What must you consider when renovating your strata apartment?

8 min read

Renovating your strata property requires a deep understanding of the procedures and legal requirements involved, particularly when these renovations have a significant impact on the structure. This guide is designed to provide a clear and comprehensive overview of the essential steps and considerations for conducting major renovations in a strata scheme. It includes securing necessary strata approvals, adhering to building standards, engaging effectively with your community, and managing post-renovation formalities. The aim is to offer practical advice and insights to assist in navigating and managing your renovation project efficiently and effectively.

Table of Contents

Obtain the Necessary Approvals for Renovating your Strata Apartment

The nature and extent of strata approval required depends on the types of renovations you wish to undertake. The strata law classifies renovations into three broad categories: cosmetic works, minor renovations and major renovations. Below are the approval requirements for each of these.

Approval for Cosmetic Works

In strata living, carrying out cosmetic changes typically doesn’t require approval from the owners corporation. These changes are classified as modifications that don’t affect the structural integrity or external look of the property and are unrelated to waterproofing.

Some usual examples of cosmetic work are:

  • Installing or swapping out items like hooks, nails, screws, handrails, blinds, curtains, or built-in wardrobes.
  • Painting the inside of the unit.
  • Repairing minor holes and cracks in internal walls.
  • Installing carpet within the property.

It’s crucial to remember that each strata scheme might have its own set of rules, possibly expanding what’s considered cosmetic work. For full compliance, it’s advisable to consult your scheme’s by-laws for a clear understanding of what’s allowed in terms of cosmetic alterations in your strata residence.

Approval for Minor and Major Renovations

Understanding Minor and Major Renovations

Minor renovations differ from cosmetic work and require prior approval. Minor renovations should not alter the exterior or structure of the property and must exclude waterproofing. Neglecting to get the required approvals for these renovations could lead to the obligation of restoring the property to its original state, along with potential associated costs.

Major renovations within a strata scheme demand a more stringent approval process than minor renovations or cosmetic work, as they often involve substantial structural changes. To get a fuller understanding of what comes under minor and major renovations, please read our detailed article here.

It’s also vital to hire building contractors or tradespeople who hold valid contractor licenses. This ensures their qualifications and adherence to building standards.

Undertaking major renovations without the necessary approval can lead to serious repercussions. If unauthorised work is conducted, you may be financially liable for restoring the property to its original state, which could incur additional costs and legal issues. Therefore, it’s crucial to follow the required procedures and obtain the appropriate approvals before commencing any major renovation work in a strata scheme.

How to get Approval for Major and Minor Renovations?

To obtain approval from the owners’ corporation for major and minor renovations in a strata scheme, it’s essential to follow these steps and meet specific requirements:

Approving Authority:

  • For minor renovations, the owners’ corporation may pass a by-law allowing the strata committee to grant approvals. This by-law should define what qualifies as minor renovations.
  • Major renovations require direct approval from the owners’ corporation.

Required Documentation:

The lot owner should provide the following to the owners’ corporation, along with a well-drafted motion:

  • A detailed description of the proposed works, including plans, specifications, and, for structural changes, a report from a qualified expert.
  • The expected duration and working hours of the renovation.
  • Details about the tradespeople or contractors, including their qualifications.
  • A waste management plan for any debris or waste from the renovation.
  • Draft motions, approvals, and any relevant by-laws for consideration.

Procedure for Approval:

The owners’ corporation will review the documentation and may schedule a meeting to discuss and vote on the proposed renovations. This meeting could be a specially convened session or the next scheduled general meeting. Below are the broad steps you can expect to go through:

StepsTimeframe and Comments
Submission of MotionsThe timeframe is at your discretion. Submit the motions (including annexures containing the required documents) to the managing agent for inclusion in the next agenda of the next strata committee meetings or general meetings.
Arranging an Earlier MeetingIf there’s no upcoming general meeting or if you need the by-law resolved sooner, contact your managing agent to schedule an earlier meeting. Be aware that you might be asked to bear the costs of this meeting.
Sending out Meeting AgendaThe agenda for the general meeting, which includes your motions, is typically distributed to all lot owners around 14 days before the meeting. A minimum of 7 clear days’ notice is required for the meeting. Allow an additional 4 business days for postal delivery if the notice is sent by mail.
Voting on the MotionThe motion will be presented and voted on at the general meeting. If the motion is resolved, you can commence the works immediately.
Attending the General MeetingIt’s advisable to be present at the general meeting to advocate for your motions and respond to any amendments or objections that may arise.  For minor renovations, your motion will be defeated if over 50% of the unit entitlements present at the meeting vote against it.  For major renovations, a special resolution vote is needed at an Annual General Meeting or other general meeting of the owners corporation, meaning no more than 25% of votes cast should be against the work.
Passing the by-law and having it registered [Only required for major renovations]The owners corporation is also required to pass a by-law approving the proposed major renovation. It must also registered with the Land Registry Services within six months of the motion being passed. Failure to do so will result in the motion having to be re-passed, which would mean additional costs and delays for the lot owner.

Reasonable Conditions for Grant of Approval

The approving authority has the power to grant conditional approval for the proposed renovations. These conditions must be reasonable in nature and are often essential to maintain the building’s integrity and the residents’ well-being. They are designed to ensure renovations are conducted responsibly, without compromising the building’s structure, aesthetic harmony, and the community’s overall comfort. Common conditions include:

  1. Timing and Noise Restrictions: To reduce disruption, strata schemes often define specific hours for construction work. This helps ensure renovations occur at times least likely to disturb other residents’ daily routines and tranquility.
  2. Engagement of Licensed Professionals: Strata schemes typically mandate that all renovation work be carried out by licensed tradespeople with appropriate insurance. This ensures high-quality work and covers potential risks or liabilities.
  3. Certification Requirements: Renovations, particularly structural or waterproofing work, often require certificates from relevant professionals, like structural engineers or certified waterproofers. These certifications confirm compliance with necessary standards and regulations.
  4. By-law Registration and Maintenance Obligations: The renovating owner may need to register a by-law for the new changes at their expense. Additionally, they are usually expected to maintain any new installations in good condition, also at their cost. This ensures that property additions are kept in a state that upholds the building’s overall quality and safety.

What to do if the Motion for Renovations does not get Approved?

If the renovations are not approved or the necessary by-law is not enacted, the lot owner may appeal to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal for the required orders.

For a successful application, lot owners should thoroughly prepare their case, adhering to the strata scheme’s specific procedures and ensuring all documentation is complete and accurate. This approach can significantly enhance the likelihood of gaining the necessary approvals.

Check if Renovating Your Strata Apartment Affects Common Property

When planning renovations in a strata scheme that might impact common property, it’s essential to navigate the process carefully and in compliance with the relevant legal frameworks. Determine if your planned renovations will affect common property. This includes areas such as walls, balconies, and facades that are typically considered part of the common property in strata schemes. Engage in discussions with the strata committee, owners corporation, or strata manager to understand the implications of your renovations on common property.

Approval Requirements for Common Property Renovations

  1. Reviewing and Amending By-laws Review existing by-laws to identify any that might be relevant to your renovation plans. If your renovations require changes to the by-laws, prepare a proposal for amending them. This might involve drafting new by-laws or modifying existing ones.
  2. Seeking Consent: Obtain written consent from owners directly affected by the changes, especially if the renovations grant you exclusive rights over a part of the common property.
  3. Approval Process for Major Renovations
  • Special Resolution Requirement: Major renovations involving common property typically require a special resolution to be passed at a strata meeting.
  • By-law Drafting: Draft a specific by-law for the proposed works, clearly outlining responsibilities for maintenance and repair.
  • Gaining Consensus: Work towards securing the necessary votes for the special resolution, ensuring that all relevant owners are informed and agreeable.

Ensure all approvals, consents, and resolutions are documented and legally compliant. Keep open lines of communication with the strata committee and other owners to ensure transparency and avoid misunderstandings. Consider seeking legal or professional advice to navigate complex aspects of the process, especially for significant renovations.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your renovation plans align with the legal requirements and community standards of your strata scheme, thereby maintaining a harmonious living environment and avoiding potential disputes or legal challenges.

Ensure the Renovations Meet Building Standards

When planning renovations in your apartment, duplex, or any other strata property, understanding and adhering to key rules is crucial. All renovation work in a strata building must be conducted safely and in compliance with established building standards. This adherence is vital for the safety of builders and residents, and it also helps reduce the risk of future property defects.

To ensure that your renovation work is both safe and meets the required standards, you should take the following steps:

  1. Regulated Design Preparation: It’s important to engage a registered design practitioner for the preparation of regulated designs. This step is crucial to ensure that your planned renovations comply with current building codes and regulations.
  2. Supervised Work by Professionals: Make sure that a registered building practitioner supervises the renovation work. Their expertise and oversight are essential to ensure that the renovations are carried out safely and to a high standard.

Notifying Your Neighbours and Owners Corporation Before and After the Renovation

Before starting any renovation work in your strata property, it’s crucial to inform your neighbors, especially about any activities that might be noisy. Providing at least 24 hours’ notice is both courteous and necessary. Additionally, you need to ensure that all aspects of your renovation are in compliance with the by-laws of your strata scheme. These by-laws may include various considerations such as:

  1. Noise and Acoustic Controls: You should adhere to rules regarding noise levels to minimise disturbance to your neighbors.
  2. Obstruction of Common Property: Make sure that your renovation activities do not obstruct or impede access to common areas.
  3. Garbage Disposal: Responsibly dispose of any renovation-related debris or garbage, in accordance with the strata’s regulations.

After completing the renovations, it’s essential to inform the owners corporation. This step is crucial for updating the strata scheme’s insurance policy to reflect the changes made to your property. Adhering to these procedures ensures that your renovations are conducted appropriately and helps maintain harmony within the strata community. If you’re uncertain or need guidance at any stage of your renovation project, don’t hesitate to consult with your strata manager.

Key Takeaways

Undertaking major renovations in a strata scheme involves navigating through a series of critical steps while adhering to specific legal requirements. Each phase requires meticulous attention and a deep understanding of the involved regulations, often posing challenges for property owners.

Our law firm, specialising in strata law, is here to provide the essential guidance and support needed to navigate these complexities. We understand the intricacies of strata renovations and are committed to ensuring that your project is not only successful but also aligns with legal standards and community expectations. Our team is equipped to offer the advice and assistance necessary to complete your renovation confidently and efficiently. Reach out to us to discuss your renovation aspirations, and let us assist you in realising your property’s potential, ensuring a smooth and compliant transformation.

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Picture of Authored By<br>Raea Khan

Authored By
Raea Khan

Director Lawyer, PBL Law Group

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PBL Law Group were fantastic. Anita from PBL worked with us closely during our property search and made the exchange and settlement process smooth and stress free. Highly recommended.
Gail Whitford
PBL handled my late mothers estate, they were very obliging and patient with any and all questions that we had, thank you to David , Sharon and the other staff that we dealt with, everyone was so easy to talk to and friendly .David came to the home where my Mother was living and helped her to get her will in order, Sharon helped us through the process of executing her wishes when the time came even doing a house call which was so much easier, thank you all so much
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I have experienced an excellent service from PBL (especially from Anita) during the sale of my recent property on Central Coast, and during the purchase of our current property in Sydney. Throughout many challengers, especially with the sale, Anita presented her very professional and knowledgeable conveyancer, positively solving all obstacles. "Above and Beyond" Award going to Anita!!! :-)
Amanda Reitzin
The five-star reviews are well-deserved. I needed a motion and a bylaw drawn up for urgent repairs of my strata unit and the AGM was in two weeks' time. My solicitor was friendly, efficient, knew what documents to ask for, and had all the paperwork prepared well within the timeframe. She also took the time to run through all the legalese and the different possible scenarios with me to make sure I understood. I am so glad to have found this firm and I will not hesitate to use their services again in future if the need arises.
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Our Commercial Property conveyancing was handled very professionally. Anita’s experience and responsiveness was an asset in this transaction.
Trace M
I am so grateful for Anita Bradley from PBL Law Group helped me with this property settlement, she has went above beyond to ensure I understand everything because of our deafness. I will recommended Anita or their team. Thank you so much for all the hard work you have done for us.
Tricia Wheatstone
For almost 18 months I have been a client of Alex Ilkin. Alex is very knowledgeable and professional and has consistently provided me with thorough, honest and well set out advice, including steering my case through appeal proceedings. He always worked for my best interests with integrity and compassion. I recommend Alex and his team at PBL.