Here are a few tips on what you need to know about apartment renovation in a strata building.
1. Common vs Individual Property
The Owners Corporation basically owns and maintains everything beyond your paint and floorcoverings with the majority of strata schemes. This means you own – and can potentially renovate – everything within the interior walls.
Internal doors, kitchen cabinetry, bathroom vanities and wall-coverings all apply. However, you may need to ask permission to change common property – the walls, windows, front and balcony doors, some types of lights and most types of flooring.
To be sure, it is always best to check with your strata managing agent, and they can guide you through the process.
2. Approval by local Council
Depending on how extensive the building works are, the approval of local Council may be required. Other considerations, such as apartments within a heritage building, will have certain conditions imposed.
3. Approval by Owners Corporation
Read the by-laws. These rules govern the use of common property and outline what is and isn’t allowed for renovations. They may also govern how renovations must be carried out (such as payment of bonds, working hours and requirements for insurance held by the tradesmen).
By-laws can vary from strata to strata, so even if you’ve renovated before, it pays to check. Several levels of approval may be required from the Owners Corporation. Each Owners Corporation may have its own additional requirements.
If the building works are minor and don’t impact the common property or change the appearance of the building, then approval from the Strata Committee may only be required. If the building works affect common property, change the appearance of the building or fall within other circumstances, then a general meeting and/or a special by-law may be required to be created and approved by the Owners Corporation.
This is a complex process, and a specialist strata lawyer is recommended to provide you with the correct advice.
Seek advice from your strata manager before committing to any building or apartment renovation works. If the proper approvals are not obtained, you may be required to undo the renovation should the permission be denied by local Council or the Owners Corporation, and you may also be held liable for any damages.
As with every aspect of communal living, being nice to the neighbours will make the apartment renovation process more manageable.
As soon as the renovation is approved and underway, you’re responsible for making sure tradespeople adhere to strata by-laws while they’re completing the project.
It is also important to be mindful of your neighbours. Simple gestures like dropping a note in their mailbox to inform them when noisy works will happen will go a long way to help them through what can be a disruptive time for them.
Remember that the law or by-laws are the baseline of what is required. There’s nothing stopping you from going over and above.
5. Dos And Don’ts
Here’s a quick guide to the basic dos and don’ts:
- Walls: You can paint and paper your walls. However, for anything else – from cutting holes to removing walls – you may need permission to ensure you aren’t interfering with noise insulation and the building’s structural integrity.
- Flooring: Replacing carpets isn’t usually a problem but check about floorboards. Most strata schemes have strict by-laws to protect your downstairs neighbours from noise.
- Kitchen and bathroom: For anything that may cause a leak, such as tiling or changing the location of pipes, you’ll need prior approval. You may also need approval for kitchen cabinets but not bathroom vanities.
- Windows and doors: Any entrances, such as the front and balcony doors and all windows, are common property, so you can’t replace the front door or fit new windows without prior approval. However, you can change internal doors.
- Light fittings: You can replace internal light fittings, but you’ll need permission to retrofit downlights. An incorrect installation may compromise the building’s fire safety certificate.
6. Submit your application
Submit your application form to your strata managing agent together with your supporting documents. Your strata manager will review the type of works that are applied for, and the approval required and advise of the next steps. Your strata manager does not have the authority to decide on an application.
Approval requirements for works
Bannermans Lawyers produce a Fact Sheet that explains the necessary approvals required for certain types of renovation works. Please refer to the Fact Sheet here.
Disclaimer: The articles and comments in this publication are necessarily brief and general in nature and are not intended to be relied upon by any reader in dealing with a particular problem. Whilst all care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, the writer and the producers accept no liability for any omission or misguidance.
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