When Lot Owner’s renovate their apartments without first ensuring whether or not they require Owner’s Corporation approval or if applicable Council approval, if not careful they may cause themselves unexpected problems, which could have been avoided.
Prior to commencing any renovations to your apartment, it is important to determine whether or not Owner’s Corporation or Council approval is required for the work.
If you commence renovations prior to obtaining Owner’s Corporation approval or Council approval (if required), you may be liable to penalties, including the cost to remove the building work, rectify the building work or any damage which you have caused to the structure of the common property building.
Renovations, generally fall into 3 categories:
- Cosmetic work
- Minor renovations or
- Major renovations
Pursuant to section 109 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 Lot Owner’s may carry out cosmetic work to their apartment without first obtaining permission from the Owner’s Corporation.
Cosmetic work includes day-to-day work such as:
- installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings or other things on walls
- installing or replacing handrails within your lot
- painting and
- filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls
Pursuant to section 110 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 prior to commencing minor renovations, a Lot Owner must first obtain Owner’s Corporation approval by general resolution (ie over 50% of votes) before any building work may commence.
Prior to considering the Lot Owner’s request, the Owner’s Corporation may require the Lot Owner to provide details of:
- the building work, such as any plans
- the duration and times of the work, and
- the people who will carry out the work, including their qualifications and license details
While an ordinary resolution of the owners corporation is generally required for minor renovations, owners corporations can delegate the responsibility for making decisions about whether minor renovations should be allowed to the strata committee. This is done by the owners corporation passing a By-Law to this effect.
The Owners Corporation can also pass a By-Law which provides that specific types of works are categorised as ‘minor renovations‘.
Minor renovations include:
- renovating a kitchen
- changing recessed light fittings
- installing or replacing wood or other hard floors
- reconfiguring internal walls, and
- sustainability inclusions, such as clothes lines and reverse cycle air conditioners.
Renovations other than cosmetic work or minor renovations require the permission of the owners corporation by a special resolution.
Major renovations need a higher level of approval because such work may seriously affect the common property and/or may impact upon the structural integrity of the building and require Council approval.
As a special resolution of the Owners Corporation is required for approval of this type of work, responsibility for approval cannot be delegated to the strata committee.
Major renovations include:
- structural changes
- work that changes the external appearance of your lot, such as an access ramp, and
- any work for which approval is required under other laws.
Once approval by special resolution has been received for any structural change to a lot, advance notice of the work must be given by providing a written description of the proposed alteration to the Owners Corporation, at least 14 days before the work is to start.
Renovations and common property rights
On occasion a lot owners renovation may require use of common property such as an air conditioning monitor being attached to a common property wall, or a parking space. In these instances a common property rights By-Law can give a Lot Owner the right of exclusive use and enjoyment of the whole or any specified part of common property.
The Lot Owner has to consent to being responsible for any maintenance of the common property and the making of the By-Law. If the special resolution approving the major renovation doesn’t specify whose responsibility it is to maintain the affected common property, then the responsibility will fall to the Owners Corporation.
The common property By-Law must provide for the maintenance of property and clearly state whether:
- the Owners Corporation is to continue to be responsible for the proper maintenance of the property, or
- impose on the Lot Owner or Owners of the Lots the responsibility for that maintenance and upkeep.
By-laws are a permanent record of the renovation work, the approval by the Owner’s Corporation of the renovation work, and any conditions imposed on a Lot Owner regarding the renovation work. If applicable, the By-Law should also cover the future maintenance of the renovation work (ie who is responsible for the future maintenance of an awning affixed to external common property wall or an air conditioning unit affixed to an external common property wall).
Lot Owners and/or Owner’s Corporations may be tempted to “keep it simple” and consider it not necessary to register a By-Law, however we consider this approach a “bad idea”.
It is always important to consider the long term effects concerning the renovation work, in particular if the renovation works involved an alteration to common property. A By-Law can create rights and obligations on a Lot Owner and can allocate maintenance obligations in relation to the works.
Registration of a By-Law will also provide an assurance to a prospective purchaser that the renovation works were approved by the Owner’s Corporation, making the property more attractive. Registering a By-Law will also enable (if applicable) a prospective purchaser to identify what their obligations are regarding the future maintenance of the renovation building works.
NB The information contained in this article (and its contents) is general information only and not to be considered as legal advice. Please contact Penny Browne Conveyancing should you have any queries or require legal advice regarding this matter.