The by-laws of a strata scheme are binding upon lot owners and occupiers alike (see section 135 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (“Act”)). If a lot owner or occupier breaches one or more of a strata scheme’s by-laws, the owners corporation has the ability to take steps to enforce those by-laws.

In summary, the by-law enforcement process is as follows:

  1. Prior to commencing formal enforcement proceedings, the owners corporation should first issue a letter to the lot owner or occupier to advise of the breach and ask that it cease. A copy of the by-law should be included with the letter.  Where the breach is committed by a tenant, the letter should be issued to both the landlord and the tenant.
  2. If the breach continues despite the initial letter, the owners corporation should serve on the lot owner or occupier a formal notice to comply pursuant to section 146 of the Act (“Notice”, previously section 45 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 (“Old Act”)). The Notice must require the lot owner or occupier to comply with by-law and must include a copy of the by-law in question. The Notice should give the lot owner or occupier a reasonable time to comply with the by-law, for example, 28 days. If more than one by-law has been breached, a separate Notice should be issued in respect of each. A template Notice from NSW Fair Trading can be accessed here. The Notice may be issued by the strata manager if this function has been delegated to the strata manager pursuant to the agency agreement. Otherwise, a resolution of the strata committee is required. The issuing of a notice is an essential step prior to further action being taken against the lot owner or occupier at the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (“NCAT”).
  3. If a Notice is issued and the by-law has still not been complied with by the lot owner or occupier, the owners corporation can apply to NCAT for a penalty order under section 147 of the Act. The strata application form can be found here and is used for all strata disputes. This must occur within 12 months of the Notice. If NCAT is satisfied that the Notice was validly given and the lot owner or occupier has breached the by-law since that Notice, a monetary penalty of up to 10 penalty units (presently $1,100.00) may be payable. This penalty is payable to the owners corporation.
  4. If the lot owner or occupier breaches the same by-law again within 12 months of the monetary penalty, the owners corporation is entitled to apply to NCAT again without issuing a further Notice. If the lot owner or occupier is again found in breach of the by-law, a monetary penalty of up to 20 penalty units (presently $2,200.00) may be payable to the owners corporation.

Steeper penalties are payable for breaching the occupancy limits contained in section 137 of the Act.

So, what changed with the introduction of the Act late last year? There are two main differences between the Old Act and the current Act in terms of by-law enforcement.

Firstly, penalties for breaches of by-laws are payable to the owners corporation rather than NSW Fair Trading. Owners corporations no longer have to go to the expense of by-law enforcement proceedings with no chance of recovering any costs. Section 248 of the Act provides penalties may be recovered from lot owners as if they were a contribution under the Act.

Secondly, owners corporations no longer have the option to seek an order from the NCAT adjudicator requiring the lot owner or occupier to comply with the by-law. Under the Old Act, if an adjudicator’s order was made and there was still no compliance with the by-law, the owners corporation could apply for a penalty order. The new process is that the owners corporation may apply for an NCAT order under section 232 of the Act. If the lot owner or occupier breaches that order, then the next step is to seek a civil penalty.

There is currently a problem with the legislation in that section 202 of the Old Act, which provided for civil penalties for breaches of adjudicator’s orders, no longer exists. We are currently seeking clarification from NCAT in this regard. For more detail on this problem with the legislation, have a listen to Amanda Farmer’s podcast interview with Reena Van Aalst here.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice. This article is intended to provide general information in summary form only. You should not rely on the content of this article as legal advice. If you would like advice specific to you and your situation, please contact us.

14 Responses

  1. If you have been issued a notice to comply for breaking a special by law on 1/05/2018 is it still enforceable after all this time and can you be issued with another breach notice about the same issue.

    1. Hi G, in NSW, the penalty application has to be filed within 12 months of the date of the notice to comply was given. See section 147(4) Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. Yes, you can be issued with another breach notice about the same issue.

  2. I live in a strata scheme which is a subsidiary of a Community Scheme. The Community Scheme consists of one development, the Strata Scheme, and 8 Development lots.

    The Managing Proprietor of the community scheme insists – the maintenance of the Private Access Way is 100% the responsibility of the Strata Scheme. Whereas The Community Management Statement By-Laws 4.4 & 5.2 contradicts that by stating, (The Private Access Way shall be maintained by the Community Association and the proprietors of Community Development lots in accordance with By-Law 5). The upshot of all this is, The Private Access Way is in a terrible state of repair with large potholes etc. The Strata Scheme is deemed 32.1% of the Community Association and the balance 67.9 is owned by the Managing Proprietor. We in the Strata are willing to contribute our 32% if Mr X will contribute his 67%. But for most of the previous 20 yrs, when the strata have paid levies to the Managing Proprietor, he used only that money and personally did repairs himself in a very shoddy way. The Strata now insists that future road repairs be done by a professional company.

    I am sure that the above demonstrates the terrible impasse we now face. He has 68 votes against our 32 at any community meeting. What can we do?

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your concern is now forwarded to Amanda and she will respond to your comment shortly.

    2. Hi John, does the Community Association employ a professional managing agent, or is it managed by this 67% owner? The guidance of a professional manager would probably assist, but I appreciate you won’t be able to get that across the line with Mr X holding 67% of the vote at CA level.
      Is there any chance Mr X is the original developer? If so, the legislation provides for the value of his vote to be reduced…
      Failing that, a Tribunal order may be your only avenue.

  3. Hi Amanda, I have a question. Our Strata Manager has issued a Notice to Comply to a resident at our Strata complex for a parking issue with her vehicle.
    She was doing the right thing and parking at another spot or in her garage. Now she is going back to the parking issue that the notice was for.
    I asked our Strata Manager what are the next steps and she then replied with the following “Your options are to issue another Notice to comply or start Mediation to seek orders through Fair Trading (NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal). What exactly does she mean “Mediation” is that applying to NCAT for
    a penalty to be given to the resident? Also where she is parking is blocking the view of vehicles using the mirror to see other vehicles coming on the top driveway so is causing a safety issue. Should be give her another Notice to Comply with the safety issue being raised in the notice as well as parking.

    1. Hi Kay, you don’t necessarily need to mediate before seeking a penalty for failure to comply with a notice to comply. It is one of the few areas ‘exempt’ from mediation under the NSW legislation. BUT mediation probably would not hurt, and may even resolve the matter. In your circumstance, where there is a safety issue at play, I’d probably do both: apply for mediation, and while that’s taking its time to happen (at the moment, we are suffering about a 2month wait) file your application for a penalty order. The first directions hearing for that application will probably take about the same amount of time, maybe slightly less: 4 to 6 weeks.

  4. Hi Amanda,

    If our Strata Manager has issued the notice to comply to an occupier, but he continues to breach the by-law (vehicle trespassing on parking space) and refuses to respond to our notice to comply. What should we do? Should we issue the penalty through NCAT or Strata Manager?

    Thank you for your time.
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Sorry to trouble you again. If the tenant breached the by-law, but the owner of the unit refused to provide his contact (name, email, telephone contact), Can we issue the notice to comply to the owner of the unit instead of the tenant?

      Many thanks,

      1. Hi Angie, both the strata law and the Residential Tenancies Act require the landlord to provide the tenant’s name to the Owners Corporation. You cannot issue the notice to comply to the owner unless they are the one breaching the by-law.

    2. Hi Angie, if a notice to comply is not complied with, the next step is to apply to the Tribunal for a penalty order. I’d suggest your building obtains legal advice on this process, as it can be technical.

  5. Hi

    I live in a strata complex with a bylaw registered in 2012 under the 1996 strata schemes management act.

    I have recently received a strata breach notice. According to the notice, I have breach x bylaw under the 2015 strata schemes management act however I have not receive any updated strata bylaw apart from the original.

    Is the breach notice still valid since it’s inconsistent to the registered strata bylaw.

    Thanks for your time


    1. Hi Javin, notices to comply are legal documents that must meet strict technical requirements in order to be valid. I discussed this on my webinar this week, you’ll find that has some helpful information. You can catch the replay here: Also on that page, you’ll find out more about our online community, where I’m helping members with exactly these problems. You have the opportunity to join us on the inside before midnight this Sunday. I hope you’ll take it up. All information over at:

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