Fines increase for ignoring strata by laws

If you are one of the many people who think that strata bylaws are just a bunch of blah and the new laws don’t really affect you (mainly because you don’t care), you’ve got a wake-up call heading your way.

Under the strata law reforms that come in next month, two provisions are going to hit strata miscreants hard in their hip pockets.

The first is the doubling of the maximum fines for bylaw breaches, from $550 to $1100 (or five penalty points to 10, at current rates).

That’s the top whack, but you’d assume that the actual fines imposed by the tribunal (NCAT), which usually start about $200, would also double.

And the other, probably even more significant, change is that unless the tribunal decides otherwise, the fines will be paid to the owners corporation by default.

Yes, for the first time, the neighbours you’ve been annoying will benefit from the fines you have to pay.

Overnight those committees that routinely file complaints in the too-hard basket have an incentive to pursue residents who breach bylaws and ignore “notices to comply”.

Of course, they can’t just fine you. They need a committee meeting (or the strata manager) to issue a “notice to comply” and then take you to NCAT if you breach the same bylaw again.

But at least there’s some reward for them, as well as pain for you, at the end of that road. If that doesn’t teach you a lesson, you commit the same breach within 12 months, the maximum fine is doubled to $2200.

That’s a pretty hefty disincentive for ignoring bylaws. A $200 fine for a noisy party is just a whip-round among your besties; $3000 in fines for two loud parties in a row is real show-stopper.

However, it’s when you get into overcrowding that the big guns come out. If your scheme adopts the new bylaw that limits the number of occupants to two adults per bedroom, and someone has filled their flats with bunk beds for overseas students, they can cop a fine of up to $5500 for a first offence and $11,000 for repeat offenders.

That said, the bylaws must be in place first and you need to prove the unit is over-crowded. But with potentially $16,500 on the table, it has to be worth the effort.

Oct 15, 2016 / SMH

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