Illegal parking disputes in strata: What to do about unauthorised parking on common property?

Parking issues, particularly those arising from unauthorised use of parking spaces, have long been a source of major concern for strata schemes across New South Wales. Whether it’s residents occupying unallocated spaces, visitors disregarding designated areas, or the perplexing presence of abandoned vehicles, parking spots in strata settings often becomes a focal point for disputes and misunderstandings. Adding to this complexity are the legal intricacies that can make it even more challenging to address illegally parked cars. In this article, we delve into the intricacies, solutions, and legal avenues related to unauthorised parking in NSW strata environments. Through a thorough examination of by-laws, proactive engagement with those in violation, and leveraging the authority of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview essential for lot owners and owners corporations to maintain peace and order in their strata’s common property.

Table of Contents

What is included in ‘unauthorised parking’?

“Unauthorised parking,” as defined within strata regulations, pertains to parking actions that contravene the established by-laws or the guidelines set by the owners corporation. Such infractions include:

  • Residents occupying parking area designated for other members.
  • Visitors using spots specifically allocated for residents.
  • Improper use of areas reserved for emergency parking.
  • Vehicles parked in common areas not designated for parking purposes.

What to do about unauthorised parking on common property?

Dealing with unauthorised parking problems in New South Wales strata environments? It’s a common challenge, but there are established methods to tackle it. Here’s a structured approach to address illegal parking in communal areas:

Review the strata by-laws

Start by meticulously examining your strata property’s by-laws. Ensure they have clear provisions addressing unauthorised parking in common areas. Enforcing existing by-laws is crucial, especially since the owners corporation has the authority to impose penalties for violations. If the current by-laws are not comprehensive, consider revising them to specifically address illicit parking. Aim to have by-laws that manage visitor parking effectively and bind both property owners and tenants.

Engage with the offender to solve the issue amicably

Before escalating to formal measures, it’s essential to communicate with the individual responsible for the parking infringement. Providing them a chance to rectify their actions and clear up any misunderstandings fosters a sense of community and understanding. Resolving the matter informally can be efficient, cost-effective, and maintain a harmonious atmosphere. Understanding the underlying cause can often lead to a mutually agreeable solution.

Implement clear signage

One practical way to prevent unauthorised parking in shared spaces is through clear and concise signage in the parking area. The owners corporation should prioritise installing signs that clearly outline parking rules for both residents and visitors. Highlighting car park areas designated for visitors with clear markers, such as ‘Visitor Parking Only’, can help demarcate car spaces meant solely for residents.

Fortify security measures

Amplify security provisions in and around parking zones. This might involve the integration of physical deterrents like bollards or advanced access mechanisms like swipe card systems. The inclusion of CCTV cameras not only acts as a preventive measure but can also assist in pinpointing those flouting the rules.

Explore external parking partnerships

Consider collaborating with external entities to alleviate parking problems. Securing an agreement with the local council can shift the responsibility of parking management to municipal authorities, streamlining enforcement. Alternatively, partnerships with private parking management companies can also be a feasible option. However, exercise prudence when engaging with private firms; thorough vetting is essential as some might operate in grey legal areas, which could lead to further complications or disagreements.

Dispose of abandoned vehicles

Before taking action against what appears to be an abandoned vehicle, it’s essential to confirm that it hasn’t been reported stolen. To verify this, the following steps are required:

  1. Obtain a certificate from the Commissioner of Police.
  2. Secure a confirmed search result from the Personal Property Securities Register.

For guidance on procuring these documents, it’s advisable to consult with your local police station. Once you have both the certificate and the search result, and they confirm the vehicle’s non-stolen status, the vehicle can be treated as per the regulations for unclaimed goods. Such vehicles can then be moved from the parking lot or stored for future action.

However, it’s important to note that in NSW, actions like wheel clamping, towing, or detaining a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent are prohibited. Simply citing by-laws or displaying signs doesn’t grant the authority to carry out such measures.

While reactive measures, such as reaching out to law enforcement or local authorities to report illegal parking, might not always yield results, proactive approaches tend to be more effective. Implementing preventive measures not only deters unauthorised parking from the outset but is also cost-effective and contributes to maintaining a harmonious environment within the strata community.

If other methods prove ineffective, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) is an available option. Read further to understand the steps for approaching NCAT to report illegal parking and find a solution.

Issue a Notice to Comply

When there’s a violation of the parking by-law, the owners corporation or the strata committee can issue a Notice to Comply. A strata manager, given the appropriate authority under the Strata Management Agreement, can also issue this notice. Using the model form from the NSW Office of Fair Trading is recommended as it outlines the correct delivery procedures. Completing the affidavit of service on the back of the form is essential, especially if the matter goes to the NCAT.

Gather evidence of the violation

The owners corporation should obtain evidence of the parking violation in relation to the Notice to Comply. A simple photograph of the vehicle parked illegally may not be sufficient, especially if the model by-law is in play. The person responsible might argue that they weren’t driving at the time of the violation. Therefore, having CCTV systems in the strata premises is beneficial. Modern CCTV systems with facial and license plate recognition can provide conclusive evidence.

File an application against the breach

If a violation of the Notice to Comply is identified within 12 months of its issuance, the owners corporation can file an application with the NCAT for a penalty order. Mediation before this step isn’t always necessary. Hearings typically conclude in 3 to 6 months, but this can vary based on the behavior of the involved parties.

Obtain a Penalty Order

The owners corporation has the ability to obtain a penalty order, which can amount to up to $1,100 for each parking by-law violation. This amount can double if the same violation occurs within 12 months after the initial order. In certain situations, the owners corporation may also be eligible to receive an order covering the legal fees from the case. This might be the case if the defendant doesn’t provide a strong defense, misses evidence submission deadlines, fails to attend sessions, or presents a weak case overall.

Conclusion: Navigating strata parking challenges for harmonious living

Living within a strata scheme combines the advantages of community living with the perks of individual ownership. However, such settings are not without their challenges, with parking disputes often emerging as a primary concern. Navigating the complexities of unauthorised parking, implementing effective solutions, and understanding the legal nuances demands a comprehensive strategy.

The essence of strata living is mutual respect and the efficient use of shared spaces. While proactive measures and mutual understanding can address many issues, there are times when expert legal advice is crucial. If you’re grappling with strata parking challenges or in need of specialised legal guidance, PBL Law Group is here to assist. Committed to addressing the unique challenges of strata living, we’re here to offer clarity and direction tailored to your needs.

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Authored by

Raea Khan

Director Lawyer

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Raea Khan Circle
Director Lawyer
Raea Khan

Raea is Managing Director and Principal Lawyer for PBl Law Group. Raea assists clients with major projects, property developments, construction and strata law.

He has worked in Western Australia and Queensland assisting with expansion projects in the energy and resource sector and now predominately advises clients in Strata and Community Association matters.

He is a member of the Australian College of Strata Lawyers where majority of his work is advising developers and owners corporations with dispute related minor and major defects, strata governance and common property litigation. He is proficient at leading negotiations and meetings.

Raea has a particular interest in the commercial aspect of any dispute and always tries to weigh up the risk, reward and benefit of legal proceedings at each different stage.

Raea enjoys all forms of competitive sport, including Crossfit and actively participates in Triathlons, representing Australia as an age group athlete. He was a member of Red Head Surf Lifesaving club.

  • Strata Law
  • Construction & Major Projects
  • Commercial and Business Law
  • Planning & Environment Law