Lot owners from NSW are wondering about the correct process for strata approval for renovations. Leanne Habib, Premium Strata provides the following response.
Jump directly to the QUESTION you are after:
- QUESTION: To undertake major and minor renovations, do we need a separate bylaw submitted for each item or can it all be included in one special renovation by-law?
- QUESTION: We’ve never received approval for an air conditioner. We’ve recently been told to move the exterior unit as it is not keeping with the appearance of the lot.
- QUESTION: We’ve submitted a bylaw for the renovation of our unit. A lot Owner and the Strata Manager want us to pay for the review of the bylaw by a strata lawyer. Where do we stand?
- QUESTION: Do I need strata approval for the renovations of my bathroom if I am simply replacing like for like and retiling over the existing floor tiles? Is this work considered a minor cosmetic renovation?
- ARTICLE: Was My By-Law Unreasonably Refused?
- QUESTION: I’m concerned about the correct process of strata approval for renovations in our scheme. Renovations involving waterproofing isn’t being considered a major work under the new legislation, and therefore not being considered by the Owners Corporation as a special resolution.
- QUESTION: We are looking to renovate our bathroom, toilet and laundry in the single story townhouse we purchased last year. The renovation includes installing a waterproof membrane. What is the strata approval for renovations process and what approvals do we need from the owners corporation?
- QUESTION: Are there any templates available of renovation bylaws?
- QUESTION: Is it possible to have generic renovation bylaws for major works set up by the Committee so that everyone can use them without having to go to the trouble and the cost of setting up their own?
- QUESTION: Strata approval for renovations – Do I need to get our strata or Owners Corporation approval for installing a sliding door between our dining room and kitchen in our apartment?
- QUESTION: We wish to renovate our strata unit in Sydney. What are the steps involved to obtain strata approval for renovations?
- QUESTION: During the process of strata approval for renovations are there circumstances where you may be exempt from registering strata bylaws?
Question: To undertake major and minor renovations, do we need a separate by-law submitted for each item or can it all be included in one special renovation by-law?
When an owner wants to renovate to undertake major and minor renovations does this need a separate by-law passed for each bit of work or can it all be included in one special by-law and registered the once against the property title?
The renovations relate to minor being kitchen and flooring. Also, the addition of another window (non-opening) in the kitchen which is replacing external bricks being a major renovation requiring a by-law and special resolution being passed. We are only a small strata of 3 units.
Answer: There would never be the requirement for 2 by-laws because minor renovations only require an ordinary resolution.
The latter appears to be the industry norm and in the context of the works referred to below, would be the sensible approach. However, there is also the practice of having the strata committee approve the minor renovation component of the works (if they are delegated that power) and have the by-law apply only in relation to the “major” works which fall outside the definitions of cosmetic works or minor renovations.
In any event, there would never be the requirement for 2 by-laws because minor renovations only require an ordinary resolution without the requirement for a special resolution and by-law.
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
This post appears in Strata News #373.
Question: We’ve never received approval for an air conditioner. We’ve recently been told to move the exterior unit as it is not keeping with the appearance of the lot.
We own a strata unit in NSW and back in 2017 we installed an air conditioner with the outside unit mounted high on the balcony and also an exhaust fan in our bathroom and kitchen windows.
Now the owners corporation tells us we need to move the exterior unit of the air conditioner as it has affected the outdoor appearance of the lot. They have also insisted we remove the exhaust fans as they likewise affected the appearance of the lot.
The block is very old, built around the 1960s. Many units in the block have awnings on windows, clotheslines on balconies, pot plants sitting on balcony railings, box air conditioners in windows and units mounted in a very similar manner to ours.
We sought permission retrospectively not long after the work was completed and only heard back recently.
Answer: To effect your desired improvements, you will need a by-law for works.
To effect your desired improvements, you will need a by-law for works.
Yes, owners can object, but if 25% or more object, your by-law will fail as a special resolution is required. If the Owners Corporation “unreasonably” refuses to pass your by-law you have recourse to take action through NCAT that they were being unreasonable.
To maximise the prospects of your by-law passing, we can recommend strata lawyers to draft the by-law and usually, in this regard, the more information you provide i.e. construction materials, plans, specifications, architectural drawings etc the more likely people won’t object. Where possible your improvements should be in keeping with the appearance and amenity of the building and retain the same “look and feel”.
In our view, look and feel relates to design, construction materials and the general amenity of the building.
The extensive irregularities you mention from around the scheme would almost all certainly be breaches of by-laws and the pot-plant issue is likely to be a WH&S concern.
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
This post appears in Strata News #350.
Question: We’ve submitted a bylaw for the renovation of our unit. A lot Owner and the Strata Manager want us to pay for the review of the bylaw by a strata lawyer. Where do we stand?
We are in a small Strata scheme and have submitted a detailed special bylaw for an addition and renovation drafted by our Strata lawyer including certificates from a structural engineer.
We own 74.6% of the strata and so require the approval of the remaining owners to pass the bylaw.
One of the owners has said they want the bylaw reviewed by another lawyer, paid for by us, as they are new to strata living. This is supported by the strata agent.
Where do we stand on this as it feels like we have no choice and are over a barrel.
Answer: The costs and delays involved in mediation and Tribunal proceedings would far outweigh the costs of any advice on the by-law.
The by-law requires a special resolution at a general meeting. This means that not more than 25% of the value of the unit entitlements cast are against the resolution. If an owner does not attend the meeting or for whatever reason does not cast a vote, it is likely that you would be able to obtain a special resolution as it would increase your percentage of unit entitlement voting in favour of the by-law and reduce the percentage of unit entitlements voting against.
If all owners attend the meeting and all other owners vote against the motion for the by-law, the by-law will fail. If the owners who voted against the by-law refused the by-law unreasonably, you would have a possible action in NCAT to seek an order that the by-law is made on the basis that the owners corporation unreasonably refused the making of the by-law. Mediation would need to be attempted prior to seeking orders in NCAT.
Whether or not it is reasonable to require a lot owner proposing a by-law to pay for advice on the by-law for the owners corporation would depend on the complexities of the by-law, the proposed works and is a matter for determination by the Tribunal. In any event, the costs and delays involved in mediation and Tribunal proceedings would far outweigh the costs of any advice on the by-law. Therefore unless you can convince an owner or owners that legal advice is not required on the by-law, I suggest that you offer to pay the costs of advice on the by-law for the owners corporation. You should also consider capping those costs.
When the lot owner received the response from David Bannerman, they asked this follow up question:
If the majority of the Owners Committee/Strata Committee are not supportive of the request for a review by another lawyer, can a vote be called to decide?
David Bannerman responded:
Yes, as an owner you can request that the general meeting consider a motion at the next general meeting. However, that does not get you your by-law. It is possible that the majority of the owners corporation votes against getting further advice on the by-law, but the by-law still fails to obtain a special resolution.
This post appears in Strata News #318.
Question: Do I need strata approval for the renovations of my bathroom if I am simply replacing like for like and retiling over the existing floor tiles? Is this work considered a minor cosmetic renovation?
I am about to update my bathroom and need to be clear whether or not I need to make my intentions known to the owners corporation.
I will be replacing old with new; vanity, shower screen and toilet, plus retiling the floor over top of the existing tiles. There are no intended alterations to plumbing or waterproofing.
Is this work considered a minor cosmetic renovation?
Answer: It seems unlikely that your works could be carried out without any impact whatsoever on the existing waterproofing.
While it is correct that the installation of hard floors is a minor renovation, it seems unlikely that your works could be carried out without any impact whatsoever on the existing waterproofing or that no additional membrane/waterproofing will be required.
This post appears in Strata News #295.
NSW: Was My By-Law Unreasonably Refused?
If you own and live in, or work in a strata scheme, then you should be aware that if you want to do certain work to your lot or to the adjacent common property a by-law will be required.
Generally speaking, the type of work requiring a by-law will be work:
- work involving structural changes,
- work that changes the external appearance of a lot
- work involving waterproofing (for instance replacing tiles); and
- work for which development consent or another approval is required.
In a recent case, a lot owner had conducted structural work, waterproofing work and other work so that the lot could be used for a significantly different purpose than it had previously been used for. The scheme was an industrial scheme. The new lot owner had converted an industrial lot into a prayer hall by extending an existing bathroom, removing another ground floor bathroom, extending a mezzanine to create two offices, a kitchen and a new bathroom, installing air conditioning, a security alarm and a CCTV system. The lot owner did not obtain Council consent for the new use or for the works. The remaining lots in the scheme continued to be used as light industrial lots meaning trucks and forklifts etc. needed to utilise the common property.
The owners corporation sought orders in NCAT seeking that the unauthorised works be removed. Despite an appeal to the NCAT Appeal Panel by the lot owner, orders were made that the works be removed and the common property be reinstated. In the meantime, the lot owner put a by-law to the owners corporation retrospectively seeking approval for their work. At a general meeting, the owners corporation considered the by-law motion and it did not pass. The lot owner made an application to NCAT seeking an order that their proposed by-law be made and that the owners corporation had unreasonably refused it.
In considering whether or not the owners corporation had unreasonably refused to pass the by-law, the Tribunal noted that “a lot owner … must demonstrate the unreasonableness of the refusal, not the reasonableness of the proposed change” and that the onus is upon the lot owner to demonstrate that the decision of the owners corporation was unreasonable, rather than the owners corporation having to prove it acted reasonably.
In this instance, when taking into consideration the interests of all lot owners in the scheme, not just the interests of the lot owner making the application, the Tribunal noted that the interests of the other lot owners were in continuing to use their lots for light industry including warehouses.
In making the decision that the owners corporation’s refusal to pass the by-law had not been unreasonable the Tribunal noted that the change in use had not been authorised by Council, there had been no notice to the owners corporation of the works or the change in use, there were safety concerns regarding the large number of persons accessing the lot in question through the common property, concerns regarding a lack of parking and the effect of large numbers of cars parking in the surrounding areas on trucks needing to access other lots in the scheme and as at the date of the meeting refusing the by-law, concerns regarding the works themselves which had not been addressed.
While this is an extreme example it stands as a warning to lot owners. If you are uncertain whether or not your work requires a by-law, check with your strata manager or your strata committee. If you go ahead and do the work and it needed to be authorised by way of a by-law, you could be ordered to remove the works at your cost.
This post appears in Strata News #266.
Question: I’m concerned about the correct process of strata approval for renovations in our scheme. Renovations involving waterproofing isn’t being considered a major work under the new legislation, and therefore not being considered by the Owners Corporation as a special resolution.
I’m a member of a Strata Committee in an apartment complex which was registered prior to 1 July 1974. Being a ‘mature’ building, some of the more recent owners wish to improve their investment by having the laundry, kitchen, bathroom or floor coverings changed. That is understandable and it’s great to see improvements happening.
However, my concern is the way in which these proposed scope of works are being formally addressed. I will give you an actual example:
An Owner has sought to do renovation works as listed above. For the kitchen, in his Special By-Law he has stated the following:
Renovation of the kitchen of the Authorised Lot including:
- Removal and installation of cabinet with laminated bench tops; and
- Removal and installation of wall tiles including waterproofing works.
The Strata Manager has decided to place the entirety of the kitchen renovation as being ‘minor works’ and therefore the Owners Corporation are instructed in the ballot paper to consider it as an ‘ordinary resolution’ ie: 50% approval.
I raised my concern that this is incorrect pursuant to the new changes in the Strata Schemes Management Act (NSW) 2015. My concern is that item (b) namely waterproofing is considered a major work under the new legislation and therefore this particular item (b) should be a ‘stand-alone’ item and the strata approval for renovations should be considered by the Owners Corporation as a special resolution. In other words, item (a) of the Kitchen Renovation being considered as Ordinary Resolution whilst item (b) as a Special Resolution. Alternatively, perhaps, have both items (A and B) consolidated as a Special Resolution.
My suggestion to the Strata Manager about the process of strata approval for renovations has been ignored. Likewise by the other members of the Strata Committee.
I seek your interpretation of how this particular proposal for Kitchen Renovation ought to have been prepared for the Owners Corporation to vote on.
Since my suggestion is ignored and the Owners Corporation are about to vote on it with only 48-hour turn around, is it possible that an action can be taken to have this resolution deemed void assuming that my suggestion is correct? If so, what is the procedure to be taken?
Answer: Your interpretation is correct.
Your interpretation is correct. Any work which involves waterproofing necessitates the creation of a by-law irrespective of the fact that a kitchen renovation is designated a “minor renovation”. You have understood correctly that while a kitchen renovation is indeed a minor renovation if such a renovation also includes waterproofing works then the works need to be approved by way of a special resolution (by-law). Section 110(7)(d) SSMA 2015 clearly states that the section does NOT apply (ie categorising a kitchen a minor renovation) where the proposed works involve waterproofing.
We also agree with your approach that both sets of works ie cabinetry and waterproofing be detailed in one and the same by-law (rather than passing some works by ordinary resolution and others by special resolution).
Despite all of the above, however, we are not aware that a kitchen is a “wet area” within the meaning of the Building Code of Australia for the requirement for waterproofing.
This post appears in Strata News #185.
Question: We are looking to renovate our bathroom, toilet and laundry in the single story townhouse we purchased last year. The renovation includes installing a waterproof membrane. What is the strata approval for renovations process and what approvals do we need from the owners corporation?
We are looking to renovate our bathroom, toilet and laundry in the single story townhouse we purchased last year. The renovation includes installing a waterproof membrane. What approvals do we need from the owners corporation?
The job will consist of:-
- Membrane wet areas:
- Installing a waterproof membrane in wet areas (done by a qualified wet area tradesperson)
- Replacement of tiles (Floor and shower and walls around bath). Replacement of shower door from slider to bi-fold
- Replacement of shower head only (Not pipework) Replacement of vanity unit
- Replacement of tiles (Floor) Replacement of toilet
- Replacement of tiles only (not the wash sink). All replacement items are new.
There will be no movement or adding of new pipework, only direct replacement of taps, toilet and vanity with no effect on pipework.
No electrics affected except baton light replacement.
The debris will be disposed of ourselves at the tip.
We wish to start as soon as viable after receiving the strata owners decision and will be doing all the renovations ourselves, apart from installing a waterproof membrane.
Is this something the strata body would be ok with? What is the strata approval for renovations process and how do we get started?
Answer: We cannot predict the outcome of your application, however, you must submit a by-law for approval by the Owners Corporation in general meeting by special resolution.
We cannot predict the outcome of your application, however, to start the strata approval for renovations process, you must submit a by-law for approval by the Owners Corporation in general meeting by special resolution.
A by-law is necessitated because you are doing waterproofing works (which places your scope outside the ambit of minor renovations or cosmetic works).
Usually, an Owners Corporation would not object to such works provided you use a strata specialist solicitor to draft your by-law. Such by-law must then be registered on the certificate of title for the common property before you can commence works.
We can direct you to specialist strata lawyers who can assist in drafting the required by law.
This post appears in Strata News #177.
Question: Are there any templates available of renovation bylaws?
We are members of a Strata Plan in NSW which is in a complex of just over 50 units constructed in the 1980s. We have regular applications from owners proposing to renovate their apartments and we are looking to update quite cumbersome processes with respect to the approval by the Owners Corp of proposed renovations by owners.
Are there any templates available of policies and standards in relation to this process?
The issues which are contentious clearly arise in many Owners Corporation’s and include:
- Reasonable policies relating to the approval by the Owners Corporation of proposed changes to hard surfaces coverings to mitigate impact noise transfer from floors to ceilings.
- Whether the approval by Owners Corporation’s of renovation plans necessarily requires the current cumbersome and costly practice of calling special general meetings of owners to adopt special by-laws to approve their renovations with the Owner meeting the cost of solicitors to draft the new by-laws etc and the calling of the meeting.
Answer: Yes, you may purchase detailed renovation bylaws which regulate the carrying out of renovations and modifications
Yes, you may purchase detailed renovation by-laws which regulate the carrying out of renovations and modifications to a lot which may specifically authorise the executive committee to sign off on the commencement of the works (provided all the requirements of the by-law are satisfied including standards and compliance issues as stipulated in the by-law).
The “generic renovation by-law” obviates the need for a new by-law and a new general meeting to be held each time an owner wishes to carry out works.
Under the current legislation, you cannot avoid the general meeting, by-law drafting process because that is the procedure outlined in the current legislation. The new legislation, however, has relaxed the renovation procedure. For example, “cosmetic” works eg built-in wardrobes will no longer require any approval of the Owners Corporation. “Minor” renovations eg kitchen renovation will no longer require a special resolution or a by-law but rather only an ordinary resolution. Works involving structural changes, for example, will continue to require the special resolution/by-law process.
Renovation bylaws may be purchased which contemplate the revisions to the renovation processes.
Question: Is it possible to have generic renovation bylaws for major works set up by the Committee so that everyone can use them without having to go to the trouble and the cost of setting up their own?
Being a member of a Strata Committee where I live I have been asked to look into some things regarding By-Laws for Major Works.
We have at least three owners of Units wanting to renovate their bathrooms, and they, therefore, need to have a Special Resolution and renovation bylaws passed.
- Is it possible to have Blanket / Generic Renovation ByLaws for Major Works set up by the Committee so that everyone can use them without having to go to the trouble and the cost of setting up their own?
- I assume renovation bylaws would have to be registered.
- What would the procedure be for each Unit Owner to take once they have the Generic Bylaw?
- Do they then follow the same steps as before: Present the renovation bylaws, Plans and Details to the Strata Manager and wait till this is passed at a General or Extra Ordinary Meeting?
- Does it have to be registered again with their signature on it, therefore, taking the responsibility hereafter for the waterproofing and work carried out in their unit.
Answer: Yes this is possible. You pass a “management bylaw” which sets up the guidelines for major works
We have addressed each question below:
- Yes this is possible. You pass a “management bylaw” which sets up the guidelines for major works eg “Major Renovations” means works that:
- involve structural changes;
- change the external appearance of a Lot;
- detrimentally affect the safety of a Lot or common property including fire safety systems;
- involve waterproofing or plumbing or exhaust system(s); and/or
- are on the common property, for clarity, works that add to, alter or erect a structure on the common property, as are more particularly described in the Scope of Works.
- This bylaw is then registered. Then an owner wanting to carry out the works provides the Scope of Works to the strata committee, agrees to comply with the generic by-law and a one-line by-law stating the relevant lot owner’s lot number and specific scope of works is then registered (and the lot owner agrees that the provisions of the generic by-law are adopted or incorporated into the short by-law).
Alternatively, we have seen blanket authorisation bylaws (granting common property rights) for each and every lot providing strict guidelines are met (with only the generic bylaw being registered and no subsequent bylaws being registered in respect of any particular lot).
- As per the above
- Correct. We prefer the management bylaw approach so that all plans/details etc are registered on the title for a specific lot owner. This will avoid doubt in the future as to what scope of works were carried out .
- It depends on which approach you prefer. The former blanket bylaw approach you would require a short bylaw to be registered in addition to the generic one. If you adopt the alternative course, no.
This post appears in Strata News #172.
Question: Strata approval for renovations – Do I need to get our strata or Owners Corporation approval for installing a sliding door between our dining room and kitchen in our apartment?
Am I install a removable sliding door for the dining room which is linked with the kitchen? The sliding door will prevent the smell from escaping to the other rooms.
Do I need to get our strata approval for installing a sliding door?
Answer: Technically speaking you do not need strata approval for installing a sliding door because it seems to fall within the definition of “cosmetic work”.
Technically speaking you do not need strata approval for installing a sliding door because it seems to fall within the definition of “cosmetic work” under Section 109 of the SSMA 2015:
109 Cosmetic work by owners
- The owner of a lot in a strata scheme may carry out cosmetic work to common property in connection with the owner’s lot without the approval of the owners corporation.
- “Cosmetic work” includes but is not limited to work for the following purposes:
- installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings and other things on walls,
Because the definition is inclusive, your sliding doors could be construed as hanging “other things on walls” ie a sliding door.
Despite our view, we always recommend approaching your own strata manager first, because owners corporations generally appreciate the courtesy of being asked (rather than a resident hearing banging and drilling and notifying the strata manager which might get them offside).
This post appears in Strata News #164.
Question: We wish to renovate our strata unit in Sydney. What are the steps involved to obtain strata approval for renovations?
We wish to renovate our strata unit in Sydney, including relocating the kitchen, open a wall and use some area of the courtyard which forms part of the lot, add ducted air conditioning through the roof space.
Architectural plans are being drawn up for approval at an AGM.
- Please advise if we should place an exclusive use by law on the AGM agenda covering all aspects of the works which impact the common property.
- Is this single motion to approve a bylaw sufficient or do we need additional motions to gain strata approval for renovations?
- Can we download a sample bylaw which could be amended for the above?
Answer: Yes, you should have a lawyer prepare a common property rights by-law for inclusion in an agenda of the Owners Corporation.
- The correct terminology post the new legislation is that you need a “common property rights by-law”. But, yes, you should have a lawyer prepare such a by-law for inclusion in an agenda of the Owners Corporation.
- You will need a Section 108 motion for the improvements etc. Your lawyer will automatically include this motion.
- Some standard by-laws may be purchased online through various websites. However, we always recommend that you use a strata lawyer to bespoke draft for your exact works and ensure the intent of the bylaw is properly covered.
Question: During the process of strata approval for renovations are there circumstances where you may be exempt from registering strata bylaws?
I live in a complex in NSW. In our complex, there are a few apartments that were originally divided into two apartments by the developer. We questioned this with council many years ago and were advised that these apartments were permitted to do this.
One of the divided apartments was purchased by a new owner, who subsequently became chairman. The owner advised the board that council had ordered him to convert the apartment back into one apartment. The board never questioned the owner and did not request the demand letter from the council.
The owner has now gutted each floor, moved bathrooms and kitchen and laundry and added ducted air-conditioning. I have contacted the local council, who has advised that a privacy request needs to be made to view the alleged letter.
If such a demand was made, should the Executive Committee have requested a copy of the demand letter and also if there was a demand does that override NSW Strata rules which require owners, when seeking strata approval for renovations, to notify the Owners Corporation of any changes to plumbing, re-instating a staircase within the lot, adding ducted aircon?
Do we have a right to obtain a copy of the letter from the council?
Answer: It is possible that there is a by-law governing the consolidation of the divided apartments.
While we haven’t seen a copy of the by-laws applicable to the scheme, it is possible that there is a by-law governing the consolidation of the divided apartments.
If there is not, the Chairperson would have required a by-law for damage to the common property irrespective of any alleged Council directive to consolidate the lot. Even if the Council did in fact issue such a letter/demand, that does not excuse the Chairperson from the requirement to have a by-law registered for his works.
You should be able to inspect any documents at Council under a Freedom of Information Act 1982 application.
This post appears in Strata News #106.
Have a question or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, take a look here.