Dispute with a Neighbour? How Your Building's Owners Corportation Can Help

If you live in a building that is overseen by an owners corporation and are having a dispute with a neighbour, there are a number of ways in which the corporation can help. When outside assistance is requested (in the event of formal conciliation or arbitration), the corporation will need to be a part of the process. So what are the three steps for dispute resolution when you live in such a dwelling?

Step 1: Attempting Self-Resolution

Before formal conciliation can be requested from an applicable outside body, you might need to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to attempt to resolve the matter yourself. In instances when the dispute is with a particular neighbour, and how their actions are affecting you, the first step is to contact the person directly. It might be that the neighbour is continually making noise which can affect your homelife. There might be an excess of cigarette smoke emanating from their home (or they might be smoking in a common area where the smoke then wafts directly into your home). There might be water flowing onto your balcony or home's entrance if they live above you and water their plants without taking due care. Whatever the reason, you should contact the person, explaining the reasons for your concern, and requesting that the offending activities are ceased or modified to minimise their impact. This contact should ideally take place in writing, and you should send a copy to the owners corporation. You can also present your argument (and evidence) at the next owners corporation committee meeting. The committee might also wish to invite the neighbour in question to present their side of the matter, allowing informal mediation to take place.

Step 2: Formal Conciliation

If a resolution cannot be amicably reached, you can request that a qualified conciliator be consulted. This is a person assigned by the Department of Justice or the Office of the Attorney-General in your state or territory. They are impartial, and will request a meeting with both you and the neighbour you are in dispute with. This is why it's helpful that you communicated in writing during your attempts at self-resolution, as you might need to present this evidence during the conciliation meeting. Representatives from the owners corporation committee can also be nominated (by the committee itself) to attend. While a building manager might oversee much of the day-to-day running of the actual premises, they cannot attend a conciliation in place of the committee members. A mutually agreed-upon resolution will hopefully be reached at this stage.

Step 3: Adjudication

If self-resolution and conciliation fail to result in an appropriate resolution, you might wish to request adjudication. This should be a last resort, and is a similar process to conciliation, though is overseen by an adjudicator. If an order is made at the conclusion of the adjudication process, this can subsequently be enforced by the Magistrates Court if it's breached (which differs from an agreement reached by conciliation). Fees will be charged for this process, and you should find out the date of the next owners corporation annual meeting prior to commencing formal adjudication. If the other party's response to the problem has been insufficient or can be proven to lack merit, it might be possible to pass a motion at the general meeting to resolve the issue without needing to go to adjudication.

Hopefully any disputes with your neighbours will be quickly and amicably resolved, but it's important to know your options when this is not the case.

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