Approval of minor renovations by a strata committee Section 110(6)(b) of the Strata Schemes Management Act (‘the Act’) allows an owners corporation to delegate the function of considering minor renovations (such as “installing or replacing wood or other hard floors”) to its strata committee.
To do so, the owners corporation must have registered a by-law that expressly provides the delegation. In the absence of a by-law, minor renovations can only be approved by ordinary resolution at a general meeting of the owners corporation.
How long does the owners corporation or strata committee have to consider the application?
No law specifies a time frame in which the owners corporation or its strata committee must consider an application.
Section 43(f) of the Act grants the Secretary the power to convene strata committee meetings, general meetings and annual general meetings.
Section 18 of the Act requires the annual general meeting to be held once each financial year. For strata committee meetings and general meetings, there is no requirement for the Secretary to convene them unless they’ve been forced to do so.
Suppose an owner has submitted a motion under Schedule 1, clause 4 of the Act. In that case, it must be included in the agenda of the following general meeting (whenever that is convened).
How do I make it happen if the Secretary refuses to convene a meeting?
The Strata Managing Agent may have been delegated functions of the Secretary under section 51 of the Act by way of their appointment and under the terms of their agreement. However, the Secretary’s powers supersede the delegation (in other words, if the Secretary invokes their rights, duties and obligations, the Strata Managing Agent cannot overrule them).
Otherwise, other mechanisms exist to force a meeting. If the Secretary is not convening a general meeting soon, an owner can arrange a qualified request in accordance with section 19 of the Act.
What is the Strata Managing Agent’s role in all of this?
The Strata Managing Agent would assist in communicating between the Strata Committee and the applicant. It is not unusual for a Strata Committee to review an application for works to provide feedback on its prospects. Still, the decision to approve or deny the application must be made at a formal meeting. The Strata Managing Agent’s role is to give advice but not to make decisions or pass judgement on the application.
What if my application is taken to a meeting and is then unreasonably refused?
Section 126 of the Act allows an owner to seek orders from the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal, ordering an owners corporation to consent to minor renovations or other alterations to common property directly affecting the owner’s lot. The Tribunal must be satisfied that the owners corporation has unreasonably withheld its approval.
How else can I move this forward?
Whilst the strata committee and owners corporation may not be obligated to hold a meeting; it is not uncommon for an owner to want to renovate. Most commonly, those leasing their property want to renovate in-between leases. Here are a few tips:
- Allow plenty of time and apply early. The approval process can take weeks or months. Once you know you want to renovate, start the dialogue with the Strata Managing Agent or Strata Committee. It is always worthwhile to get approval before wanting to do the work. Approvals don’t have a time limit on them either.
- Offer to cover the owners corporation’s costs. Meetings cost money, and applications will often be left for a future meeting to minimise expenses. Offering to cover those costs could remove any financial concerns by the owners or committee members.
- Communicate and understand any concerns. Sometimes the problems may be legitimate. Other times, they could be misconceived or unreasonable. Speaking to experts will guide you on what is unreasonable. By-laws can be unreasonable, and just because one is registered does not guarantee it is not unreasonable.
- Seek legal advice if you must. It is the last resort, but a lawyer specialising in strata law will be able to advise you and the owners corporation on the law and any cases relevant to the circumstances.
What if my renovation is not minor? The same principles apply to changes to common property, with the only difference being that the strata committee cannot authorise those works.