Are you considering giving your strata apartment a makeover? While renovations are certainly possible, there are a few things to consider before reaching for the tools.
Common and individual property
While every strata building will have slightly different by-laws, there is one crucial factor that exists in almost all of them. That is the separation between the common property (which you don’t own) and individual property (which you do own).
In most strata buildings, the Owners Corporation considers individual property to be anything that’s inside your walls and floor coverings. For example, you can usually paint the walls, however, you can’t make any structural changes to the walls. The same goes for flooring. You can usually change the carpet, but not alter the floorboards beneath. In fact, many strata apartment buildings disallow the use of exposed floorboards because of the noise it can cause for your downstairs neighbours.
All entry points, such as the front and balcony doors, are considered common property, so you can’t alter these. You can change light fittings, but something like retrofitting downlights would normally require prior approval. Similarly, things like cabinetry fall inside your boundary, and can therefore be changed. However, for areas like the bathroom or kitchen where plumbing is involved, you would still likely need approval.
Seeking approval for renovations
While the information above is pretty clear regarding the boundaries, you should still seek approval for any significant renovations. This requires a common-sense approach. If you want to change the door handles on your kitchen cupboards, for example, you can go for it. But something like replacing bathroom tiles requires waterproofing and does affect the walls, you must seek prior approval.
It’s important to note that for any renovations, you take full responsibility for the results even if you have prior approval. In the example above, for replacing bathroom tiles, you would be responsible for the waterproofing and any subsequent leaks or damage caused by your renovations.
Communicate with neighbours
One thing you should always do when conducting any renovations is to communicate with neighbours. It’s a matter of courtesy, especially if you’ll have contractors working in the area. Your by-laws may even have set times of day that renovation works can take place, so that’s something to be aware of.
Ultimately, you want to live harmoniously with those around you, so if your renovations are going to cause an unusual amount of noise, communication is the key.
Ensure contractors stick to by-laws
Strata by-laws aren’t just there to govern what you can and can’t do yourself. It applies to everybody who is in the apartment, so that includes contractors. You need to ensure that all contractors adhere to the by-laws when they’re on-site.
Particular care should be taken to make sure contractors park in appropriate places around the building. They also need to be mindful of blocking common areas, especially entrances to other apartments, lifts or stairwells.
When in doubt, refer to the by-laws
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is refer to your by-laws if you have any doubt whatsoever. Remember, it’s your responsibility to understand and read your by-laws. If you arrange for contractors to move the plumbing around and there’s a leak, ignorance of the by-laws won’t be a defence.
Unless it’s something really cosmetic, such as painting the interior walls, it’s best to seek approval if you’re not sure. You’ll still be responsible for any damage that may ensue, but at least you won’t be asked to reinstate things back to their original state.