A strata scheme provides the ability to enjoy a cost-effective and low-stress lifestyle for the vast majority of the time, but what about when problems arise within the owners corporation? In rare cases there can be angry words, ongoing conflicts and personality clashes. Here are the best ways to deal with these types of disputes.
Walk a mile in each other’s shoes
The first and easiest solution is for both parties to talk the issue out. It’s often important that both people feel heard and understood, and in many cases this will clear up the situation. It may be easy to feel irritated by a neighbour when their second-hand smoke is drifting onto the next balcony, but they may not even realise it’s a problem until it’s brought up. A friendly, face-to-face conversation will clear up the majority of problems of this nature.
Understand your relevant rights and responsibilities
It’s reasonable for an owner to feel put out if they feel their rights are being impinged on, however in some situations the other party may in fact be acting well within the by-laws. One key example is that of noise insulation. While a downstairs neighbour may feel that the upstairs neighbour hasn’t done enough to limit noise travelling, the latter may be meeting the strata scheme’s acoustic specifications. Reading through the by-laws and stating these rules at general meetings can often clear up disputes before they escalate.
Find a method of mediation
Quite often, your strata manager will be able to offer dispute resolution steps in order to find a solution to a conflict. Remember that they probably have experience in handling most common strata complaints, so they may be able to provide the information or strategies to resolve them. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t clear up the issue, the next step is to apply for free mediation with Fair Trading NSW. The mediation will help both parties to air their complaints and aim to find a solution that clears up the problem in an informal setting.
Apply to the Tribunal
If all of the above methods have failed, then it will be time to apply for a hearing in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. . This hearing will be formal and legally binding, so it’s important that both parties attend in person or via phone and have their side of the complaint heard. Parties do not need a lawyer for a Tribunal hearing – they simply attend, explain their case and can ask questions of the other party. Decisive judgements in the Tribunal will often see the end of even the longest-lasting grudges or disagreements.
Contact your strata manager with any questions you have about conflict resolution within your strata scheme.