Renovating a unit or apartment in Sydney? Then the word “Strata Bylaws Renovations” would have definitely come up in conversation.
You need to understand the rules around renovating in a strata scheme, the approval process that applies in your building, and what the strata by-laws are.
By-laws govern life in a strata building, including renovations, and could impact the timeline and budget of your apartment renovation, but do not fear – this is where we come in. We have worked on many apartment renovations across Sydney, and have experience of dealing with owner’s corporations and the rules around renovating in a strata building. It is also why we put this page on Strata Bylaws Renovations and renovating in a strata building together – so you can understand what is involved and plan accordingly.
Understanding Strata Bylaws Renovations
The Owners Corporation represent all the owners (including you) in an apartment complex, and are responsible for managing the building and approving renovations.
You need approval from the Owners Corporation of your strata title for most renovations, no matter how small or cosmetic they seem to you. This is because your renovation could affect the appearance of the building, cause noise for neighbouring lots – and the works could end up damaging parts of the common property like the walls, floors and ceilings.
Start by getting a copy of the strata by-laws and looking into the approval process for your building. You can request the renovation application form and review it with us to ensure you have everything covered.
When you get approval from the Owners Corporation they will often attach certain conditions to the works. These are included in your agreement and can include:
- The scope of works for the renovation
- When works can happen, including specific days and times of day
- Security payments or bonds to cover damage to common property
- Who is responsible for maintaining and/or repairing any damage caused by the renovation.
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 7am to 8pm during weekdays and to midday on a Saturday – though local by-laws may differ.
Now let’s take a look at what exactly a strata by-law is.
What is a strata by-law?
By-laws are a set of rules that all owners and tenants must follow. They are unique to the strata scheme and cover how people behave and how they can use common property. This could include rules around on-site parking, the keeping of pets, noise levels, and parts affecting the structural adequacy of the building.
It is important to understand which by-laws apply to your scheme as they could also impact how soon your renovation can get started and what projects you can take on. To understand why you may need a by-law approved for your renovation you first need to understand the concept of common property.
What is common property?
In an apartment or lot, common property is normally the four main walls, ceiling, roof and the floor. 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.
Why do I need a by-law for my renovation?
A by-law is required to approve renovations whenever they involve major changes to the common property in your lot or building. This happens more often than most owners realise and generally applies if you are doing any sort of structural work to your lot.
You will need to have a new by-law passed to cover your renovation if it changes common property in any way. As an example, renovating your bathroom will affect the existing waterproofing – which is common property – which requires a new by-law and this simply means you as the owner renovating the premises will ultimately be responsible for it. The way we see this process is simply passing on responsibility to homeowners when doing renovations.
The Owners Corporation must decide by a special resolution at a General Meeting with all lot owners to create a by-law for your renovation. To have the requested by-law pass, 75% of lot owners must approve your by-law.
So if you want to drill holes into the concrete floor slab, impact the existing waterproofing, or move plumbing – you are impacting common property (parts of the building you don’t actually own). If you install a new air conditioning unit on an external common property wall, a by-law would need to be drafted and passed for this project to happen. The by-law would also need to detail who is responsible for maintaining the common property. This could be you – the owner – or the Owners Corporation.
Before any by-law is passed by the Owners Corporation, you also need to agree to the by-law, and if necessary agree to maintain the common property if this is what is being requested in the by-law.
What type of renovations do I need to tell the Owners Corporation about?
Each strata scheme is different but you will generally need permission if you are doing a kitchen or bathroom renovation or making changes to the walls, floors, ceilings, as well as any pipework or ventilation ducts. One of the most common projects people get in trouble with is changing their flooring without permission.
Because you are living in close proximity to other people a hard floor covering – like tiles or hardwood flooring – can cause an increase in noise transmission to neighbouring lots. You may even need an acoustic engineer to carry out some tests to ensure your hard flooring is compliant and is not too loud for your neighbours. Failure to get permission could result in the Owners Corporation getting you to undo the changes – something which is going to cost you more money and a lot of stress.
In NSW apartment renovations are grouped into three classes, which give you some idea of what jobs you can carry out and the permissions around these:
1. Cosmetic work
Approval Required: Not normally. You can generally do cosmetic work without approval from the Owners Corporation.
- Putting in picture hooks
- Painting the interior walls
- Fixing holes in your walls.
Other Notes: Be sure to check what by-laws apply in your strata scheme – as your Owners Corporation could change what is classed as cosmetic work.
2. Minor renovations
Approval Required: Yes. You can carry out minor renovations if you obtain approval from the Owners Corporation by way of a general resolution (a 50% majority) at a general meeting of the Owners Corporation. The fact that a general resolution is sufficient, instead of a special resolution, represents the major change in the new Strata Laws for renovation approvals.
Jobs Include: In NSW minor renovations could include common jobs like
- Renovating your kitchen
- Installing new flooring
- Altering any internal walls.
Other Notes: You will need to provide plans of your project, as well as details of when you propose the works take place, and details of the qualified trades or contractors who will carry the work out. All lot owners will then vote on your project at an Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary General Meeting – and you need over 50 percent of lot owners to support your project to go ahead with your minor renovation.
Again, check what by-laws apply in your strata scheme – as your Owners Corporation could change what is classed as a minor renovation.
3. Major renovations
Approval Required: Yes. You must obtain approval by a special resolution (a 75% majority) at a meeting of the Owners Corporation, and you need a special by-law created to authorise the work.
Jobs Include: Major renovations can include
- any larger structural job
- bathroom & laundry renovations
- changing the appearance of building (windows, awnings, screens etc)
- work that needs council approval
Other Notes: To get approval for this type of job you will need a special resolution vote. A special resolution is added onto the minutes of an Annual General or Special General Meeting.
Getting approval for your apartment renovation
Each strata has slightly different procedures and by-laws, but the process for getting approval will look something like this:
- Engage a qualified builder to review your goals and create a scope of works which needs to be submitted to Strata (Click here to get the process started)
- We will prepare a Renovation Solution including a very detailed scope of works in a professional presentation with all our company details, accreditations, licenses etc.
- Contact your Strata company to request a renovation application form
- Submit the strata application form, including the Renovation Solution (scope of works) to your Owners Corporation for processing and approval
- Works are divided into cosmetic, minor and major works – and each strata has its own rules about which require approval
- Your form is then reviewed by the Strata Committee who may require further information or clarification
- 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
- 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.
- If there is no General Meeting scheduled you will be required to pay for an Extraordinary General Meeting to be called, as General Meetings only happen annually
- An extraordinary general meeting – or EGM – is any meeting that is not an Annual General Meetings
- Should a by-law for your 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 over – we can start on your apartment renovation.
If your project gets rejected you can appeal to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). This is if you think the Owners Corporation unreasonably refuses to approve the work or has imposed unreasonable conditions.
Our Scope of Works
Having worked with hundreds of strata companies, as part our solution to you, we provide you with a detailed scope of works and Capabilities Statement that makes getting approval for your renovation a whole lot easier. Our scope of works covers our company licences, insurances, warranties, policies and procedures in a professional document that increases the likelihood of a speedy approval.
Learn more about strata by-laws and apartment renovations
As you can see there is a lot to know and plan for when it comes to an apartment renovation. Luckily there are resources out there to help you get your head around everything. Here are some that can help educate you further.
Department of Fair Trading – the government body that governs strata schemes in NSW
Owners Corporation Network – this is a body for strata owners
Strata Association Community – represents over 3,000 strata managers, principals and suppliers
Strata Live – a forum for people living in strata communities
Flat Chat Strata Community Forum – another community forum with information and resources
Department of Fair Trading (FAQs on Strata Schemes) – the government body that governs strata schemes in NSW
Australian Guide To Environmentally Sustainable Homes – advice for renovating an apartment
Urban Development Institute of New South Wales – NSW leading development industry body
Apartment renovation specialists – why work with us?
We are apartment renovation specialists and have worked on many 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
As a courtesy to your neighbours, we also take a community-focused approach when working on any job in a strata building. We work very hard to try limit the impact our trades and works have on you and your neighbours. When you get approval for works to commence we letter drop all the adjacent neighbours with a courtesy letter so they know what to expect about the duration of works and approved hours of work. They are also encouraged to feedback to us before or during the works.