into effect on November 30 after more than five years of public consultation.
More than two million people in NSW, own, live in or manage apartments, meaning strata laws become a big issue.
Basically, strata laws govern an owner corporation’s rights and responsibilities. These are set out in the Strata Schemes Management Act.
To simplify this: The rules and regulations which bind all owners and occupiers, including tenants living in the apartments are what is known as ‘by-laws’.
As part of the reform which went live at the end of November, NSW Fair Trading has outlined new model by-laws.
What does this mean for me?
SMOKING AND BARBECUES
Under a tougher approach to what is classified as a “nuisance” or “hazardous”, smoking cigarettes or barbecuing on the balcony could be banned if smoke wafts into another apartment or common area and interferes with a neighbour enjoying their home.
Previously, residents had the power to take action if a neighbour was creating a nuisance or hazard, but up until now, smoke wasn’t specifically noted to be either.
Smokers or barbecuers can now be taken to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and face a fines of up to $1,100 — double the penalty under old laws.
There are also stricter rules around parking. As part of the changes, owners corporations will be able to enter into an agreement with the local council to manage unauthorised parking on the common property. This means you can no longer park in the visitor spots, no matter how brief.
In the past, disputes about parking could be dealt with by by-law enforcement — the specific action agreed upon by the owners corporation, for example restricting parking access rights for offenders — signage and barriers, and calling the police if an individual is thought to be trespassing. But now residents could actually face a parking ticket of up to $550 from council parking rangers.
On the flip side, apartments will become more pet-friendly.
According to NSW Fair Trading, a major concern in many submissions was the ultimatum many residents faced of having to choose between their pet and living in a strata building.
To make moving in with our four-legged friends easier, the strata reforms will remove any reference to a ban in the model by-laws.
This doesn’t mean strata schemes have to allow pets — they can still choose to ban animals — it just makes it easier for owners corporations to allow for the keeping of pets as opposed to automatically prohibiting pet ownership in a scheme. If the model by-laws are adopted, the request to keep a pet cannot be unreasonably refused.
In addition, schemes will also be actively encouraged to consider whether their existing ban should be lifted.
RENOVATING YOUR APARTMENT
Renovating your apartment, if you own it, will be a whole lot easier and quicker because owners won’t have to suffer the headache of having to get strata approval for every small change.
Previous laws made it very difficult for owners to make even minor renovations to their unit, with minor cosmetic changes such as picture hooks requiring the approval of the owners corporation.
However, Fair Trading has said much-needed reforms in this area will establish “a commonsense approach” to owner renovations to help improve day-to-day living.
For cosmetic changes, like installing a picture hook, the owner will no longer need to seek approval. The by-laws can also specify the work that they deem cosmetic.
For minor renovations, such as installing timber floors, only general resolution approval is required. This means it needs only a 50 per cent vote from those entitled to vote for approval.
For renovations that change the external appearance of a lot, or that are likely to affect waterproofing or structural changes, special resolution approval, or a 75 per cent vote, will be needed before the work could begin.
Renters will obviously still need to seek their landlord’s permission to alter the property, but it will be much easier for the landlord to respond to these requests.
When can I expect to see things change?
All schemes have a year to review their current by-laws. If a strata scheme decides that there should be changes, they can choose to adopt some or all of the new model by-laws or adapt their current by-laws to better suit their scheme’s particular circumstances.
An existing strata-scheme will need to choose to adopt the laws for them to be enforced, however, the new model by-laws will become the default for any new strata schemes that come into force from now.