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Tenants’ groups push for renters to have a greater say on building management

TENANTS should be allowed to attend owners’ corporation meetings to give renters a much greater say in how their strata buildings are managed and maintained, tenants’ groups and strata experts have said.

There should also be changes to the legislation to stop the misuse of bylaws, such as banning pets from buildings, as part of the state government’s review of the strata laws, a leading strata law expert, Cathy Sherry, said.

As part of its review, the government last month launched an online forum to give people and businesses the chance to discuss and debate potential amendments to the strata legislation.

One of the big issues raised was inviting tenants to meetings held by the owners’ corporation.

Chris Martin, the senior policy officer with the Tenants’ Union of NSW, said strata bylaws were often the biggest problem faced by tenants, especially those banning pets in buildings or delays in repairs to common areas.

“About half the people living in strata [buildings] are tenants so generally we would be supportive of tenants being given more of a say,” he said.

He said one of the most problematic bylaws tenants came up against was the prohibition of pets. “Really it should be about the ability of a responsible adult to make a responsible decision,” Mr Martin said.

The last review of the Strata Schemes Management Act was carried out in 2004 and a review of the Community Land Management Act was last conducted in 2006, but the government said only “cosmetic reforms” were achieved.

Ms Sherry, a senior lecturer in law at the University of NSW, said there was good reason for tenants to be more active in the running of their building, especially if they have lived in it for many years.

“Tenants are often much more connected to the building than an absent investor-owner,” she said.

“Owners obviously need to have a say because they are the ones that own the buildings but there should also be a way to give renters a say, so perhaps that could be renters collectively getting one vote or a tenants’ forum.”

More than 2 million people now live in over 70,000 strata schemes in NSW and within 20 years, half the state’s population are expected to be living in strata and community schemes.

Alexandra Smith

Thank you for TEYS Lawyers for this article