Understand the strata by-laws where you live, how to change them, and what to do if there's a breach of the by-laws in your strata scheme.
By-laws are rules that all residents living in a strata scheme must follow.
By-laws cover things like pets, parking, noise and smoking, so it is important to understand how they affect you.
Current and potential owners can ask for a copy of the by-laws from the owners corporation or their real estate agent.
If you continue to break a by-law, financial penalties can be imposed.
Did you know?
By-laws are rules that all residents living in your strata ‘scheme’ (your building or complex) must follow.
It is important to understand the by-laws, and how this might impact the way you live.
- approval needed to keep a pet
- where can you hang washing
- parking restrictions
Common by-laws include rules about pets, smoking, short-term rental accommodation (like Airbnb), parking and noise.
The owners corporation has a choice of using ‘model’ by-laws, creating their own by-laws, or using a mix of both.
Model by-laws are standard or ‘template’ rules created by the NSW Government. They are an easy and cheap way for the owners corporation ensure their by-laws are reliable and meet the minimum legal requirements.
The model by-laws include rules for:
dealing with nuisance or hazardous smoking
acceptable resident noise levels
short-term rental accommodation
measures to prevent overcrowding.
Owners corporations often adopt these model by-laws, and also make changes or additions specific to their scheme.
You can view or download a copy of the model by-laws from the NSW Legislation website.
How to get a copy of the by-laws
Current owners, residents and tenants
Most people will receive a copy of the by-laws when they move into the scheme. If you do not have a copy, current owners and residents can ask the strata committee secretary or strata manager for a copy of the by-laws.
If you are a tenant, your landlord must give you a copy of the by-laws within seven days of signing the rental contract. They must also provide a new copy whenever the by-laws change.
Potential owners will usually get a copy of the by-laws when they get a strata report or if they ask the seller's real estate agent for a copy. Getting a strata report will come with a fee. The by-laws must also be included in the contract for sale of land.
By-laws must be registered with NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS). Anyone can access a copy of the by-laws from LRS for a fee.
Restrictions on by-laws
- conflict with existing laws
- be ‘harsh, unconscionable or oppressive’
- stop someone from selling or leasing their lot (except in some cases of short-term rental accommodation)
- ban children
- stop someone having an assistance animal
An owners corporation can add, remove or change current by-laws with a vote at a general meeting.
Approval of a by-law change will depend on the proportion of votes cast. If the votes against are 25% or less, the change will pass.
How to request a new by-law or a by-law change
Before asking to add or change a by-law, it’s a good idea to first discuss your idea with other owners.
To make the change, you will need to submit a motion, which is a proposal for discussion that gets added to the agenda of a general meeting.
To submit a motion, contact the secretary on the strata committee or the strata manager in writing. Give them your name, the by-law change you want, and the reasons for the change in 300 words or less.
Common property is owned and used by all residents in a strata scheme. However, an owner might want personal use of a certain area of common property.
This could mean being given exclusive use or special privileges. For example, the right to use a garden bed, or make renovations to common property to put in an attic.
To request personal use of common property, you must ask the owners corporation to create a new by-law, using the above process.
This type of by-law is called a ‘common property rights’ by-law. In addition to voting, you can only make this by-law if you have written agreement to it from any owners to whom it gives special use of common property. If they do not agree, the by-law cannot be passed.
This type of by-law must say who will be responsible for maintenance of the affected area – either the owner or the owners corporation.
If you breach (break) a by-law, the owners corporation can follow these steps to ensure to deal with it.
The owners corporation or strata committee may first choose to talk to you about the by-law and ask you to stop.
The owners corporation can hold a general meeting and vote to issue you notice of breaking a by-law.
Through a majority vote, you can be given a notice to comply (PDF 270.08KB), which asks you to stop breaking the rules or risk being fined through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal).
The notice can be sent via post or email and needs to include the details of the by-law that was broken.
The owners corporation may allow the strata committee or strata manager to give notices for them. If this is the case, a notice to comply can be given without holding a general meeting.
If you continue to break the rules, the owners corporation can contact NSW Fair Trading for mediation. Mediation is a free service that helps residents, owners and owners corporations solve issues.
If the issue can’t be resolved by mediation, the owners corporation can ask the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to decide whether a by-law has been broken.
The Tribunal can issue fines of up to $1,100.
If you continue to break the rule, the owners corporation can apply to the Tribunal again.
The Tribunal can issue another fine, this time up to $2,200.
The owners corporation does not have to give you another notice before contacting the Tribunal again.
If you do not follow an order that the Tribunal has given you, you can also be fined up to $5,500.
Learn how disputes between owners, or residents, or complaints against strata managers and other workers can be resolved.
By-laws are rules to help those in strata to live peacefully. Schemes can update the by-laws to meet the changing needs of residents.
Understand the roles of the owners corporation and strata committee, strata manager and building manager.
Find out about strata announcements, recently published resources and more. You can also subscribe to other newsletters of interest.