Resolving disputes with other residents

Resolving disputes

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Like any communal living arrangement, disagreements can and do arise amongst residents. Whether it’s late-night parties or smells from neighbouring garbage bins, tolerance, understanding, and a desire to resolve issues quickly and harmoniously are always the best solutions. 

This article looks at the process of self-resolution and resolving disputes with other residents in a body corporate scheme. 

Understand the legislation and your scheme’s by-laws

A good place to start is understanding the rules and regulations that govern your body corporate. Perhaps your issue is covered by legislation or the scheme’s by-laws, giving you context about what is and isn’t acceptable.

By-laws cover a wide range of topics, and compliance is compulsory for all residents, applying equally to owner-occupiers, tenants, and visitors.

Examples of governance in a body corporate using by-laws:

  • Changes to each lot’s external appearance
  • Renovations of a lot
  • Rules for using the shared recreation areas
  • Speed limit on the shared driveways
  • Opening times of the shared facilities
  • What plants can be planted in courtyards
  • Noise and parking restrictions

The legislation sets out a multi-step process when dealing with disputes:

  • Self-resolution
  • Issuing of formal breach notice (BCCM form 11 or form 110
  • Conciliation
  • Adjudication
  • Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

Self-resolution

If you are in disagreement with another owner or occupier, you must attempt to resolve the issue directly before pursuing other dispute resolution methods.

This initial stage of self-resolution expects reasonable actions to address the problem. This could include:

  • Discussing your complaint with the party involved, this could involve talking with the neighbour, explaining your situation, and finding an acceptable compromise for both parties.
  • Communicating directly with the other party in writing. This can later serve as evidence of your attempt at self-resolution.
  • Involving the body corporate committee, if direct negotiation has failed.

The steps you take will vary depending on the nature of your dispute, the parties involved, and the complexity of the issue at hand.

It is important to know that complaints cannot be made anonymously in a body corporate. If you have an issue with your neighbouring owner, that owner will be entitled, under the law, to know the details of your complaint as well as access to your contact details.

While this may be uncomfortable, it is better to have a direct discussion earlier when there is an opportunity for compromise, rather than meeting the other party for the first time over a conciliation desk.

See our article The Art of Amicable Dispute Resolution

Getting the body corporate committee involved

Enforcing by-laws is a core duty of the body corporate committee. If attempts at one-to-one communication fail, involving them may be the next step in addressing your issue. Start by writing a formal letter to the committee, outlining the matter, including any evidence, times and dates to support your complaint.

If the complaint involves a by-law breach, the body corporate may also start an informal conversation with the resident. If this is unsuccessful, as outlined in the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997, they can issue a by-law contravention notice to the owner or occupier. This notice serves as the first formal communication regarding a breach of the by-laws.

See our article on Enforcing By-Laws

What next?

If self-resolution and committee involvement fail,  you can apply to the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management for dispute resolution. In most cases, you will be required to attend an impartial conciliation as the compulsory first step in dispute resolution.

Conciliation normally involves either a face-to-face meeting or a teleconference between you, the other parties, and the conciliator. You will be asked to show that you have tried self-resolution before you can apply for dispute resolution.

After conciliation, both parties will receive a conciliation agreement which must be adhered to. If either party disagrees with the agreement, or it is breached, the aggrieved party can lodge an application for adjudication with the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management.

This process can be long and stressful, however adjudication on the matter will provide a clear outcome to all parties. If an adjudication order is breached, the matter can progress to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Should the matter progress to QCAT, the final adjudication is then enforceable in the Magistrates Court if necessary.

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