Are you speaking legalese? – The need for easily understandable by-laws.

For instructions to be followed, they need to easily understood, likewise, we believe by-laws should use language and a structure which is immediately apparent and understandable, avoiding the use of legal jargon or overly complicated terms and phrases known as legalese.

Field research was conducted in New Zealand, involving a sample group of individuals with and without legal training who were presented with the same contract in two forms, one in legalese and the other in plain English. A follow-up questionnaire indicated that the majority of the respondents preferred the plain English contact, identifying the legalese document to be more time consuming to prepare and read and understand, further, the majority found the plain English contract to be the most precise and therefore less likely to be ambiguous.

In addition to being more easily understood, by-laws which are written in plain English will focus on the behaviour/issue which is to be regulated and will therefore likely prevent disputes as people will be aware of what is expected of them and of other and standards will be set for future behaviour. We find that it is useful to consider a by-law’s audience, as by-laws are predominantly for the use of lot owners and occupants and are not solely for use by legal professionals and as such, where possible, plain English should be used.

Written with assistance by Zachary Sie, Paralegal

3 responses to “Are you speaking legalese? – The need for easily understandable by-laws.

  1. Pingback: NSW: The Need for Easily Understandable By-laws - No Legalese Please!·

  2. Totally agree. Unfortunate if your Secretary happens to be a Strata Lawyer and adds 3 pages of legal jargon to your By-laws about pets. I also think renovations by-laws are counter productive to normal people and tenants being able to follow rules in a building. They should live somewhere else. Also the concept of model by-laws based on when a scheme was created and separate special by-laws isn’t helpful.

    • Hi J, unfortunately us lawyers can’t help ourselves and do like to add carve outs and conditions in our documents. It is a struggle to make by-laws as simple as possible yet to keep necessary conditions in. Allison

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