Apartment renovations: Getting Owners Corporation approval

Renovations in Strata Titles: How To Get Approved

Apartment ManagementEvery now and then, your property will need a makeover.

Whether it’s to keep your investment up with market trends or make your place feel more homely a renovation can be a great way to get more out of your property.

If your property is affected by an Owners Corporation, there will be a number of factors to consider.

The type of property you own – apartment, unit or townhouse – will have some say in what you can or can’t do from a structural perspective.

Your Owners Corporation rules will affect when and how works can take place and your Owners Corporation committee and fellow members may dictate what works you can and can’t do.

There is an old saying that says Owners Corporations are the fourth tier of government, and when it comes to renovations – particularly in apartment buildings – that much can be true.

But with a bit of research, planning and active ownership, you can get your planned renovations approved and completed with minimum fuss.

From researching your Owners Corporation rules through to notifying your Owners Corporation of proposed works, here is Strata Plan’s guide to getting your work approved and completed.

READ YOUR OWNERS CORPORATION RULES

Often referred to as Strata By-Laws, every Owners Corporation has a set of rules which govern a number of things in terms of common property and in some cases private property.

Every Owners Corporation has model rules – rules which apply across the board for all Body Corporates for things such as noise control.

Other Owners Corporations also have additional rules – rules which are specific to that Owners Corporation.

If your Owners Corporation is managed by Strata Plan, the good news is your rules should be readily available on your building’s Customer Portal. If you’ve logged on and can’t find them, contact Strata Plan today.

These rules will define what can and cannot be renovated and dictate what approvals are required to go ahead with your renovation.

For instance, almost every apartment building and townhouse development is built to ensure uniformity across the board in terms of outward appearance.

So if you own a townhouse and are hoping to render its brick frontage, it is unlikely that this will be allowed.

The rules might also govern interior renovations to ensure works are not disruptive to other occupants and that the building’s engineering remains sound.

Generally speaking, your Owners Corporation will need to approve most changes to your lot, so it’s important you do your research and ensure none of your proposed changes fall foul of your Owners Corporation rules.

RESEARCH YOUR PLANS

Rules are one thing, but the structural integrity of the building is another.

If your planned renovation include wholesale changes to your apartment, such as knocking down walls or replacing bathroom tiles, you need to ensure your works will not have any structural repercussions for the building or any surrounding neighbours.

Consider getting an engineer to look at your plans before you bother submitting your changes to the Owners Corporation for approval.

If your changes are on this scale, it is more than likely your plans will be rejected if they do not include relevant reports certifying the safety of your plans.

Even changing bathroom tiles can have serious repercussions for the waterproof membrane at your property.

It’s important that your plans include who you plan to employ to carry out the works and ensure that their work is guaranteed to the best of your ability.

Failure to do so could see your plans rejected by your Owners Corporation and even if they were approved, the responsibility for pursuing problems would fall at your feet.

You should also consider the possible ramifications this work will have on your neighbours.

Will the lift be required to transport materials? What hours will work be conducted between? Is there potential for mess to be left through common areas as trades move around the building?

The more of these concerns you can address immediately, the harder it will be for the Owners Corporation to deny your plans.

Of course, most apartment renovations are on a much smaller scale.

However, even the installation of awnings on balconies require due diligence.

Will the awning be attached to common property or private property? Will it alter the outward appearance of your property?

The more questions you can answer now, the better off you will be in the long run.

TALK TO YOUR STRATA MANAGER

Once you’re across the rules and your plans, pick up the phone and give your Strata Manager a call.

They will provide you with valuable insight into the sort of characters on your Owners Corporation committee, and what objections – if any – you may face with your plans.

Your Strata Manager will also be able to provide direction on what documents to submit to the Owners Corporation.

Talking to your Strata Manager before you submit your plans can also give you the opportunity to brief them, which can be advantageous if you’ve done your research.

When you submit your Lot Modification Request form, it will be your Strata Manager who will pass it onto your Owners Corporation committee (if one exists). The more they know about your plans and the efforts taken, the more information they will be able to share with the committee.

In the event that no committee has been formed, it is more than likely that you will need to wait until the next Annual General Meeting to submit your plans to follow owners and seek approval.

As Strata Plan is only the manager of the Owners Corporation, we are not in a position to approve such modifications on behalf of all owners.

This is just another reason why it is important for every Owners Corporation to have active owners willing to play a role in the ownership of the building.

SUBMIT YOUR PLANS

Once you are ready to submit your plans, send them to your Strata Manager using the prescribed form.

Strata Plan’s Lot Modification Request form is readily available on our website and once submitted will go directly to our management team.

If there are additional attachments you wish to include, you can email them to info@strataplan.com.au or directly to your manager.

Your submission should include:

  • A detailed description of proposed works
  • Estimated time for completion of works
  • At least 21 days’ notice before the start of works (if approved)
  • Estimated timeline for works and hours in which they will be completed
  • Your contact details

Once we receive your plans, your Strata Manager will submit them to your Owners Corporation committee for a decision.

The Owners Corporation committee is bound by the Owners Corporation Act (VIC) 2006 to “act honestly and in good faith” in carrying out its functions, which includes considering your Lot Modification Request.

If your request is denied, the Owners Corporation would need to demonstrate why it took such a decision.

Hopefully that does not become an issue and you get the all clear!

BE CONSIDERATE TO YOUR NEIGHBOURS

Once you have the go-ahead, you’re good to get started with work, in accordance with relevant laws, permits and regulations.

Your tradespeople should also be aware of the rules at your property and should ensure they respect them.

As a courtesy, it’s advisable to give your direct neighbours a bit of notice before works start, and take whatever measures you need to ensure works cause minimum disruption.

The more notice and updates you give your neighbours and Owners Corporation, the less likely you are to attract complaints during the renovation.

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