Disputes and mediation

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Internal dispute resolution

Many disputes can be resolved quickly in the early stages if they are discussed openly. Owners corporations can set up their own internal dispute handling processes to deal with minor disputes.

Decision by the owners corporation

Issues can be considered, decided and actioned by the owners corporation. These include by-law breaches, inappropriate use of common property, issues with repairs and maintenance and concerns about a strata managing agent.


Mediation is an informal negotiation with a neutral mediator to help reach a beneficial settlement. Fair Trading provides a free mediation service, which may assist in achieving a resolution.

The mediator's role is to:

  • help identify the issues in dispute and
  • assist the parties to raise and consider options and strategies by which the issues may be addressed.

Matters suited for mediation include:

  • issues with repairs and maintenance
  • water penetration problems
  • alterations and additions to common property
  • air conditioners
  • by-laws
  • noise problems
  • parking on common property
  • pets
  • validity of meetings
  • insurance matters, or
  • building managers.

Matters not suitable for mediation include:

  • appointment of a compulsory strata managing agent
  • allocation of unit entitlements
  • access to a lot by an owners corporation to inspect or repair common property
  • penalty disputes, or
  • inspection of strata records.

The Commissioner for Fair Trading can dismiss an application for mediation.

Complete the application for mediation form online or visit Service NSW.

Why should you mediate?

Community living can be challenging and managing disputes can be difficult for everyone involved. At mediation, we seek to give you a real chance at improving your situation with a better understanding of how you and the other owners want to live together.  If you are having problems reaching agreement with the owners corporation, other owners or residents, and you can’t see a way forward then mediation can provide an opportunity to improve the way your community works.

Who attends the mediation?

All relevant people involved in the dispute should attend the session. A solicitor can be present if the other parties approve.*

The mediator will arrange for an interpreter to attend if required.

Preparing for mediation

You should be fully prepared for the mediation session. You should bring any relevant plans, documents or photographs. This also includes getting your own legal or other advice before the session.

The mediator's role

Our mediators are skilled facilitators who will assist in ensuring both sides are heard. Our intention is to give both sides the opportunity to sort things out in a way that works for everyone. Our mediators are impartial, their primary role is to encourage open communication that is both respectful and productive.

What happens during the mediation?

Each party will firstly have an opportunity to briefly describe the dispute and state what they are hoping to achieve from mediation. If required during the mediation we can have a specialist information officer clarify legislative information; for example – how can an owner call for a meeting to be held or what decisions can or cannot be made by the executive committee?

The mediator will help the parties discuss and explore the issues, identify options and negotiate possible settlements.

When an agreement is reached, the mediator can help draft a written agreement.

What are the results?

The mediator should write any agreements made during the session. The settlement can also be made into an enforceable order if both parties consent. If no settlement is reached or an agreement breaks down, parties can apply to the Tribunal for an order.

The cost

There is no fee charged by NSW Fair Trading for mediation services. Everyone is responsible for their own costs.

Tribunal hearings

If an issue is not resolved by mediation, an application can be made to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal). If you have a matter in the Tribunal, you should attend the hearing. If you’re unable to attend in person, you can request a telephone hearing or present your case in written form.

Certain applications cannot be accepted by the Tribunal without the parties attempting formal mediation. However, the Registrar may agree to hear the matter if one of the parties has refused to participate in mediation or the Registrar considers that mediation would be inappropriate in the circumstances. These include:

  • appointment of a compulsory strata managing agent
  • allocation of unit entitlements
  • access to a lot by an owners corporation to inspect or repair common property
  • penalty disputes
  • access to strata records.

Is a legal practitioner necessary?

A legal practitioner is not necessary. You can argue your case by yourself. Lawyers can only be present with the consent of the Tribunal.

When will the Tribunal make its decision?

Usually, a decision is made by the Tribunal after everyone has finished giving their evidence. Sometimes the Tribunal will want more time to think about its decision and will give a reserved decision later. A notice of the order is provided to everyone after the decision has been made.

How do you apply to the Tribunal?

You must complete a Tribunal application form.

When the Tribunal receives an application to hear a strata dispute, it is required to provide a copy of the application to the relevant owners corporation. The owners corporation must then distribute copies of the application to all lot owners in the strata scheme, excepting the parties who are already named in the application. The owners corporation must also place a copy of the application on the scheme’s notice board, if it has one.

You can visit the Tribunal website for application forms and the fee schedule, or call 1300 006 228.

The Tribunal will not be able to determine your matter if it involves a federal jurisdiction.

Can you appeal a decision by the Tribunal?

In certain circumstances you can appeal a decision to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal Internal Appeal Panel.

What if someone breaches a Tribunal order?

If the Tribunal has made an order but the order is not being followed, the Tribunal can impose a monetary penalty for the contravention. To seek a penalty, you must apply to the Tribunal. The application can be made by:

  • the original applicant for the order,
  • another party with an interest in the lot to which the order relates (such as the owners corporation or someone who has since bought the lot), or
  • either party to a mediation (if the order that was breached arose through mediation).

The penalty amount may be up to $5,500.

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