Experienced lawyers will tell you there’s danger in being confined by a bad draft. When a document is poor to begin with it’s hard to make it great. Sometimes it’s just best to start again with a blank piece of paper.
That’s what I did yesterday when asked to draft a by-law for a major renovation of a Sydney apartment. I’m happy with the result – it’s fresh, clear and tight. I’ve made it fair to both the owner and the owners corporation anticipating new strata laws later this year that will prohibit harsh and oppressive by-laws. I’ve also made sure it fits well with the conditions of the local council development consents without shifting the regulatory burden from the local council to the owners corporation.
By-laws, like other legal precedents, have a use-by date, not just because laws and community standards change but because there’s been more cutting and pasting of these documents than at a kindergarten’s craft time. Over time these precedents have become corrupted by different drafting styles and concepts.
New strata laws for NSW will force a one-off review of all existing by-laws within a year of the new laws commencing. Existing exclusive use and special privileges will be protected but everything else will have to be revisited and based on where I got to yesterday that will be for the common good.