All you ever needed to know about renos

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That's the trouble with renos ,,, byt the time you realise you've stuffed up, it's often too late.

There are so many different sources for information about what you can and can’t do in your apartment or strata scheme I thought I might post this compilation of renovation regulations that I put together for my investment property’s strata committee.

It touches most of the bases but things change in strata more rapidly that you might thinks and it’s always best to check with someone who knows what they are talking about before committing to a renovation.

E.g. ask the strata manager or building manager, not the bloke at work whose brother-in-law used to rent a flat in Hobart.

Minor and Major Renovation Approvals (NSW)

As owners of a unit you may feel that you can make any changes to your property that you wish: this is not the case.

There are areas of your unit that are common property – or adjoin common property – or which have elements, notably waterproofing, that have implications for your neighbours or the whole scheme and therefore have restriction and regulations applied to them.

To complicate matters even further there are three levels of renovation defined in the NSW strata Act each of which requires different levels of approval: cosmetic changes, minor renovations and major renovations affecting common property.

For instance, changes to waterproofed areas are generally considered major renovations and as such require a common property by-law that can only be passed by a super-majority of 75% of owners voting at a general meeting.

Waterproofed areas include but are not limited to:

  • All slabs above the basement
  • Retaining walls
  • Bathrooms floors & walls
  • Laundries floors & walls
  • Balconies floors, walls & hobs/masonry balustrades
  • Lobbies
  • Paths
  • Stairs
  • External podium

To be clear, whenever any part of the building is to be disturbed – even if it is just to drill holes to fix something you wish to add to your property – it is best to check to see if there are waterproofing or common property elements involved.

In the first instance, you can check with your Strata Committee Secretary, the strata manager or a committee member with specific knowledge of the building to see what level of approvals are required. Meanwhile here is a guid to what’s allowed and what isn’t and the levels of permission you might need.

Major or Minor?

Minor renovations, as defined by NSW strata law (Strata Schemes Management and Strata Regulations Acts) can be approved by the Strata Committee but you still have to submit detailed plans before they can give approval.  Approval may be subject to reasonable conditions but may not be unreasonably refused.

Major renovations come under much more stringent rules – not only related to waterproofing – and will require professional certification and warranties, as well as your agreement to take responsibility for ongoing maintenance.

Deciding whether your proposed renovations are minor or major is not a decision you can make for yourself. The strata committee and/or strata manager can offer advice but the latter can’t approve changes without reference to the strata committee or the owners’ corporation in a general meeting.

Requirements for renovation approval (from a building perspective only) include:

  • The proposed structure should be, wherever possible, freestanding, and self-supporting without relying on any existing structure and certified by an engineer as such.
  • Where the above is unattainable, engineering design and certification must be provided for the fixings and the structure.
  • Engineering Certification must be provided for the existing building structure/s being relied upon to support the new structure.
  • Waterproofing Application, certification, guarantee, and warranty must be provided for any element of the new structure and/or its fixings, which penetrate a waterproof membrane.
  • All works must be carried out by qualified and licenced trades. Details of professional insurances must be provided. Installation Certification to Australian Standards and Building Codes are to be provided upon completion.

All above information should be provided to Strata Manager/Committee to pass onto the Insurer of the Complex so that a record is maintained.

Finally, renovations in any strata scheme are not an area where it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to seek permission. Undertaking renovations without the appropriate approvals could lead to you having to reinstate common property at your own expense – and nobody wants that.

DEFINITIONS (extracted from the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act):

Cosmetic Changes

The Act says owners may carry out cosmetic work to common property without the approval of the owners corporation, including but not limited to:

  • installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings and other things on walls,
  • installing or replacing handrails,
  • painting,
  • filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls,
  • laying carpet,
  • installing or replacing built-in wardrobes,
  • installing or replacing internal blinds and curtains,
  • any other work prescribed by NSW regulations.

Minor renovations

The owner of a lot may carry out minor renovations to common property in their lot with the approval of the owners corporation given by resolution at a general meeting. A special resolution authorising the work is not required if the Strata Committee has been delegated to make these decisions on behalf of the Owners Corporation.

The approval may be subject to reasonable conditions imposed by the owners corporation and cannot be unreasonably withheld by the owners corporation.

Minor renovations include but are not limited to:

From the Strata Schemes Management Act (S110):

  • renovating a kitchen,
  • changing recessed light fittings,
  • installing or replacing wood or other hard floors,
  • installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points,
  • work involving reconfiguring walls,

From the Strata Schemes Management Regulations (S28):

  • removing carpet or other soft floor coverings to expose underlying wooden or other hard floors
  • installing a rainwater tank
  • installing a clothesline
  • installing a reverse cycle split system air conditioner
  • installing double or triple glazed windows
  • installing a heat pump
  • installing ceiling insulation.
  • any other work prescribed by NSW laws

Note. The work prescribed by this clause is subject to the requirements set out in section 110 (7) of the Act, including requirements that it does not involve structural changes, changes to the external appearance of a lot or waterproofing.

Before obtaining approval, owners must give written notice of proposed minor renovations to the strata committee, including the following—

  • details of the work, including copies of any plans,
  • duration and times of the work,
  • details of the persons carrying out the work, including qualifications to carry out the work and relevant insurances,
  • arrangements to manage any resulting rubbish or debris.

The owner of a lot must ensure that—

  • any damage caused to any part of the common property is repaired, and
  • the minor renovations and any repairs are carried out in a competent and proper manner.

Minor renovation rules do NOT apply to:

  • cosmetic work,
  • work involving structural changes,
  • work that changes the external appearance of a lot, including the installation of an external access ramp,
  • work involving waterproofing,
  • work for which consent or another approval is required under any other Act,
  • work that is authorised by a by-law made under this Part or a common property rights by-law,
  • any other work prescribed by NSW regulations.

Work by owners of lots affecting common property

An owner must not carry out work on the common property unless the owner is authorised to do so—

  • under a by-law made under this Part or a common property rights by-law, or
  • by an approval of the owners corporation given by special resolution or in any other manner authorised by the by-laws.

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    Jimmy-T
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      There are so many different sources for information about what you can and can’t do in your apartment or strata scheme I thought I might post this com
      [See the full post at: All you ever needed to know about renos]

      The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
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