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By-laws in your strata scheme 

Each strata scheme has its own by-laws, which are a set of rules that owners, tenants and, in some cases, visitors must follow.  By-laws cover behaviour of residents and the use of common property. They can cover issues such as whether pets are allowed on the scheme, how smoking is regulated, parking and noise levels.

The by-laws can vary significantly from scheme to scheme and it is important to understand which by-laws apply to your scheme.

Owners corporations can determine the by-laws that suit the preferred lifestyle of the strata scheme. A by-law must not be harsh, unconscionable or oppressive. No by-law is capable of restricting a dealing in a lot, including restricting short-term letting. By-laws cannot restrict children, and cannot restrict the keeping of an assistance animal.

A copy of your scheme's by-laws is kept on the strata roll and is available from either the secretary of the owners corporation or from your managing agent (if your scheme has one).

The by-laws that apply to your strata scheme depend on the date the strata plan was registered.

Review of all strata by-laws 

All strata schemes were required to review their by-laws by 30 November 2017 (if they had not already done so since 30 November 2016.) Schemes may wish to use the Model by-laws (see below) as a guide when reviewing their own by-laws.

If, as a result of the review, your scheme proposes changes to the by-laws, these must be put to a special resolution vote at a meeting of the owners corporation. The new
by-laws must also be registered with NSW Land Registry Services within 6 months after the special resolution has been passed. This can be done by lodging a Consolidation/Change of By-Laws form. Tenants must also be informed of any change in by-laws.

In addition, the Secretary of the strata scheme must now keep a consolidated list of
by–laws. A consolidated list of by–laws must be registered with NSW Land Registry Services before any new change of by–laws can be registered.

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Model by-laws 

The Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 includes a set of model by-laws which provide 'sample rules' to guide the owners corporation in setting their own by-laws. Owners corporations can choose to adopt these or make changes to better suit their circumstances to manage issues in strata like overcrowding, pets, parking, and smoke drift. Schemes are not required to adopt or adapt any of the model by-laws, they are available to assist schemes in reviewing and making by-laws to suit their scheme. Model by-laws cannot be the by-laws for your scheme unless they are first formally adopted by the owners corporation and registered with Land and Property Information.

The model by-laws include options for:

  • permitting pets
  • dealing with nuisance or hazardous smoking
  • helping owners corporations address noise and short-term letting
  • measures to prevent overcrowding.

View or download a copy of the model by-laws in the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 from the NSW Legislation website.

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The model by-laws provide owners corporations with options to control whether pets are allowed, and on what terms. Owners can adopt a model by-law as their own or make their own by-law.

For example, the owners corporation may choose to have a by-law which:

  • bans pets on the property altogether (other than assistance animals)
  • allows owners to keep a pet and simply provide 14 days notice from when the pet has started living on the lot owner's property, or
  • allows a pet with the written permission of the owners corporation. This particular model by-law states that the owners corporation cannot unreasonably refuse the request. If they do refuse, they must give the owner written reasons outlining why the pet is not being permitted.

In all cases if pets are allowed, the lot owner must still supervise their pet, clean any common property that is soiled, and ensure their pet is not noisy or negatively impacting on other residents.

Even if a strata scheme allows pets, a tenant always needs their landlord’s permission first.

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Assistance Animals 

The law prohibits any by-law that prevents someone using a trained and certified assistance animal, even if the by-laws prohibit other pets on the scheme. A by-law seeking to prevent assistance animals cannot be enforced by the owners corporation.

For more information, read the Guide dogs and other assistance animals page on the Fair Trading website.

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Nuisance smoking 

The model by-laws provide the owners corporation with options to deal with nuisance smoking drifting to neighbours' lots and common areas. Owners corporations can pass a by-law to ban smoking on the common property and require an owner or occupier to ensure that second-hand smoke does not enter other lots or the common property.

Alternatively, the owners corporation can pass a by-law to designate smoking areas within the common property.

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Common property rights by-law 

A common property rights by-law (previously exclusive use by-laws) may be created in instances where a lot owner may request personal use of common property for renovations or the sole use and enjoyment of the whole or any specified part of common property.

An owners corporation can only make a common property rights by-law if it has the written consent of each owner on whom the by-law provides the right or special privilege and has been passed by a special resolution of the owners corporation.

The common property by-law must state whether:

  • the owners corporation is to continue to be responsible for the proper maintenance of the property or,
  • impose on the owner or owners of the lots the responsibility for that maintenance and upkeep.

Any common property rights by-law must be disclosed to purchasers by vendors and a copy of the exclusive use by-law must be attached to the contract of sale.

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What by-laws are in place at your scheme? 

Strata owners can inspect the owners corporation's records to confirm what by-laws are in place.

Potential owners can get a copy of the by-laws by obtaining a section 184 Certificate, which is required to finalise financial matters concerning the sale of a strata property.

Landlords must give their tenants a copy of the current by-laws within 7 days of the tenancy agreement being signed.

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Complying with by-laws 

All owners and occupiers in a strata scheme, including tenants, are legally obliged to comply with the by-laws of the scheme.

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Dealing with by-law breaches 

If an owner or resident breaches a by-law, the strata committee can first contact the resident to advise of the breach, and ask that they stop the conduct that is causing the breach.

If it continues, the owners corporation can serve a 'Notice to Comply with a By-Law' on the person who is breaching it. This notice advises the resident of the breach and asks for the conduct to cease immediately. The notice can be a letter or email and must include the details of the by-law that has allegedly been breached. A copy of a Notice to Comply with a By-Law is available on the Fair Trading website.

The notice can't be given without a majority vote at a meeting of the owners. However, the owners corporation can delegate their responsibility for issuing notices to comply to the strata committee or the strata managing agent. A notice must be issued before any further action can be taken to enforce the by-laws.

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Penalties and fines 

The owners corporation may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) if a notice to comply has been issued and the conduct continues. If the Tribunal is satisfied that there has been a breach of a by-law and the notice was given validly they can issue a penalty of up to $1,100 .

If the Tribunal has already fined the owner or occupier within the last 12 months for a breach of the same by-law, the penalty imposed by the Tribunal can double to a maximum of $2,200. In this case, the owners corporation does not have to issue another notice to comply before applying to the Tribunal to impose the fine.

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Changing by-laws 

The owners corporation can change existing by-laws or create new ones for the better enjoyment or management of the strata scheme.

The owners corporation must decide by special resolution at a general meeting to make or change a by-law.

This means no more than 25 per cent of votes are cast against the motion at a general meeting of the owners corporation.

Notification of any new or changed by-law must be given to NSW Land Registry Services. This can be done by lodging a 'Change of By-Laws' form, which is available from the NSW Land Registry Services website.

A by-law has no force or effect if it is inconsistent with the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (the Act), or any other laws.

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Other important responsibilities of strata residents 

Apart from complying with the by-laws, there are other obligations for strata residents under the Act.

Residents must not:

  • interfere with or impact another person's lot, including services provided to them or the common property. This includes doing anything to affect another lot owner's water, sewage, drainage, gas, electricity, garbage, air conditioning, heating or telecommunications services
  • cause a nuisance or hazard to another resident, such as playing loud music
  • use the common property in a way that interferes unreasonably with others in the scheme using and enjoying it.

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