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Apartment Renovations Sydney: 2018 Guide to Understanding Strata, By-Laws and the Rules Around Renovating a Unit

Apartment renovations/unit renovations in Sydney comes with its own set of challenges.

Even though you may own the property, you don’t own the whole title as you would with a house – so you have to work with your Owners Corporation. This is why it is essential that you understand the strata approval requirements that apply in your building – as well as other factors like noise restrictions and the practical logistics of the project before any renovation work commences.

But do not fear – this is where we come in! 


The logistics of an Apartment Renovation

Renovating an apartment or unit brings its own set of challenges. Working with you we need to answer a range of practical questions before we get started, like:

  • Where is all the apartment renovation waste going to go?
  • What are the hours of operation in your building?
  • Where can all the delivery trucks for the – tiles, kitchen cabinets, stone benchtops, appliances etc – going to park?
  • Where do the contractors park when they are all working together on a busy day?
  • What times are best to use the lifts?
  • How does one protect the lift?
  • What are the lifts internal dimensions?
  • Is traffic control needed for deliveries?
  • If mains water needs to be turned off, who needs to be notified?

Getting answers to these questions and more lets us build this information into your unit renovation project plan, and avoids delays and conflict.


Understanding strata by-laws

Each strata scheme has its own by-laws, which all owners and occupiers are legally obliged to comply with. These cover a range of activities including how residents use common property, noise levels, if you can keep pets, what you can renovate with or without approvals etc.

By-laws often vary from scheme to scheme so it is important you understand what by-laws apply to your scheme – as they can impact your apartment renovation.

You will need to have a new by-law passed to cover your unit renovation if it changes the common property, such as when new waterproofing is required in the bathroom or wet areas.

The owners corporation must then decide by special resolution at an AGM or EGM to make or change a by-law. To have it pass, 75 per cent of lot owners must vote for your by-law.


What about noise regulations in apartment renovations?

Renovating if often a noisy job, so when it comes to the works, try to be as considerate of your neighbours as possible. You want to give them plenty of warning – written and verbal – when the works are going to be happening.

This not only notifies them of any potential noise but can highlight when there may be tradies and contractors accessing your apartment via common areas like parking garages and corridors.

In Sydney there are also regulations covering noise from home renovations and or construction works, which may affect neighbours, this means there are restrictions for when power tools can be used.

We are generally allowed to work from 7 am to 8 pm during weekdays and to midday on a Saturday – though local by-laws will definitely differ and are stricter so for apartment renovations we generally work between 8am to 4:30pm.

As a courtesy to your neighbours, we take a community-focused approach to working on unit renovations and try to limit the impact our trades and works have.

When you get approval for works to commence we letter drop all the adjacent neighbours a courtesy community letter notifying them about the works, duration, approved hours of work, with our contact details for feedback or in the event of an emergency.


Lot property vs common property?

With apartment renovations, you need to get your head around what belongs to you (lot property) and what is property is managed by the Owners Corporation (common property). 

Unlike a house, where you own everything on the stand, in an apartment or lot, common property is normally the main structure of the building, including the four main walls, ceiling, roof and the floor slab.

It is also all the external walls in the building, as well as areas like foyers, driveways and the gym or pool – places everyone uses and can access.

If you are wondering what actually belongs to you – an owner’s property is basically the airspace in the lot – which includes the internal walls, fixtures, carpet, and paint on the walls.  

If you are planning to strip out and renovate your kitchen and bathroom you are very likely to require permission as you will be making changes or affecting the common property.


Structural limitations of apartment renovations

Due to the nature of an apartment block, you are inherently limited by what sort of structural renovations you can take on. One example of this is relocating floor services – like plumbing and electrical. 

To keep costs down you should try to opt for keeping services where they are, but if you need to, it can be done. Just be prepared to factor this into your budget – as we will need to commission structural drawings and x-ray the floors to determine the location of steel and/or other services.

You are also limited in what walls you can alter or remove as many of these are likely to be load bearing. Our structural engineer can help us work all this out, and make your new floorplan a reality.


Understanding how renovating in strata works

You need approval from the Owners Corporation of your strata title for most apartment renovations, no matter how small or cosmetic they seem to you. The Owners Corporation represent all the owners – including you – in an apartment complex, and are responsible for managing the building and approving renovations.

Start by getting a copy of the strata by-laws and looking into the approval process for your building. You can request the apartment renovation application form and review it with us to ensure you have everything covered.

The below points may seem overwhelming and all the wording may confuse you but don’t stress as it’s quite a standard process and if you keep reading on it will make more sense. Each strata company has slightly different rules and by-laws, but the procedure for getting approval looks something like this:

  • Request a free phone consultation from us. Click here to get the process started
  • We will visit you and prepare an Apartment Renovation Solution (Scope of Works) including a very detailed scope of works in a professional presentation with all our company details, accreditations, licenses etc
  • Submit the strata application form, including the Apartment Renovation Solution (Scope of Works) to your Owners Corporation for processing and approval (Works are divided into cosmetic, minor and major works – and each has its own rules about which require approval)
  • Your form is then reviewed by the Strata Committee who may require further information or clarification about your apartment renovation 
  • The Strata Committee will advise the method of approval required, which may include signing an indemnity form, paying a security deposit (in case anything goes wrong), and having a by-law drafted for your renovation (if it impacts common property) and/or the passing of a resolution at a General Meeting (GM)
  • If there is no General Meeting scheduled you will be required to pay for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to be called, as General Meetings only happen annually
  • A General Meeting is where lot owners can ask questions about your project, and raise objections. This is also where they vote on your job
  • An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) – is any meeting that is not an Annual General Meetings
  • Should a by-law for your apartment renovation be required you will need to get this drafted for submission at the next AGM or an EGM that you call for.
  • Lot owners will then review it and vote on it as a special resolution. It is not compulsory to have a lawyer draft the by-law, but it should be clearly worded.
  • Your by-law then needs to be lodged by the owners corporation with the Registrar-General, who manages the Land Title System in NSW, before you can commence works

Once approval has been given – and this is something we have no control of – we can start on your apartment renovation.

To get a more detailed understanding, read our section on strata by-laws to learn more and how they apply to apartment renovations in a strata plan.


Can I install timber floorboards in an apartment?

A common question asked when we do apartment renovations is if you can install timber floorboards. Noise transfer from a hard floor surface can carry right through an apartment block – so we need to make sure this is done right.

Depending on the strata rules, one can usually install timber flooring with an appropriate acoustic underlay to meet the requirements. Some strata’s may require you to have an acoustic engineer do acoustic testing to ensure your hard flooring is compliant.


You will need approved contractors for strata apartment renovations

The Owners Corporation will also require you to provide details of the contractors working on your renovation.

Our Apartment Renovations Solution is a standardised PDF document which details all of our company licenses and insurances. This includes our NSW Contractor Licence: 239324C and NSW Company Licence: 286234C, as well as our public liability insurances and warranties. We submit this, together with the full scope our works to your Owners Corporation.

This makes it easy for them to view our credentials and approve your project asap!


Renovate your Apartment’s Kitchen and Bathroom  

Bring a fresh new sense of design to your kitchen and bathroom by renovating them together. Many of our clients opt to do a complete kitchen and bathroom renovation at the same time. This makes sense from a practical point of view as you:

  • Minimise disruption to your life
  • Make the most of all the tradies onsite for cost savings
  • We can also help negotiate better prices from suppliers if you are shopping for both spaces

We project manage your kitchen and bathroom renovation from start to finish, and deliver your project on time and to budget.  And you get to deal directly with us, which mean no sales reps or chasing tradies – we coordinate everything and make it happen.

Let’s take a quick look at what included in these areas;

Apartment Kitchen Renovations Sydney – Think Function, Design & Clever Storage

Popular refreshes to breathe new life into a unit’s kitchen include new:

  • Cabinets
  • Drawers
  • Doors
  • Benchtops
  • Splashbacks
  • Flooring
  • Appliances

Our design team will help you work out what you want from this room and what features are on your must-have list. We also design your kitchen based on how you use it, and how it relates to the rest of your home. We factor in the function, the design, and clever storage solutions. Once that’s done we can start researching materials, specs, appliances, and fittings to get an understanding of what your budget will look like.  

Let’s take a look at bathrooms;

Apartment Bathroom Renovations Sydney – Think Comfort, Easy Cleaning, Style

Popular refreshes to breathe new life into a unit’s bathroom include new:

  • Tiles
  • Showerscreens
  • Bathtub
  • Toilet
  • Vanity
  • Storage
  • Flooring

A bathroom renovation is all about making this space practical and luxurious. We will help you select the bathroom fixtures and fittings so they are practical, coordinate with each other and look good.

Some apartments don’t even have laundries in their apartment, we are experts in integrating laundries with bathrooms while still keeping the right aesthetics. We do this by designing in sliding doors so when it’s not being used all doors are shut, the bathroom still looks luxurious. 


Working with us – how your apartment renovation happens

It’s important you understand every step of the process so you know what to expect from day one. Here are the steps in our renovation journey together:

  1. We start with an initial free phone consult to explore what you want to get out your apartment renovation. We then book a consultation and send you a calendar invite.
  2. An onsite consult fully reimbursable $100 fee is next, which gives us a chance to meet, greet and talk through your renovation ideas. This is when will discuss all the pros and cons of the different options and designs – and where we begin to move to a more refined solution.
  3. We then go away and develop a draft solution for you to review. This gives you the opportunity to give us your feedback, and decide what you want in and out.
  4. Together we fine tune and revise until you are completely satisfied with your project.
  5. We can then price your job, remembering that we manage all the works and trades, saving you cash and headaches.
  6. You then get a presentation – face-to-face or via email. Only when you are completely satisfied we will proceed to the next step.
  7. This is when you sign paperwork and get a start date for your job.
  8. We then project manage all the trades and works with minimal fuss.

Apartment Renovation Specialists

We are apartment renovations specialists and have worked on countless apartments and with many strata managers and Owners Corporations.

We will help you navigate all the regulations around strata, and make sure we have everything in place before any works begin. The key is to:

  • Engage and communicate with your Owners Corporation from day one – so you know what is required and how the process works
  • Present well-thought-out plans to help streamline the approval process
  • Manage the works according to the by-laws

Why work with us?

The main thing we do is take the stress off your shoulders.

How?

By working with you in the planning phase to help work out a detailed budget that takes everything into account. We then project manage your apartment renovation from start to finish and deliver your project on time and to budget.  

You get to deal directly with us, which mean no sales reps or chasing tradies – we coordinate everything and make it happen.

We are also fully licensed (NSW Contractor Licence: 239324C, NSW Company Licence: 286234C), and insured, and hold public liability insurance and all the necessary warranties to work on your job.

All the tradies and contractors we use are also top shelf professionals, who have all the necessary qualifications and licenses to take on your apartment renovations goals.  


To get an idea of the renovation fee options we offer please click here.

Alternately, contact me – Jarn Elias – directly on +61 412 191 592 to discuss your apartment renovation.

Or put your details in the contact form for a free phone consultation to get the conversation started.


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Jarn Elias – February 2018

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About Jarn Elias

-I stand for living an adventurous life, creating great environments, and having magical moments with people.

-I’m a people person. I love meeting new people and constantly making new friends every day. Life is all about relationships and networking.

-I love seeing growth in real people. Enabling my clients & friends to capitalise on their existing properties allows my projects to really make a difference.

-I value family & relationships and enjoy working with my wife and father.

-Happy reading!

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Our office address is: 148 Queen Street, Beaconsfield, Sydney, NSW 2015.

This is not a showroom. We do not have a showroom as our supplier’s showrooms are all over Sydney.