It is inevitable that in strata living disputes will arise as everyone is different with their own values, interests and relationships. As a rule of thumb, the best way to resolve conflicts is through simple decisions, good will and common sense between the parties. However sometimes it’s not that easy. In this article we will outline 6 steps to help overcome strata disputes if you find yourself in the middle of one.
6 Steps to overcome a Strata dispute:
1. Have a discussion
The first step to overcome strata disputes is to simply have a discussion. Never underestimate the power of talking an issue out. It is so important to make sure the parties involved in the dispute sit down with each other and have a conversation to hopefully resolve the issue calmly. Remember everybody is different so some people, when they feel threatened, will go into battle rather than approaching the other person, talking an issue out and explaining their side of the situation.
Evidently, for a strata dispute to be resolved amicably this often relies on both parties making some compromise. For this to also be the case both parties need to listen to each other’s point of view and see if you can reach a happy agreement. Not fairly negotiating will mean there is no way to resolve a disagreement in a civil community.
2. Handling difficult people
No matter how nice or understanding you can be, some people are and will remain difficult. How another party wants to conduct themselves is beyond your control but you can control how to respond and react to them.
Some people are influenced by responses they receive, and others will push your buttons to the max. It can help to set boundaries on their behaviour.
It can be important to give yourself some time after intense situations to think about how you are going to react. Flying off the handle will not solve anything and is likely to aggravate the situation and make the other party angrier.
Some ways you can diffuse angry situations is to:
- Let both parties say their point and make them feel heard and understood.
- Always take a step back from the situation and don’t act irrationally. This can help shed new light on the situation.
- Try to remember the situation is most likely not personal. This person’s personality stems from something and getting to know them better might help you understand the situation more greatly.
3. Get SSKB involved
If disputes cannot be handled person to person then, they may need to be escalated to the Body Corporate. This can include taking a dispute to a meeting to help reach a dispute resolution. However, this needs to be a mutual decision between parties and the resolution suggested by the Body corporate will be accepted as final.
It’s important to note that if a dispute is over a by-law or rule, the Body Corporate can issue a written notice to the tenant/owner. There is also a chance if your notice is disregarded the matter can be taken to the tribunal to seek an order to impose a fine or ratification.
Evidently, if your dispute is with the Body Corporate the next step is conciliation.
The next step is conciliation. With conciliation an independent person who understands Body Corporate law (a conciliator employed by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General) helps you and the other party to resolve your dispute. Conciliation helps resolve issues more quickly than adjudication and is a less formal resolution process.
In Queensland, conciliation is completed through the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management.
Before applying for conciliation you will need to show that you have tried to solve the problem yourself through self-resolution.
An extra step, in Queensland, is to complete a process called adjudication. Adjudicators tend to hear strata disputes related to issues including repairs and unapproved parking. Parties involved are not required to appear in front of anyone however, you will be required to make submissions to the independent adjudicator. An adjudicators decisions will be sent to you in writing and it will be legally binding. Typically, 75% of adjudication orders in 2020 were made within 19 weeks of lodging.
6. Tribunal hearings
The next step in Queensland is to undergo a government run tribunal. Essentially, tribunals essentially run like mini courts with similar processes and protocols although it’s less formal. In Queensland, this is through QCAT (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal).You will need to apply to be heard and the authorities will make legally binding decisions about how your strata dispute will be settled. Typically, solicitors are not needed however parties involved will state their case themselves. Furthermore, applications are available online and all relevant information is submitted.
Tribunal rulings include:
- Ordering a party to do something or stop doing something
- Impose a financial penalty for breaking a rule
- Ordering damages to be paid to required party
- Adjusting a contract or ruling that the contract is now void
- Appointing or removing a manager, chairperson or secretary
- Appointing an administrator
If you have any concerns about disputes in your Body Corporate, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Body Corporate Manager to discuss these issues.