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Renovating an apartment? Your guide to body corporate rules

There are some important differences between renovating an apartment and renovating a free standing property.

Renovating apartment body corporate guideline

Which part of the property is yours and which is not, what kind of approvals you need and how your neighbours are going to be impacted are all items to cover off if you want your project to be as smooth, stress free and profitable as possible.

Ensure your next apartment renovation project runs smoothly by following these expert tips for success.

1. Understand what you own

When you purchase an apartment, you’re buying ‘airspace’. Generally, you own everything within that airspace, including:

  • floor coverings
  • sinks
  • baths
  • toilets
  • bench tops and cabinets

Your airspace may also extend out to a balcony or courtyard, or to a car parking space or garage.

There are other parts of the building which you own ‘in common’ with the other owners. These areas are known as ‘common property’. They include:

  • lifts
  • stairwells
  • foyers
  • the roof
  • the concrete slab between levels
  • boundary walls
  • centralised heating and cooling systems

If you’re planning an apartment renovation project, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you own and what is common property.

2. Obtain approval

If you’re planning to penetrate ceilings, boundary walls and floor slabs as part of your project, you’re likely to be impacting common property and you’ll need the consent of the body corporate to do that.

Some buildings require you to obtain consent for your specific project, others might already have made some general rules about these types of projects and you will need to comply with those. This information is found in the ‘rules’ or ‘by-laws’ for the building, which you’ll find among the records held by the building’s managing agent, also known as the ‘strata manager’.

WARNING: If:

  •  approval is required for your renovation project and you don’t obtain it, or
  • your renovation is not carried out in accordance with what has been approved,

the body corporate can require you to reinstate the affected common property – i.e.: reverse your renovation and bring the apartment back to its original condition. For this reason, the approval process is a critical one, not to be overlooked.

3. Factor in approval times

If you do need to obtain consent from the building before you can start your project, bear in mind that this consent may be some time coming. A meeting of all the owners may need to be convened to consider what you’re proposing. Even for experienced property investors, this delay can come as a surprise. Make sure you have factored this additional time in to your financial projections. The earlier you get focused on step 2 above, the quicker this part of the process will be.   

4. Be a good neighbour

Before the jack hammering starts, let all the residents know what you’re planning, when the disturbance will begin and how long it will last. Depending on the size of the building, you can do this with a letter box drop or a door knock. People are less likely to complain about noise when they’ve received prior warning and have some idea of how long it’s going to last. Most conflicts can be avoided with friendly communication.  

At the end of a successful project, it’s a good idea to thank your neighbours for their patience and understanding. Maintaining or increasing the level of harmony and community-mindedness within the building only adds value to your investment and makes for an even more successful project.

This article by Amanda Farmer.

Amanda FarmerAmanda Farmer is a lawyer and the owner of Lawyers Chambers, a boutique strata specialist law firm in Sydney. Amanda is the host of the popular podcast “Your Strata Property”, helping property owners to demystify the legal complexities of apartment living. For more information, including access to by-law templates you can use for your next renovation, visit: www.yourstrataproperty.com.au

Last Updated: 5th March 2019



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