STRATA NSW: Understanding The Renovation Process

Dear Owners,
 
In our latest edition of the Strata North newsletter we are going to look at a topic that has been subject to a lot of discussion in our recent AGM’s – what approvals do owners need to carry out renovations to their lot?
 
As part of the revamp of the Strata Schemes Management Act, the NSW Government sought to make the planning and approval process easier for owners in Strata Schemes to understand, whilst also ensuring that adequate protections are in place for other owners in the Scheme.
 
Under the new Act, renovations are classified under 3 different categories – cosmetic work, minor renovations and major renovations. Each of these has its own type of approval process, so owners planning to renovate their lot need to be aware of these before proceeding with any works:

  1. Cosmetic work

Section 109 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 deals with cosmetic work.
 
Cosmetic work includes, but is not limited to, work for the following purposes—

  1. installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings and other things on walls,  
  2. installing or replacing handrails,  
  3. painting,  
  4. filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls,  
  5. laying carpet,  
  6. installing or replacing built-in wardrobes,  
  7. installing or replacing internal blinds and curtains,  
  8. any other work prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.

Any other work to the interior of the unit which is superficial in nature would also be classified as cosmetic work.
 
Approval Required:
 
No approval is required for works of this nature.
 
Things to remember with cosmetic works:

  • Any damage caused to common property as a result of the work is the responsibility of the owner to repair.  
  • All works should be undertaken by a competent person in a proper manner.  
  • Any works requiring consent or approval as minor renovations or major renovations under the Strata Act or any works requiring approval under any other Act are not classified as cosmetic.  
  • Cosmetic works cannot affect the external appearance of the Lot.  
  1. Minor Renovations

Section 110 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 deals with minor renovations.
 
Minor renovations include, but are not limited to, work for the purposes of the following—

  1. renovating a kitchen,  
  2. changing recessed light fittings,  
  3. installing or replacing wood or other hard floors,  
  4. installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points,  
  5. work involving reconfiguring walls,  
  6. removing carpet or other soft floor coverings to expose underlying wooden or other hard floors,  
  7. installing a rainwater tank,  
  8. installing a clothesline,  
  9. installing a reverse cycle split system air conditioner,  
  10. installing double or triple glazed windows,  
  11. installing a heat pump,
  12. installing ceiling insulation.  
  13. any other work prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.

Note: The above items would not be considered a ‘minor renovation’ if it involves structural changes, changes to the external appearance of a lot or waterproofing.
 
Approval Required:
 
Approval is required from the Owners Corporation for works of this nature.  A motion granting approval is typically passed at a General Meeting, however the motion can be passed at a Strata Committee meeting if the Owners Corporation have previously passed a by-law delegating authority to the Strata Committee to approve ‘Minor Renovations’.
 
If the works are to be approved at an Owners Corporation meeting, you will need to submit to your strata manager a suitably worded motion, together with any relevant information including pictures, plans, start dates and details of tradespeople undertaking the works.
 
The motion can then be added to the meeting agenda. If the motion is to go on the agenda for an upcoming meeting then no additional fee will be payable.  However, if you require the motion to be approved before the next scheduled meeting then an EGM can be convened – note a fee is payable for additional meetings.
 
Things to remember with minor renovations:

  • Minor renovations do not include any structural changes, waterproofing, or works affecting the safety of a lot.  
  • Changes such as access ramps and air-conditioning units are not classified as minor renovations if they alter the external appearance of a lot.  
  • The Owners Corporation is entitled to place reasonable conditions on the proposed works, including assurances that any damage to common property be rectified by the lot owner.  
  • Works requiring consent under another Act or regulation (for example, need consent from the local Council) are not classified as minor renovations.  
  1. Major Renovations

The Strata Act does not specifically define ‘Major Renovations’ and therefore all works which do not fall within the categories of minor renovations or cosmetic work are deemed major renovations.
 
Some examples of works that would be deemed major renovations include:

  1. Changes affecting the structure of the building such as an increase to external window cavities and removal of any structural walls.  
  2. Works affecting waterproofing including bathroom renovations or changes to balcony tiles.  
  3. Changes to the external appearance of the lot such as awnings, window blinds, air-conditioning units, decks, satellite dishes and access ramps.  
  4. Works involving fire-safety, cladding and/or insulation.  
  5. Works affecting common property such as carports.  
  6. Works that need approval under other Acts or Regulations.

Approval Required:
 
Section 108 of the Strata Schemes Management Act requires that a common property rights by-law be registered before an owner can undertake major renovations. The principal reason for this is to ensure that responsibility for the future maintenance and repair of the works and the common property affected by the works passes to the lot owner.
 
However, it also places conditions on the works being completed (such as obtaining consent from local Council (where applicable), use of suitably qualified tradespeople to undertake the work and to works to be completed in accordance with the approved plans) and formalises the Owners Corporation’s approval of the works.
 
A special resolution at a General Meeting is required for a by-law granting approval for major renovations.  This means that no more than 25% of the lots entitled to vote, vote against the resolution.
 
If the motion is to go on the agenda for an upcoming meeting then no additional fee will be payable.  However, if you require the motion to be approved before the next scheduled meeting then an EGM can be convened – note a fee is payable for additional meetings.
 
The Owners Corporation has the right to request rectification if an owner undertakes works without approval or not in accordance with the approved plans.
 
Things to remember with major renovations:

  • The Owners Corporation will require sufficient details of the work before being able to provide approval, including providing plans, contractor details/licences, dates work will take place, etc.  
  • Typically the local Council will ask for evidence of approval by the Owners Corporation prior to development approval being granted.  
  • A copy of the waterproofing certificate will be required on completion for any works involving waterproofing.

Hopefully this article has helped to clear up some of your questions around renovations.

Regards,
Strata North

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