Who wears the blame in a strata scheme – owner or tenant? – Grant Mifsud

Who wears the blame in a strata scheme – owner or tenant? – Grant Mifsud

Quite often when we talk about Strata rules, we think only of the owner, but what about the tenant? Who has liability? I will discuss that with Grant Mifsud – a strata professional.


Kevin:     Quite often when we talk about Strata rules, we think only of the owner, but what about the tenant? Who has liability? Let’s have a look at a couple of the things that if you are a property investor, you’ve got tenants in your property or if you’re a tenant in an investor’s property, then you might find this quite enlightening.

Kevin Turner:     Grant Mifsud who is from Archers, the Strata professionals, joins me. Grant, thanks again for your time.

Grant:     Thanks for having me, Kevin.

Kevin:     Yeah. It’s one thing for a resident to know about the body corporate rules, but some of them can be really strange, as strange as not being able to change the curtains in an apartment. How does that work, Grant? Grant Mifsud: Yeah. Well, I suppose, if we set the scene, a body corporate has its own set of rules because it’s effectively the fourth layer of government beyond where you go from your federal, state and local. You’ve got specific legislation that allows that Strata titled community to put a set of bylaws in place. Now t hose bylaws are effectively in place to maintain the peace and harmony in the community, but also protect the values of the properties.

Grant:     So when you’re talking about the backing of the curtains, if there’s no rules or regulations in place, it leaves it open slather for occupiers of the lot, be it an owner or a tenant to change them to whatever they like. Now, that could have a significant impact, particularly if it’s facing the street frontage. And, yeah, the Strata schemes are usually looking for a bit of a uniform appearance also.

Kevin:     Yeah. I know that a major sticking point is, you know, putting clothes out to dry on a balcony as an example. I can understand that, but just let me ask you then, these Strata bylaws, these bylaws that are made. Can a Strata community just make up their own laws and how binding are they?

Grant:     Well, yeah. They do make up their own laws, but there’s strict guidelines for how those laws can be made. So they’re there to regulate. They’re not there to prohibit. So, in terms of like if we talk about the curtain side of things, it will specify that they need to be of a certain manner. It won’t say that you can’t do all these different things. It’s just this is what you can do.

Kevin:     Grant, I’m just keen to know if I’ve got a rental property. I’ve got a tenant inside that and they break these bylaws, obviously they’re not going to be going to the Strata meetings because tenants by and large don’t go to them. How will the Strata community or the committee communicate? Will they do it to the agent? Will they do it to the tenant or do they do it to the owner?

Grant:     Well, all three is most effective, but it is the actual tenant that is responsible for adhering to those bylaws, and it’s a requirement for the, within the tenancy agreements as well, that they are given a copy of those bylaws. And although usually in the excitement of moving into a place and everything else you need to take care of, we understand that they don’t always read this multi page document that sets out all the rules, so yeah …

Kevin:     Well, as a property owner therefore I would think it’s pretty important that I get that message across to the managing agent because they would be the one who’ll be briefing that tenant on what they can and can’t do and then enforcing it, Grant.

Grant:     Exactly. Well, the body corporate themselves do issue what’s called a contravention notice and that’s a prescribed notice under the legislation, and that is then enforceable by way of dispute resolution through what’s called the commissioner’s office. And then it takes it to another step of enforcing those orders within a magistrate’s court if they don’t adhere to what has been ordered by the office of the commissioner. That can come with fines as well.

Kevin:     Yeah, I imagine that if a tenant doesn’t want to go along with it, doesn’t want to abide by those bylaws, therefore the agent would need to give them some kind of a breach notice, wouldn’t they?

Grant:     Yeah, that’s right. So there’s two separate things that you’d be looking at, so one would be the tenancy arrangements and agreements in place, but those, it’s a requirement that the tenancy agreement also states that they must adhere to the bylaws.

Kevin Turner:     Yeah.

Grant:     It’s a two prong approach. But what we at Archers always like to advise is that you should speak to them to begin with because they may not be aware that it’s not even a rule. And we try not to just accept that ignorance is something that you should just let them get away with, but if you speak to them to begin with in an approachable or friendly way, you usually find that they’re not aware and that they can quickly fix the problem, particularly if it’s just parking in the wrong spot or something that’s easily fixed.

Grant:     More serious things, if they’re having parties and it’s just getting out of control. They should be well aware that that’s just not on, and yeah, you need to be a bit stronger with it, giving them formal notices.

Kevin:     Yeah, we’ve seen some pretty strict rules around smoking too, passive smoking or smoking in public areas would also, could also be a bit of a problem, I would have thought, and pets as well.

Grant:     Yeah, well the passive smoking issue keeps flaring up, excuse the pun, but it is still a private residence, so people can smoke within their home, on their balconies as well is the major contention because that can then have smoke drift affecting fellow neighbours. But because it’s a moving object, it’s not something that can be enforced to say, well, you smoked and then the smoke drift went into our property in this quantity. You can’t really quantify it, so it’s not something that can be enforced.

Kevin:     So Grant, I guess the bottom line is this, make sure that you as the owner of the building are familiar with all the bylaws as well as your tenants. Just read them up, it can’t be all that hard.

Grant:     Absolutely, It’s, you know, it’s a specific section. It’s given to everybody. What we do is we send it to the owner. It is then the owner’s responsibility to send it on to their tenant, but it doesn’t take a long time to read it. Just get yourself familiar with what the general rules are and if you’re not sure, have another read and a lot of it just comes down to common courtesy and consideration to your neighbours.

Kevin:     Grant Mifsud. Thank you very much for your time. Grant is from Archers, the Strata professionals. Thanks for your time, Grant.

Grant:     Thank you, Kevin.

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