Understanding By-Laws


By-laws are a complex and challenging area of strata living. When discussions about by-laws are full of legal terminology that even lawyers have difficult interpreting, what chance does the average person have of understanding it all?

By-laws are made to facilitate the administration and harmony of the strata scheme. They generally cover the use of common property and the behaviour of residents, but can also deal with many other aspects of the scheme.

Without by-laws, the scheme would not operate effectively and would result in a situation where people could essentially do whatever they pleased.

By-laws usually pertain to:

  • Parking restrictions and use of allocated areas
  • Keeping of pets
  • Garbage disposal
  • Use of facilities and common property
  • Ownership and maintenance responsibilities of some common property
  • Behaviour of residents – noise, hanging of washing, offensive language, etc
  • Security and safety measures
  • Architectural and landscaping guidelines
  • Other appropriate matters specific to the type of strata scheme in use
  • Installation and use of floor coverings
  • Installation and use of air conditioners, pergolas, etc

As the actual wording in a by-law can be the difference between acceptance and rejection, it’s strongly advised to have a specialist strata lawyer draft any new by-laws or any amendments to existing by-laws.  It is important to make sure a by-law is expressed as clearly and as correctly as possible.

All residents must adhere to the by-laws in accordance with the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 or face the possibility of penalties issued by the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal.

Every owner should have a full copy of the by-laws specific to their scheme, so they understand the rules they will be required to live by.  If you don’t know the by-laws for your scheme, a search can be done at the NSW Land and Property Management Authority Information Search Division website to determine the registered by-laws for a particular strata scheme.

Quite often non-compliance with by-laws can be due to a simple misunderstanding or an ignorance of the by-law being broken.  In a lot of cases, many lot owners didn’t even know there was a law for what they were or weren’t doing.

For this reason, it’s always best to begin with a polite letter from the Executive Committee or the Strata Manager outlining the breach and seeking compliance with the relevant by-law. Usually this will be enough for some offenders once they realise they have actually done the wrong thing.

However, there are others who really don’t care and it is this minority that needs stronger forms of persuasion. Luckily there are a number of avenues open to those responsible for bringing the wayward into line.

Though by-laws can cause their fair share of issues in strata schemes, their existence is essential for its smooth running. It is wise to familiarise yourself with the standard by-laws for your scheme as well as any special ones specifically put in place by the Owners Corporation.



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