While living in Australia citizens are subject to a number of laws and by-laws that affect our everyday lives. One area of law that’s unfamiliar yet applicable to our everyday lives, for those of us who live in apartments, and work in communal offices, or work in multi-level retail outlets, is strata law.  

In property terms, strata refers to multiple people living in communal areas, or working in commercial areas within one block. Strata properties can be apartment block buildings, retail shopping centres, retirement villages, condominiums, resorts, or a hybrid of these types of communal living spaces. 

Strata living, although it has been around in Australia for decades, is a legal grey area to the average layman.

The management of strata living is complex and disputes naturally arise under shared living and working environments. To fully understand strata law, we need to first separate it into two categories.   

Strata Property Categories. 

Common Property: This is property that all owners share and is managed by a corporation formed by the owners. The corporation is its own legal entity when the joined property plan is registered with land and housing registration authorities. 

This corporation manages the repairs, maintenance, finance, insurance, individual records, rules, regulations, by-laws, and administration of the strata scheme. There may be a group or an individual who looks after all common property in this management corporation.  

Lot Property: This is property owned by the individual within the entire apartment or complex development. For example, an individual may own unit number 535 in an apartment complex but is restricted to layout detailed within their individual property deeds.   

Often in contention are the areas of property such as ceiling spaces, often considered as common property, and conflicts arise when it is unknown who is responsible for the maintenance, insurance, and repairs of these grey areas.    

When in doubt it is worthwhile to consult with strata dispute lawyers to determine the boundaries within your strata scheme as these boundaries will effect the future responsibility of the property. Simple spaces like ceiling areas and balconies can be subject to unknown common law by-laws.   

Within strata scheme, renovation projects need to be considered seriously. While installing a new kitchen in a privately owned property on a privately owned plot of land is a simple task legally, within a personal lot property arrangement with a common management company the process becomes a headache. 

All renovations are usually subject to restrictions. In most cases, a plan of the proposed development or renovation, and a deposit of cash in advance are given to the property management company. So while paying out money for contractors for renovations such as a floor resurfacing or a bathroom, you will also need to hold in escrow a sum upwards of one thousand dollars to the management company in case your renovation causes a loss of value or revenue to the entire complex.


By-laws are rules created by the company or strata committee and include things like pets, parking, noise and smoking, so it is important to understand the by-laws in place in strata management schemes. Current and potential owners should be furnished a copy of the by-laws from the corporation, strata manager, or their real estate agent. If by-laws aren’t followed, financial penalties can be imposed by a committee management tribunal. It is important to be aware of these by-laws if you are residing or operating in the property strata or investing in a lot for rental purposes. Especially so if you are planning to sublet. Your rental contract needs to align perfectly with the rules and regulations of the management committee to avoid disputes further along the line.  

Resolving Disputes

All interested parties will benefit from impartial advice from a competent strata dispute lawyer. Of special importance are disputes regarding structural repairs, or matters of health and safety such as pest infestation or fire hazards. A strata lawyer will help resolve disputes and minimize disputes in the future. In turn, the strata scheme community will be able to co-exist in a more harmonious fashion. A lawyer will describe your rights within the scheme in a clearer fashion than the management company or committee who may well harbor conflicts of interest. For clarity of all the above, which is fluid information, subject to change from project to project, and location to location, a local lawyer familiar with the by-laws of the complex is your best bet for advice.     

Owners Corporation Regulations

After completing the purchase of a strata title property, you will automatically become a member of the Owners Corporation and be subject to the number of by-laws that the owners and renters must follow. For issues that are not clearly covered by the set of by-laws subject to your strata development scheme, a strata dispute lawyer may be called to mitigate or commute the dispute.  

To Learn More: 4 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Lawyer