To clamp, or not to clamp, that is the question: Who does a wheel clamping by-law apply to?

Importantly, by-laws do not bind visitors to the scheme. This means that any by-law regarding visitor parking spaces and parking on common property can only be enforced against a lot owner, occupier, mortgagee or covenant chargee or any lessee or sublessee of any lot or common property.

At most, the NSW model by-laws require a lot owner or occupier to “take all reasonable steps” to ensure that their visitors comply with the terms of the by-laws. Reasonable steps are likely to include lot owners and occupiers informing visitors of the relevant car parking by-laws, requesting that they visitors abide by the by-laws and, if they are advised of a breach, requesting that visitor move their vehicle.

Can we wheel clamp a vehicle on the common property?

This is a very common question, particularly for those who have visitors parking that is visible from the street and their property is near a hospital, shopping centre or commercial strip. The answer is maybe.

Wheel clamping is governed by sections 651B and 651C of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW). These sections provide that a person (including an owners corporation) cannot immobilise or unlawfully detain a vehicle that they do not own without first obtaining the permission of the person who owns the vehicle. The penalty for doing so can be up to $2,200.

A by-law can provide for wheel clamping however consent to immobilise or detain a vehicle under sections 651B and 651C of the Local Government Act is required. There are very few cases in this area and the jury is still out as to whether section 44 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 (NSW) provides the consent of lot owners and occupiers. It means that the by-laws have the effect of an agreement under seal. It may not however be sufficient to provide the required “consent”. In one QLD case a lot owner argued that they did not give consent (under the QLD equivalent to section 44) and that the consent was forced on them. The QLD Supreme Court agreed and treated the agreements created by way of by-laws between the body corporate and its proprietors as fictional agreements. If this approach was taken in NSW a by-law by itself would not provide the required consent.

To overcome this potential argument we strongly recommend that the consent of all owners and occupiers is obtained to any by-law providing for wheel clamping and our precedent parking by-law provides for this consent together with setting out a detailed procedure which is to be followed prior to any wheel clamping device being used that also includes a warning to the owner of the vehicle.

If your owners corporation is considering amending its by-laws to include the ability to wheel clamp or immobilise a vehicle we recommend they seek detailed advice on such a by-law please contact us at either our Sydney or Newcastle offices.

Allison Benson

Legal Practitioner Director

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