QLD Strata: The Importance of ‘Being Reasonable’ When Towing Vehicles

The recent updates to Queensland strata laws have significantly altered the way body corporates manage parking violations on their properties. With the passing of the Body Corporate and Community Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, bodies corporate are now empowered to tow vehicles directly if they are parked in violation of the by-laws, bypassing the previous need for a contravention notice and adjudication by the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management. This new legislation underscores the importance of reasonableness in the enforcement of parking rules.

Understanding ‘Reasonableness’ in a Strata Context

In the context of strata management, reasonableness is pivotal for maintaining harmony and fairness within a community. Reasonableness, in this sense, means that actions taken by the body corporate, such as towing an illegally parked vehicle, should be fair, proportionate, and justifiable. It requires a balanced approach that considers the interests and rights of all parties involved—property owners, occupiers, and the broader community.

To ensure reasonableness, bodies corporate should:

  • Draft Clear By-Laws: Parking by-laws must be clearly written, easily understood, and legally enforceable. They should outline specific parking regulations and the consequences of violations, including the potential for towing. Seeking legal advice in drafting these by-laws can prevent ambiguities that might lead to disputes.
  • Effective Communication: Owners and occupiers should be well-informed about parking rules and the implications of violating these rules. This can be achieved through regular updates, meetings, and clear signage throughout the property.
  • Fair Enforcement: Before resorting to towing, the body corporate should ensure that the vehicle is indeed parked in clear violation of the by-laws. This could include maintaining an updated registry of vehicles owned or used by residents, which helps in identifying violators accurately.
  • Adequate Signage: Displaying clear and visible signs about parking regulations and the consequences of non-compliance is essential. This not only serves as a warning but also provides implied consent from vehicle owners and occupiers.

 

Legal Perspective on Reasonableness

From a legal standpoint, reasonableness involves adherence to due process and ensuring that actions taken are lawful and proportionate. The new towing legislation requires bodies corporate to:

  • Comply with Legal Requirements: Ensure that all towing actions comply with Queensland’s towing laws, which include using licensed towing companies and documenting the entire process thoroughly.
  • Document Actions: Keeping detailed records of parking violations, towing incidents, and all related communications is crucial. This documentation can be vital in resolving disputes and demonstrating that the body corporate acted reasonably and within the law.
  • Provide Opportunity for Redress: Owners and occupiers should have the opportunity to address any concerns or disputes regarding towing actions. This can be facilitated through transparent communication channels and fair hearing processes.

 

Engaging a Reputable Licensed Towing Contractor

One critical aspect of ensuring reasonableness in the towing process is engaging a reputable licensed towing contractor. The selection of a towing company is not just about finding a service provider but about ensuring that the entire towing process is handled professionally and in compliance with legal standards.

  • Verification of Credentials: Ensure that the towing contractor holds the necessary licenses and certifications required by Queensland law. This includes verifying their compliance with all relevant regulations and their ability to operate within the legal framework governing towing services.
  • Professional Conduct: A reputable towing contractor will adhere to ethical standards and professional conduct. They should be able to handle the towing process with minimal disruption and respect the rights of vehicle owners and occupiers.
  • Insurance and Liability: Confirm that the towing contractor has adequate insurance coverage to handle any potential damage or liability issues that might arise during the towing process. This protects the body corporate from legal and financial repercussions.
  • Transparency and Communication: The contractor should provide clear documentation and communication regarding each towing incident. This includes providing detailed reports, photographs of the vehicle before towing, and any interactions with the vehicle owner or occupier.

 

Balancing Interests and Maintaining Order

The essence of reasonableness in both strata and legal contexts is about balancing the enforcement of rules with fairness and transparency. By adhering to these principles, bodies corporate can manage parking issues effectively while maintaining the trust and cooperation of residents.

The new legislation, while streamlining the process for addressing parking violations, places a significant responsibility on bodies corporate to act reasonably. Ensuring that towing is a last resort, taken after clear violations and proper warnings, aligns with the spirit of the law and promotes a harmonious living environment.

 

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