The first iteration of the strata laws of NSW in 1961 was delightfully short. It did all the important work you want a piece of legislation to do and left everything else to common sense. There were disputes, for sure, but the records reveal they were over matters of importance not pernickety matters of procedure.
The simple days of the sixties are long gone and round after round of law reform has attempted to save the people from themselves, with ever increasingly complex rules and procedures for most everything, including how we might have a dispute. This comes to us in the 2016 strata law reforms in the form of a provision for the establishment of an internal disputes resolution procedure.
By the new law, our strata corporations may establish a voluntary process for resolving internal disputes. It’s not compulsory and, as if to denude it of any force at all, the relevant section counters that whether or not one engages in such a process has no impact on other mediation or dispute resolution procedures. Bravo – so here’s something you might want to do but if you don’t it doesn’t matter.
Experience from other states and territories where this has been tried with a little more authenticity – because it’s compulsory – is that if you create these processes they become used and not always for good.
We should be all about dispute resolution, but let’s not create forms and procedures where none are necessary.