Investing in strata is more popular than ever and for many new owners, renovating their home to perfectly suit their needs is usually right at the top of the list of things to do! Even if none of your planned improvements are major, if you’re in a strata unit you’ll probably need the permission of other owners first via the owners corporation or body corporate committee.
Legislation that affects renovations is different in every state and territory. However, there are some basic principals you should adhere to so that your renovation not only goes smoothly, but that relations with your fellow owners remain friendly.
Naturally, all renovations must comply with building regulations. If your renovation involves major demolition and wall rearrangements, a structural integrity assessment of your building may also be required. Having a copy of the plan of subdivision is essential because you need to be absolutely clear on the precise boundaries of your lot. As plans can be confusing to interpret, it’s wise to seek the expert assistance of a surveyor, as renovations involving mistaken boundaries can end up being extremely expensive.
Generally speaking, a lot owner is entitled to change anything from the interior paint and inwards. The walls, the outside of the front door, the windows and the balcony are all generally considered common property, so you need to ask permission to make any extreme change to the aesthetic of the building. If you change these items without permission, you may be responsible for reinstating the property to its original condition – and all at your expense!
All your internal doors are yours to do with as you like but the front door basically belongs to the building so that it’s in keeping with your neighbours’ and complies with fire safety standards.
In Queensland, if you are in a body corporate that is a Building Format Plan the front door is common property however a door leading to a balcony belongs to the lot owner. Compared to a Standard Format Plan where the front door belongs to the owner. In New South Wales, balcony doors are common property if the strata plan was registered after July 1, 1974; parquetry flooring and timber floorboards are common property if they were originally installed in the apartment, but not necessarily if added later. These two examples have been drawn from the enormous amount of legislation regarding renovations so it’s very important that you’re fully aware of who owns what under the laws covering your locality.
In many cases, timber flooring is considered a strata minefield and those who lay down timber flooring without consulting their bylaws or neighbours may end up having to re-lay with carpet. Noise from timber flooring is one of the top issues for unit owners, with a lot of owners being misled by those who install the floor.
Timber flooring isn’t the only noise issue within the realm of strata property – speakers recessed into your wall could be louder in your neighbours apartment than in your own and if speakers are fixed to the ceiling, make sure they don’t turn your upstairs neighbours floor into a sounding board.
SSKB Community Manager, Martin Walsh, said “The important thing to do first and foremost is read through your bylaws and find out what is and isn’t allowed, who you need to talk to and what the rules are in regards to work access and permitted hours for trades people. Simple items are often overlooked during the renovation process like where to put the skip bin and how to move rubbish in and out of the building without inconveniencing anyone else.”
It is most important that you consult your building manager, committee or community manager to discuss what you are planning. Before undertaking major renovations you must notify the owners corporation or body corporate. Most renovations impact on common property in some way, and the owners corporation/body corporate is responsible for its good management.
There are still many jobs you can undertake without the permission of the owners corporation/body corporate in order to transform your home:
• A good interior paint job or new wallpaper can help to transform any apartment
• Change the standard lighting fixtures on the ceiling
• Mirror one whole wall to open up the apartment and give the illusion of space
• New carpeting/flooring
• Change taps or showerheads
• Install blinds or fit curtains
• Attach fixtures to an internal wall
• Kitchen revamp ie: new bench, cupboard doors/draws etc.