What to do about a rogue resident living in your strata building
A common misconception is that the strata company has the same or greater authority than the police to intervene and reprimand rogue residents with disruptive behaviour that contravene the strata by-laws. Examples of rogue behaviour include things such as illegal parking, making excessive noise late at night, or dumping unwanted items on common property. The frustration and anger with the lack of intervention is usually directed to the strata company – why are they not stopping it? The assumption is often that they are lazy and simply don’t care.
While it’s easy to see why people look to the strata company for a solution (after all they are paid to be the custodians of the building), in truth, they have minimal power to intervene in many instances. Firstly, they are engaged by the owners of the building to act on their behalf. Whilst the owners may all agree in principle that they would like to stop Mary in U7 from smoking on her balcony, the legal and financial reality of enforcing it often renders the Owners Corporation to decide against proceeding. Taking a case to the NCAT tribunal to enforce the strata by-law is a minimum cost of $10,000, so it really depends how important it is to the group of owners collectively to stop the behaviour and the availability of funds to enforce it. While the strata company can be instructed to issue a breech of by-law letter, if this is ignored and mediation breaks down, there is little further action that can be taken without the commitment of investing funds in legal proceedings.
Secondly, from a practical perspective the strata company is engaged to be the administrator of the building. They are not on site (this is the role of the Building Manager, which larger buildings employ), so they are not able to personally catch out someone illegally parking in your car space and knock on their door on your behalf. The other thing to keep in mind it is not standard practice for the strata company to keep registration plates of all residents on file (unless instructed by the Owners Corporation). Therefore, they may not in a position to know who owns the car parked in your space. While it is possible for the strata company to keep a file of number plates for residents, it has to be done in consultation with a point of contact on-site (either the Building Manager or an active Committee Member) or with sophisticated number plate recognition technology. While both options are possible, the Owners Corporation must weight up the benefit v’s the cost of implementing an expensive automatic system, or spending lots of time keeping a track of resident details as they move in and out manually.
Thirdly, many of the behavioural issues that happen between residents are civil matters and have little to do with the function of the strata company or strata by-law’s. The strata company is engaged to undertake the Secretarial duties of the Owners Corporation (administration, accounting, compliance & insurance), run the Annual General Meeting and co-ordinate repairs & maintenance relating to the building. They are not engaged to or paid to resolve personal disputes between neighbours.
So, if the strata company can’t help stop rogue residents, then what can you do? The first thing that you should do when a resident is behaving unfavourably is to speak with them. Communicated in a non-confrontational way, is often all it takes to resolve the behaviour. It is usually received much more favourably and results in far greater success rate than receiving a clinical breech of by-law letter from the strata company. They may have been unaware of the strata by-law or that their behaviour was effecting you in such a way. If it’s a parking issue, leave a polite note on their windscreen.
If your building does engage a Building Management company, it would definitely pay to have a chat to the on-site contact so that they can keep an eye on the behaviour and potentially catch out the offender.
For issues such as illegal dumping of rubbish, if your building has CCTV, it can be worth pursuing to see if the offender has been caught on camera. The Owners Corporation can instruct the strata company to put photo’s of the offenders on the noticeboard. This is usually enough of a deterrent to stop them from doing it again.
In relation to illegal parking, if the owner has been identified, a breech of by-law letter can be issued. If this is ignored, a fine through NCAT can be issued for repeat offenders. The council can now also provide a strata scheme with parking management services for a fee. This means council rangers can issue parking infringement notices just like they do on public streets. If a car has been abandoned on common property it can now be towed away after 5 days.
In relation to personal civil disputes between residents, the government funded Community Justice Centres https://www.cjc.justice.nsw.gov.au/Community are a fantastic avenue if communication has broken down and the dispute has reached a stalemate. They specialise in mediating such issues and keeping them out of the courts.
Issues of bullying, harassment, stalking or anything of that nature do not fall under the types of behaviour being referred to in this article and should obviously be reported to the police immediately.
Dealing with a rogue resident living in your apartment building can come at a large personal emotional cost, which shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re stuck in a living environment where there is a continuing behaviour that is upsetting you, and a resolution doesn’t look likely (perhaps the other owners aren’t on the same page), for your own mental health it may be worth considering your options. Can you live with the behaviour without stressing, or is it better to move on? Repeatedly calling the strata company that is powerless to take action (because they can only take instruction from the Owners Corporation), is unlikely to achieve much more than built up frustration and further stress.
While it is natural to look to the strata company to deal with a rogue resident in your apartment building, in reality they are often powerless to stop the behaviour as they act on the instructions of the Owners Corporation and are not based at the building. The most effective strategy is to communicate directly with the person in the first instance. If the behaviour continues, and the person is breeching a strata by-law and can be identified, a breech-of-by law letter can be issued by the strata company. If this is still ignored, further action can be taken, but it will depend on the extent to which the group of owners are collectively prepared to pay professionals to address the issue. If you are faced with a situation where the other owners are not supporting acting as a collective group to address the issue, it may be worth considering how important it is to you for your own happiness and mental wellbeing.