Isolation Renovations: Strata Approvals for Home Improvements

The prospect of continuing to work from home following COVID-19 has inspired many to reconsider the design and functionality of their living spaces. If the spike in purchases of home office equipment and DIY supplies are any indication, Australians have been using their lockdown time to get some work done around the house. Whether you are planning a home office refresh, an update to your kitchen or changes to your courtyard, understanding when you need approval from your owners corporation is the essential first step.

For those living in strata, there are approvals that need to be sought and obtained before you reach for the DIY toolkit or invite a contractor in to renovate your property. We have prepared some commonly asked questions to assist you to navigate the various approval avenues for cosmetic, minor and major renovation works, in accordance with the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (the “Act”).

I’m only making some small changes. Do I really need approval from my owners corporation?
This depends on the work you are planning to undertake. Under the Act, there are a broad range of works that are considered “cosmetic”, and do not require the approval of your owners corporation. Examples of cosmetic works include re-painting the interior of your property, installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings, laying carpet, and installing internal blinds or curtains.

However, renovations including changes that are considered “minor works” will require approval by ordinary resolution at a general meeting of your owners corporation. Minor works may include changing recessed light fittings, changes to your kitchen, installing or replacing wiring, cabling, power, or access points, or minor work involving reconfiguration of walls.

Do I need a by-law?
If your renovation plans are more significant than cosmetic or minor changes and will include works that touch or affect common property, you will need a by-law in accordance with sections 108 and 143 of the Act. Once approved by your owners corporation, a common property rights by-law will grant you the right to construct and keep the changes that you will be making to your lot, and make you as the lot owner responsible for repair and maintenance issues that arise as a result of the works.

Your by-law should describe the nature and location of your works and clarify what documents, if any, you will need to provide to your owners corporation. The by-law will also describe the conditions of the owners corporation’s approval of your works, such as insurance and bond requirements and any restrictions on when construction may take place.

If you are unsure whether your works will impact common property, please read our article Why Do I Need Approval to Renovate? What Do I Own and what is Common Property?

How do I have my by-law approved? Is a general meeting necessary?

Yes, a general meeting of your owners corporation will need to be held. Approval of your by-law is required by the Act in the form of a special resolution of your owners corporation, which will require a motion to be voted on at a general meeting.

It is important to note that along with a motion to approve your by-law, you will need to provide your owners corporation with your written consent to your common property rights being voted on. This consent needs to be given to your strata manager or owners corporation before the general meeting at which your by-law will be considered and voted on.

You may also wish to provide additional documents to your strata manager to include on the notice of agenda of the general meeting, such as product brochures, engineering certificates, a development application for external or extension works, or detailed plan drawings of your proposed renovations.

My by-law has been approved. What next?
The by-law, if approved, will need to be added to the scheme’s existing list of by-laws. This consolidated set of the scheme’s by-laws will need to be registered on your strata scheme’s common property certificate of title. The registration form must be lodged with Land Registry Services no later than 6 months after the date of the general meeting at which your by-law was considered.

I’ve already started or completed my renovations. Is it too late to get approval so that I can keep my works?
No, it is not too late to seek approval for your renovation works. A section 143 by-law can provide for prospective approval of changes to your lot property. Similarly to a by-law for future works, a section 143 by-law will describe the nature and location of your works and address the maintenance and repair obligations of the lot owner.

While minor works may be approved by an ordinary resolution prior to the works commencing, minor works cannot be approved in the same manner once the works have been completed. Approval of minor renovation works once they have been completed must be in the form of a by-law.

Lot owners should note that if their works remain unauthorised, an owners corporation may seek orders in the Tribunal that the common property affected by your works be returned to its state as it was prior to your renovation works.

Our office has considerable experience in these matters and can assist lot owners and owners corporations with a range of motions and by-laws to approve changes to lot and common property.