Renovating a strata property

Investing in strata is more popular than ever and for many new owners, renovating their apartments to perfectly suit their needs is usually right at the top of the list of things to do.  

Even if none of the planned improvements are major, apartment owners are in a strata unit and will probably need the permission of other owners first via the body corporate committee. Legislation that affects renovations is different in every state and territory. However, there are some basic principals apartment owners should adhere to so that the renovation not only goes smoothly but that relations with fellow owners remain friendly.

Naturally, all renovations must comply with building regulations. If a renovation involves major demolition and wall rearrangements, a structural integrity assessment of the building may also be required. Having a copy of the plan of subdivision is essential because apartment owners need to be absolutely clear on the precise boundaries of their lot. As plans can be confusing to interpret, it’s wise to seek the expert assistance of a surveyor, as renovations involving mistaken boundaries can end up being extremely expensive.

Generally speaking, a lot owner is entitled to change anything from the interior paint and inwards. The walls, the outside of the front door, the windows and the balcony are all generally considered common property, so apartment owners need to ask permission to make any extreme change to the aesthetic of the building. If apartment owners change these items without permission, they may be responsible for reinstating the property to its original condition – and all at their expense!

All the internal doors are the apartment owners to do with as they like but the front door basically belongs to the building – so that it’s in keeping with the neighbours and complies with fire safety standards. In Queensland, if you are in a body corporate that is a Building Format Plan the front door is common property however a door leading to a balcony belongs to the lot owner. Compared to in a Standard Format Plan where the front door belongs to the owner.

In many cases, timber flooring is considered a strata minefield and those who lay down timber flooring without consulting their by-laws or neighbours may end up having to re-lay with carpet. Noise from timber flooring is one of the top issues for unit owners, with a lot of owners being misled by those who install the floor.

Timber flooring isn’t the only noise issue within the realm of strata property – speakers recessed into a wall could be louder in the neighbours apartment and if speakers are fixed to the ceiling, make sure they don’t turn the upstairs neighbour’s floor into a sounding board.

The important thing to do first and foremost is read through the by-laws and find out what is and isn’t allowed, who to talk to and what the rules are in regards to work access and permitted hours for trades people. Simple items are often overlooked during the renovation process like where to put the skip bin and how to move rubbish in and out of the building without inconveniencing anyone else.

It is most important that apartment owners consult the building manager, committee or community manager to discuss what they are planning. Before undertaking major renovations apartment owners must notify the body corporate. Most renovations impact on common property in some way and the body corporate is responsible for its good management.

There are still many jobs apartment owners can undertake without the permission of the body corporate in order to transform their home:

– A good interior paint job or new wallpaper can help to transform any apartment

– Change the standard lighting fixtures on the ceiling

– Mirror one whole wall to open up the apartment and give the illusion of space

– New carpeting/flooring

– Change taps or showerheads

– Install blinds or fit curtains

– Attach fixtures to an internal wall

– Kitchen revamp – new bench, cupboard doors/draws etc

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