Union calls for greater say from tenants on strata laws

| February 12, 2012

Strata laws affect everyone in the scheme, even renters. Chris Martin from the Tenants’ Union of NSW says it is about time tenants’ rights were taken into account by strata regulations.

Strata schemes are, in a sense, Australia’s fourth level of government. A strata scheme’s by-laws, and the way they are enforced by the owners corporation, can have a direct and pervasive effect on the day-to-day lives of the people living there. It’s a familiar democratic principle that if people are to be responsible for complying with laws, they should also participate in the process for making them. But in strata schemes, a large proportion of people – that is, tenants ­– are excluded from the owners corporation, and so have no say in the rules that affect their lives.

Perhaps they should. At the Tenants’ Union, we’re aware of cases where tenants have been seriously affected by a change in strata by-laws (for example, from being allowed to keep a pet, to being prohibited from keeping one) without being allowed a say. We’re also aware of cases were it appears the owners corporation takes a hard line on enforcing by-laws against a tenant, but not against owners – effectively one rule for some residents and one rule for others.

So we’re interested in the question of tenant participation in strata schemes. Should tenants have a vote in some aspects of the operations of owners corporations (for example, in the making of by-laws about people’s conduct, but not in financial matters)? Or should they have a right to attend and be heard at meetings, if not actually vote? Or should we go the whole way and have ‘residents corporations’ rather than ‘owners corporations’?

Alternatively, it may be desirable to have some legislated limits on the by-law-making power of owners corporations, to protect the interests of the minority – and in many cases, majority – of residents have do not get a say in the making of the rules.

The Tenants’ Union welcomes the discussion about reform of strata legislation and looks forward to contributions of everyone – especially tenants – with an interest in strata living.