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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Approval Required: Not normally. You can generally do cosmetic work without approval from the Owners Corporation.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Each strata has slightly different procedures and by-laws, but the process for getting approval will look something like this:
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.
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.
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
NSW Strata – leading strata management company with information about legislation
Australian Guide To Environmentally Sustainable Homes – advice for renovating an apartment
Urban Development Institute of New South Wales – NSW leading development industry body
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:
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.
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.
Jarn Elias – February 2018
-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.