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Posted 07 July 2014
Issues often arise in strata buildings in relation to improvements requested by lot owners and others for the purpose of improving access for persons with special needs. Such issues can result in personal animosities building up over time and if not approached sensibly from the outset, can disrupt harmony within the building and result in considerable expense for all concerned.
The most common sources of disputes are access across common property to lots, access to common property facilities such as mailboxes and garbage collection, parking and participation in meetings.
For new buildings and some modifications to existing buildings, standards apply and deal with some of these issues.
For existing buildings, a number of laws are relevant, including the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the NSW Anti Discrimination Act 1977, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the law of negligence.
Under the anti-discrimination laws, an owners corporation could be subject to substantial penalties if it fails to take measures requested by a person who can establish that they are required by law. The case law suggests that refusal of approval to modify common property may be sufficient.
We suggest that owners corporations, their strata managing agents and persons seeking such adjustments should at first instance try to resolve these issues by negotiation, as they can quickly escalate to proceedings, which can be expensive and acrimonious, and potentially lead to substantial penalties.
It will likely be necessary to propose a resolution and/or by-law, with supporting material, for consideration by the owners corporation. If that is unsuccessful, the person could seek legal advice about commencing proceedings, which would typically be brought in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
***The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice. The currency, accuracy and completeness of this article (and its contents) should be checked by obtaining independent legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon its contents in any way.