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Top Tips for Handling Disputes in Strata Property

By Andrew Bell

Look around the Gold Coast. With all the modern apartment sky rises, you'd never guess that strata schemes were actually a new real estate concept.

Before the Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act 1961, there was no scheme for individually titled ownership within a building. Prior to this act, property owners would need to purchase company titles, which were vague and difficult to finance. 

After 1961, the idea of strata took hold – in a big way. Today, an estimated three million people live in strata titled homes nationwide, according to Strata Spot. 

In many ways, however, we're still figuring out this unique form of communal living, which is why issues can and do arise in strata schemes. We explore the most common disputes and how they're handled. 

Why do disputes occur in strata schemes? 

In most homes, you typically would have one or two neighbours, and the majority of issues between parties could be handled without much confrontation.  

In strata communities, things can be a bit more complicated. That's because when you live in a titled home, the number of neighbours you have increases as does the amount of space you share with them.

Common areas in strata buildings often include:

  • Car parks,
  • Lifts,
  • Corridors, 
  • Garbage disposal areas,
  • Utilities rooms,
  • Storage, 
  • Gardens, 
  • Entrances,
  • Gyms, 
  • Lounges,
  • Laundry areas. 

Every member of the owners corporation shares ownership of these common spaces. This is a major advantage for downsizers, busy families or other homeowners who don't necessarily want sole responsibility of every aspect of a property. 

Naturally though, with so many people involved, problems can arise, the most common of which are parking, breaking of by-laws and noise, according to Strata Spot. 

How can owners and the owners corporation overcome these issues? 

The majority of disputes in strata schemes are simply misunderstandings between neighbours. These types of issues are generally handled peacefully between those directly affected.

The occupant in the unit upstairs, for example, may have no idea how loud he or she is in the mornings. Simply letting him or her know kindly should resolve the problem. 

If issues do escalate beyond this point, however, further action may need to be taken for resolution. Here are some tips. 

1. Approach the issue calmly and politely

Whether you're raising an issue for the first time or the fifth, always act calm, polite and non-confrontational. 

When discussing with the individual, be sure your language is around the behaviour that's bothering you, not the person themselves.

The same goes for written correspondence. Not only is this better for relations within the community, but you're also more likely to get your desired outcome when you act respectfully. 

2. Document your dispute 

If you've already attempted to address an issue and problems persist, it's time to begin making a 'paper trail' of what's been said and done.

This includes recording instances with as much evidence as you can. Note down time and dates, as well as the actions you took to remedy the issue and the reactions that followed. If possible, include photos and videos.

All of this will help your case if you're asked to present your concerns at an owners corporation hearing. 

3. Know who to escalate concerns to 

When disputes still aren't handled, it can seem frustrating. Fortunately, there are places to turn in these situations. 

If your community employs a strata manager, he or she should be the first person you contact. In communities without strata managers, raise concerns directly to the owners corporation.

Still dissatisfied with the outcome? The final option is to apply for government conciliation. With this option, an independent conciliator appointed by the Department of Justice will help you – and the other parties – to resolve the dispute. With this option, you must show that you have attempted self resolution before applying. 

Fortunately, strata disputes tend to be few and far between and the benefits of owning titled property on the Gold Coast far outweigh the challenges. With many apartments on the market today, you not only buy a unit, but also a community – equipped with attractive features and top notch amenities. 

To find out more, reach out to the team at Ray White Surfers Paradise today. 

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