NSW Strata Reforms: Cosmetic & Minor Renovations – what can & can’t you do?

air-conditioner

The new Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) and the Strata Schemes Management Regulations 2016 (NSW) have changed the rules regarding the approval required for different types of work conducted by lot owners. This blog aims to shed some light on the changes.

The starting point is that as a lot owner you do not have a right to change or add to the common property. The ability to do this needs to be found in the Act, the Regulations or in your scheme’s by-laws.

The new Act has brought in different requirements for different types of work; the categories of work are “cosmetic work”, “minor renovations” and all other work that affects the common property.

“Cosmetic work” is for work that is just that, cosmetic and it requires no consent from the owners corporation. It includes:

  • installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings and other things on walls,
  • installing or replacing handrails,
  • painting,
  • filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls,
  • laying carpet,
  • installing or replacing built-in wardrobes,
  • installing or replacing internal blinds and curtains.

“Minor renovations” include work that is not so minor including kitchen renovations or installing hard surface flooring. It requires either an ordinary resolution of the owners corporation at general meeting (a 51% majority vote) or a by-law to be passed allowing the strata committee the delegated authority to approve work in this category. The list of minor renovation works includes:

  • renovating a kitchen,
  • changing recessed light fittings,
  • installing or replacing wood or other hard floors,
  • installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points,
  • work involving reconfiguring walls,
  • removing carpet or other soft floor coverings to expose underlying wooden or other hard floors,
  • installing a rainwater tank,
  • installing a clothesline,
  • installing a reverse cycle split system air conditioner,
  • installing double or triple glazed windows,
  • installing a heat pump,
  • installing ceiling insulation.

but does not include works set out in section 110(7) of the Act

 

Section 110(7) of the Act has the effect that work that is not “cosmetic work” or that involves structural changes, waterproofing, changes the external appearance of a lot, or is authorised under a common property rights by-law or requires consent or other approval under other legislation is not minor renovation work and requires a special resolution of the owners corporation at general meeting.

Should I obtain a by-law?

Personally, if I was a member of an owners corporation or a lot owner I would request that a specific by-law be made to authorise any work that was not cosmetic work. Why? A good by-law protects both a lot owner and the owners corporation by:

(a)    defining exactly what work has been authorised;

(b)   defining the responsibility to maintain and repair the work;

(c)    defining what, if any, compensation is to be paid for any exclusive use right,

(d)   defining how the work is to be conducted by setting hours, time frames etc.; and

(e)   enabling the owners corporation to recover any costs arising from a lot owner not complying with a term of the authorising by-law.

Also, a by-law is registered with the NSW Land Property Information office and stays on the title of the common property until it is repealed or amended. A repeal or amendment requires either the lot owner’s written consent or an NCAT order. On the other hand, a resolution authorising minor renovation work by either the owners corporation at general meeting or the strata committee is subject to the normal bookkeeping requirement of the owners corporation. If the books are kept for the required seven years and a dispute later arises about what was and wasn’t authorised and on what terms it can come down to a case of who has the better memory and whether the lot owner has kept the records which is obviously not ideal.

 

 

 

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