Renovation Rescue

One of the big confusions experienced by people new to strata living is understanding the difference between your private property (your lot) and common property (which belongs to every owner).
It might seem straight forward to think that everything within your four walls is your property to do as you wish, but that is not necessarily the case.
Renovations to bathrooms, laundries and kitchens may be subject to committee approval as they could impact on waterproofing between lots. The same considerations apply with altering internal walls.
Before starting work on your apartment, there may be specific by-laws/rules that apply to your community minimising the impact of tradespeople at work such as where they park, what time they can arrive and how much noise they can make.
Here we look at the specifics for Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
The Body Corporate and Community Management Act in Queensland does not restrict the changes or improvements an owner can make to their own lot. However, changes that might impact on the peaceful enjoyment – such as installing tile or timber floors might require Body Corporate approval.
Lot owners can make improvements to common property under certain circumstances but it must first be approved by the committee or the Body Corporate at a general meeting.
The committee can approve an improvement by an owner if the:

  • total cost is less than $3,000
  • improvement does not detract from the appearance of a lot
  • Body Corporate is satisfied that the use and enjoyment of the improvement is not likely to be a breach of the owner’s duties as an occupier (e.g. by causing a nuisance to others in the scheme).

New South Wales
Fair Trading New South Wales offers a straight forward explanation of which is lot owner responsibility and what is common property:

The Owners Corporation must repair common property, and owners must repair anything within their lot. However, it is not always clear what is common property and what is the individual lot.

Generally, everything inside the airspace of the unit, including all internal walls, fixtures, carpet and paint on the walls is usually the lot and therefore the responsibility of the lot owner.

Everything outside that airspace including boundary walls, windows, front and rear doors, and tiles fixed to the floor is usually common property and therefore the responsibility of the Owners Corporation.

The recent change to the NSW Owners Corporation legislation has given more specific guidance to lot owners and lists three types of renovations:

  • Cosmetic work
  • Minor renovations
  • Major renovations

Cosmetic work doesn’t require approval and includes things like:

  • installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings or other things on walls
  • installing or replacing handrails within your lot
  • painting
  • filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls

This list is not exhaustive and the Owners Corporation can declare other types of work are ‘cosmetic’ by passing a by-law.
Minor renovations do require Owners Corporation approval by a general resolution where 50% of owners have voted in favour.
The Act defines minor resolutions as including:

  • renovating a kitchen
  • changing recessed light fittings
  • installing or replacing wood or other hard floors
  • changing internal walls
  • sustainability measures (such as a clothesline or reverse cycle air conditioner). However, these cannot involve changing the outside appearance of a lot or structural changes

The approval process may need the owner to give details of the work. This may include:

  • any plans of the work
  • when the work will be carried out (times and dates)
  • qualifications and details of the tradespeople who will do the work.

Victoria’s Consumer Affairs Department makes only general recommendations.
Lot owners in an Owners Corporation are entitled to refurnish the interior of their unit and are required to notify the Owners Corporation if the renovations require a building or planning permit.
For further information or clarification regarding this issue, contact your SSKB Community Manager who will be able to help you regarding the laws apply to your state and by-laws for your specific community.

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