The New South Wales Government’s Department of Fair Trading is said to be drafting the final Bill which will give effect to its strata law reforms.  Amongst other matters such reversing the default position on tenant pet ownership, these law reforms are designed to bring the legislation up to date, reduce red tape and provide for more transparent decisions to be made regarding strata schemes.  The Department of Fair Trading is hoping to table the Bill in Parliament in the upcoming months.  While there are 70 proposed changes to the strata laws, the most significant reforms have been explored below for your convenience.

Community Participation

It can be difficult trying to find the time to attend strata scheme meetings, especially in the circumstance the strata lot in issue is located in a different state.  Recognising this difficulty, the proposed changes to the strata legislation will allow schemes to choose alternative methods of meeting attendance, such as social media and teleconferencing, with schemes allowed to accept postal or electronic votes from owners who are unable to physically attend.

Termination of Strata Schemes

The proposed amendments are set to allow the cancellation of strata schemes with a 75 per cent consensus of lot owners, as opposed to the current requirement which provides that a scheme can only be terminated with unanimous support.  While this reform is does cut some of the red tape for investors and developers, it does mean that your neighbours can essentially force you to sell your home.

Developer Bonds

In an effort to keep strata matters out of the courts and without effecting statutory warranties currently available to strata owners, the reforms require developers of high-rise strata buildings to put down a two per cent bond to cover possible building defects.  This bond will be held in trust by an independent third party until any defects identified by an independent surveyor have been rectified.

Resident behavior – cigarette smoke, overcrowding, pet ownership and noisy floors

The proposed strata reforms look to make significant changes to the model by-laws that are currently in place.  These by-laws provide a set of rules that govern the behavior and use of common property by residents in the strata scheme, and are commonly adopted without amendment by many schemes.

The reforms make the approval of tenant pet ownership the default position, with certain pets, such as small dogs, cats, birds and fish, being allowed to be kept by tenants without permission.    Some other changes ban smoke drift, with the by-laws clearly noting that any smoke that drifts into a residential lot may be regarded as a nuisance or a hazard.  The reforms also confront the issues of over-crowding and noisy flaws by essentially limiting the number of people who can occupy a lot and disallowing the installation of timber or tiled floors by owners.   While these model by-law changes may be welcomed by some tenants and unit owners and readily adopted by new buildings, keep in mind that they are not compulsory and will need to be implemented into your current by-laws to take effect.

The government’s position paper outlining all the proposed reforms, Strata Title Law Reform was released in November 2013 and can be found here.

The lawyers here at The Quinn Group can help you with all your strata needs. If you have any questions, please to not hesitate to contact us on 02 9223 9166, or submit an online enquiry.