These Q&As are about applying for unit renovations, altering the external appearance of the lot and carrying out improvements to common property in Western Australia strata buildings.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: During the selling process, our buyers want confirmation of Strata approval of the patio in our rear exclusive use yard. What time frame does the council of owners have to respond to our request?
- QUESTION: We are being charged $2000 to return a fire door to its original condition after the previous owner installed a deadbolt and peephole. Is this our cost to rectify?
- QUESTION: What must be included in a lot owner’s renovation request submission for the next AGM?
- QUESTION: What is the correct procedure for the lot owner when carrying out changes to their lot?
- QUESTION: Our byLaws state that laundry cannot be viewed from outside the property. What is the intent of the Appearance of the Lot byLaw? Is it that a property on a higher level should not be able to view the laundry or does it relate to laundry visible from common property?
- QUESTION: We are seeking approval to install new laminate flooring in our apartment. Strata tell us the flooring must be installed by the building manager. Is this reasonable?
- QUESTION: We would like to add a second story to our freestanding unit. Do I need unanimous approval for renovations from all lot owners before I can proceed to put a building application to the council?
- QUESTION: A neighbouring resident wants to erect a pergola on their balcony. How do I stop the neighbour from erecting the pergola and blocking my view?
Question: During the selling process, our buyers want confirmation of Strata approval of the patio in our rear exclusive use yard. What time frame does the council of owners have to respond to our request?
We have an unapproved patio in our rear exclusive use yard. There are a total of five unapproved patios in our scheme. We have sold our property and our buyers want confirmation that Strata approves of the structure.
We have written asking for strata council of owners permission.
What time frame does the council of owners have to respond to our request?
What happens if the council of owners ignores our request?
Answer: The Council does not have specific timeframes in relation to the approval for an installation of a structure in common property.
Our comments below are provided without seeing the Strata Plan or the Exclusive Use bylaw that is referred to in the question below.
An exclusive use area is common property albeit that an owner has been granted use of that area. This exclusive use is granted via a Resolution Without Dissent at a General Meeting and MUST be lodged on the Strata Plan.
Any/all guidelines in relation to the “use” of that area should be documented in that Exclusive Use Bylaw, including who maintains it, insurances required, installations/changes to the area etc.
So the first item to check is the wording within the registered Exclusive Use bylaw. If the Ex Use bylaw is not registered on the Strata Plan then the area reverts to common property.
The Council of Owners are unable to provide permission or approval for the installation of a structure within the common property unless the Ex Use Bylaw provides them the ability to do so, or if the matter has been agreed to at a general meeting of the owners.
The Council does not have specific timeframes in relation to the approval for an installation of a structure in common property. If the ex use bylaw does not provide specific details for the installation of structures into the Ex Use areas, then the matter would need to be referred back to all owners at a General Meeting.
The Council are required to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Owners if they are requisitioned by 25% or more of the proprietors, or of the Unit Entitlement of the complex.
If the owners want to obtain the patio approvals form 50% of the Unit Entitlement for the scheme, these owners may convene an Extraordinary General Meeting if the Council has not done so within 21 days of the original request.
It may be prudent to provide all of the approval documents from the Local Authority, (showing they have approved the patio in the exclusive use area) to the Council of Owners and the Strata Manager providing a timeline for their response ie: 14 or 21 days. In this document you should be requesting the convening of an EGM to provide approval for the patio in your exclusive use area. If no response is received you may wish to obtain legal advice and see if you are able to pursue the matter via SAT for resolution.
This post appears in Strata News #552.
Question: We are being charged $2000 to return a fire door to its original condition after the previous owner installed a deadbolt and peephole. Is this our cost to rectify?
Strata recently emailed us to say we’d made unapproved changes to our front door by installing a deadbolt and peephole. We bought the apartment two years ago and these changes must have been made by the previous owner.
The strata company is claiming we need to pay $2,000 to have a new fireproof door installed as the deadbolt and peephole has affected the fire rating of the door.
Are we responsible for the cost of returning the door to the original condition?
Answer: The person purchasing has a responsibility to obtain the information they require before purchasing.
Most apartments in high rise complexes have a fire door fitted as the front door to the apartment. In many cases, these doors are common property however this can only be determined by viewing a copy of the Strata Plan.
These fire doors have a rating attached to them and normally have a plate fitted to the spine of the door showing what the rating is ie: 1 hour, 1.5 hours etc. Replacement fire doors may cost $2500 or more.
These doors form part of the fire and safety infrastructure of the building. Fire doors create a passive fire safety system, protecting buildings from the spread of fire by confining them to a specific area for a designated period of time.
If the door is common property, then before any changes are made to the door you will require Strata Company approval.
The fitting of hardware to the door, if not fire rated, may compromise the door and therefore deem it to be non compliant. Once a fire door is non compliant then the intent of the door to confine a fire for a period of time may be lost. If a fire door is non compliant then it can cause further complications, not only to the safety of the resident of that apartment, but all residents in the complex and the Strata insurance cover etc.
The responsibility for the apartment, including fittings/installations etc, pass on with the ownership of the property. The duty of disclosure responsibility is with the person selling the property. The person purchasing has a responsibility to obtain the information they require before purchasing.
The replacing of the door may not be required. My understanding is that a locksmith can assist in providing you with some of the options regarding the current hardware and a changeover to new (fire rated) hardware. If the Strata Company were to approve it, you may be able to fit a blanking plate to where the deadbolt was fitted. The blanking plate is a fire rated product, or the Strata Company may approve a replacement (fire rated) deadbolt.
Obtaining approval from the Strata Company for a peephole may give you an option to remove the current and fit a new fire rated peephole. Please remember to keep your documents to prove the fire rating of the new fixtures.
Your initial step may be to obtain advice from a locksmith in relation to either blanking off the current installations or replacing them with fire rated products. Whether you want to go with blanking off or new installations you will need to request approval from the Strata Company to be able to progress, and they will want you to identify what you are intending to fit.
I would footnote this response with the fact that this is a general comment, it is not legal advice and the owner may wish to obtain independent legal advice on this matter.
This post appears in Strata News #551.
Question: What must be included in a lot owner’s renovation request submission for the next AGM?
We are a single tier complex of 7 units. A lot owner has requested permission to add a structure that will be attached to the back of their unit.
What must they include in the submission for the next AGM? We wish to ensure that, if and when the addition is approved, the correct information is included in the minutes. We are concerned about how to record that the request has been approved for both now and in the future in case of any potential issues that arise due to the work.
Answer: An application for alteration to a lot must set out certain details that are prescribed under the general regulations.
Given that your question references the addition of a structure to the back of the unit it is important to determine if the new structure is being erected on the lot or common property. Erection of a structure on the common property for the sole use of a single lot is not advisable and potentially not compliant under the Strata Titles Act 1985 (STA1985).
Section 86 of the STA1985 states that “structural alteration of a lot means — (a) the erection of a structure within the lot; or (b) an alteration of a structural kind to, or extension of, a structure within the lot; structure includes anything classified as a structure by the regulations”.
Section 73 of the General Regulations defines a structure as “… any dwelling, shop, factory, commercial premises, garage, carport, shed or other building or improvement (whether free standing or annexed to or incorporated with any existing building on the lot) — (a) the construction or erection of which is required to be approved by the local government or any other authority; or (b) the area of which is to be taken into account for the purposes of determining the plot ratio restrictions or open space requirements for the lot.”
Given your complex is a 7 lot scheme (assuming it is strata title and not survey strata) the alteration would require prior approval expressed by resolution without dissent (no vote against). Alternatively, prior written approval from each lot which are unconditional or contain the same conditions can be served on the strata company to gain approval.
A vote on the proposal must be cast against or for the resolution. Any vote against must state the grounds for the vote against and must be one of the grounds contained within section 87(5) which states:
- that the carrying out of the proposal will breach the plot ratio restrictions or open space requirements for the lot; or
- in the case of a lot that is not a vacant lot, that the carrying out of the proposal —
- will result in a structure that is visible from outside the lot and that is not in keeping with the rest of the development; or
- may affect the structural soundness of a building; or
- may interfere with a statutory easement.
- that the carrying out of the proposal will contravene a specified by-law or specified by-laws of the strata company;
- that the carrying out of the proposal may interfere with a short form easement or restrictive covenant or any other easement or covenant affecting the parcel that is shown on the scheme plan or registered against the parcel.
An application for alteration to a lot must set out certain details that are prescribed under regulation 75 the general regulations. These are:
75. Application for approval of structural alteration
- For the purposes of section 89(1), the following information is prescribed —
- plans and specifications for the structural alteration;
- the additional information prescribed for the type of structural alteration concerned by this regulation.
- The following additional information is prescribed for a structural alteration of a lot on a strata plan —
- the plot ratio restrictions and open space requirements in relation to the parcel;
- the pro rata entitlements of the lot (calculated as provided for by regulations 7 and 8);
- if the application is approved, the area of the structure, including the area of all existing and proposed structures to be taken into account for the purposes of calculating the plot ratio restrictions and open space requirements;
- whether or not the carrying out of the proposal will breach the pro rata entitlements of the lot and, if it does, the percentage and area by which the pro rata entitlements of the lot is exceeded;
- the location and dimensions of the proposed structure upon its completion in relation to any existing structure on the lot or to the boundaries of the lot;
- any contravention of the by‑laws of the strata company, whether of a permanent or temporary nature, which is likely to occur during or as a result of the erection, alteration or extension of the structure, and any proposed manner of dealing with that contravention;
- any likely interruption to or interference with any statutory easement, short form easement or restrictive covenant or any other easement or restrictive covenant affecting the parcel that is shown on the scheme plan or registered against the parcel, whether of a permanent or temporary nature;
- whether the structural alteration of the lot changes the boundaries of the lot and whether the applicant has sought advice from a licensed surveyor about the effect of the structural alteration.
The process required for handling an application is also very stringent and imperative to the legitimacy of the process. For example, an application received must be open for voting within 35 days of being received. The chairperson of the meeting that is considering the application must read the prescribed statement prior to the alteration being voted on. The prescribed statement is contained in the general regulations and amongst other things outlines the valid reasons for a vote against the proposed alterations.
This post appears in the September 2021 edition of The WA Strata Magazine.
Question: What is the correct procedure for the lot owner when carrying out changes to their lot?
I recently purchased a strata title property. The strata consists of 3 townhouses. One townhouse is Owner Occupied, and the other is tenanted. There is no Strata Manager and no meetings etc. I really want to paint the exterior of my townhouse a different colour. When I asked the selling agent how to go about this, he said ‘just knock on the neighbour’s door and get the permission’.
Is that ok? I’m also planning to do some gardening at the front of the lot which I will maintain by myself to improve the appearance of the block. What steps do I need to follow to ensure I follow through with these changes correctly?
Answer: Before being able to progress with any works to the external areas such as painting or gardening, you have to be able to determine what you have purchased.
Congratulations on your new home. When purchasing your townhouse the real estate agent is required to provide you with copies of the Strata Plan for your scheme and the bylaws lodged on the Strata Plan.
There are several different types of boundaries that can be provided to a Strata Company and before being able to progress with any works to the external areas such as painting or gardening, you have to be able to determine what you have purchased. In some instances you may have purchased your townhouse and all of the external areas to the fence lines, deeming you to be a Survey Strata Complex. Or you may have purchased the internal cubic space or, you may own the structure to the external surfaces, and in some cases, you may own to the middle of the external brick walls. Sometimes people generalise and think that all strata plans are the same however they do vary quite a bit.
In most cases, if you are looking to change the external colour or aesthetics of your townhouse, you will need to apply for the Strata Company to approve it. To achieve this you will need to liaise with the owners of the other units, not the residents. They may all be owner/occupied which will make it easier, however, the owners collectively form the Strata Company and therefore it is the owners you need to speak with. You can certainly knock on the neighbour’s doors and seek that information. If they are tenanted then you may have to contact their Property Manager to obtain details for the owner.
If all 3 owners agree to any changes and sign or put that in writing, you may be able to proceed with your changes. Bear in mind that you have purchased into a community and one of the standard conduct bylaws that may be relevant to your Strata Plan provides the following:
14. Appearance of lot
An owner or occupier of a lot must not, without the written consent of the strata company, maintain within the lot anything visible from outside the lot that, viewed from outside the lot, is not in keeping with the rest of the building.
As a first step it would be great to find out who your neighbours are and maybe, once you have the contact details for the other owners, you can convene a meeting to discuss these issues. Once you have gathered then you may decide to have a consultant look at your plan and provide all 3 owners with a summary of the boundaries of your lots and confirm your bylaws. This information can be held by each of the townhouses and every owner is aware of their obligations in the future.
This post appears in the March 2020 edition of The WA Strata Magazine.
Question: Our byLaws state that laundry cannot be viewed from outside the property. What is the intent of the Appearance of the Lot byLaw? Is it that a property on a higher level should not be able to view the laundry or does it relate to laundry visible from common property?
Answer: In general terms, the standard by-law means any laundry visible from anywhere outside the building, whether it’s a higher balcony, common property, or from the street.
Visible laundry is often a topic of conversation and it varies from complex to complex as to how strictly this by-law is enforced. In general terms, the standard by-law means any laundry visible from anywhere outside the building, whether it’s a higher balcony, common property, or from the street.
If your complex doesn’t provide designated areas for the air-drying of laundry, your next best options are either having a portable drying rack set up inside your apartment where it’s not visible from outside, or to seek written permission from your elected Strata Council to use a visible space such as a balcony or courtyard.
Your Strata Manager may also be able to provide guidance on whether there is precedence set in this regard at your complex, or provide further detail on your complex’s specific requirements.
This post appears in the December 2020 edition of The WA Strata Magazine.
Question: We are seeking approval to install new laminate flooring in our apartment. Strata tell us the flooring must be installed by the building manager. Is this reasonable?
We are carrying unit renovations and asking for approval to install laminate flooring in our apartment.
We have organised the installation of the underlay and the flooring through an external flooring company, however, the strata is telling us that the building manager has to install and then look at the underlay laid down.
We want the whole process to be done by the professional flooring company. Is it reasonable for them to make this rule?
Answer: Internal fit out is the responsibility of each lot owner.
I find it difficult to understand why the building manager would have to carry out the install. What qualifications in this area does he have?
Is there a by-law in place concerning floor coverings and timber or laminated flooring?
If yes, I would like to see the wording. It could be deemed discriminatory. Internal fit out is the responsibility of each lot owner. They are the owner of that area and therefore they would approve who will enter their lot and perform the required work.
The responsibility of you as a lot owner is to comply with the by-laws. In this instant Schedule 2 Conduct by-laws item 10 Floor coverings clearly states:
An owner of lot must ensure that all floor space within the lot (other than that comprising kitchen, laundry, lavatory or bathroom) is covered or otherwise treated to an extent sufficient to prevent the transmission therefrom of noise likely to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of an owner or occupier of another lot.
You would need to comply with this by-law and there may be a situation where the strata company needs to check the installation to ensure that it meets the requirements of the act and the by-laws.
As the type of flooring you are installing can be a sensitive issue to neighbours due to the potential noise transmission it is essential you keep your strata manager/council of owners fully informed as to what you are doing and the materials to be used.
This post appears in Strata News #348.
Question: We would like to add a second story to our freestanding unit. Do I need unanimous approval for renovations from all lot owners before I can proceed to put a building application to the council?
Do I need unanimous approval of all owners before I can proceed to put a building application to the council, etc?
Will the new WA Strata regulations impact the Strata approval process?
Answer: You will require a resolution without dissent at a duly convened meeting.
Please note: this response was provided prior to the proclamation of the new strata title amendments.
Alteration to lots are covered under Section 7 of the Strata Titles Act, 1985. In essence, you will require a resolution without dissent at a duly convened meeting at which you will need to have submitted full plans etc.
Section 7 explains the requirements and grounds for dissent.
This post appears in Strata News #323.
Question: A neighbouring resident wants to erect a pergola on their balcony. How do I stop the neighbour from erecting the pergola and blocking my view?
I live in a large apartment block. A neighbouring resident wants to build a permanent large pergola on his balcony.
Can I stop the neighbour from erecting the pergola on the grounds that the structure will be blocking my view, especially when the apartments were built to maximise the view.
Answer: We need to consider whether the balconies are part lots or common property areas because this will also impact on how this matter would need to be “approved”.
Please note: this response was provided prior to the proclamation of the new strata title amendments.
I assume that the “neighbour” is another apartment in the same apartment block. We also need to consider whether the balconies are part lots or common property areas because this will also impact on how this matter would need to be “approved”.
The erection of a new “structure” in a part lot requires a Section 7 application. I believe this would be a “structure” because it would require Local Shire approval, in addition to the Strata Company approval.
So the first point is to contact the local shire to see if they would need to give approval and whether they would consider giving approval. You may find that this matter will stop at this point. If the local shire won’t approve it then it goes no further.
If the Local Shire says they will approve it, then I believe it will come back to the Section 7 requirements. Section 7 requires the proposal to be documented in line with the regulations and then presented to an Extraordinary General Meeting. The General Meeting will then require a Resolution Without Dissent (RWD) to be passed to allow the pergola to proceed.
There are further technicalities around this issue but this is a broad outline of the requirements.
I note the Resolution Without Dissent will require NO dissenting votes for the matter to be approved, however, it may be highly unlikely that it even progresses to the point of holding a meeting.
Have a question about erecting a structure or stopping an apartment neighbour from blocking your view? If you have something to add to the article, please leave a comment below.
This post appears in Strata News #304.
Note: this general information about strata council member problems is an opinion only and suitable specialists in these areas should be sort for clarification and assistance on all points.
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