Strata bylaws exist to help neighbours in unit blocks and apartments live in peace during renovations. As they share walls, floors and ceilings, no one wants to wake up one morning with a hole in their living room wall or water damage on their ceiling. As well intentioned as these laws are, sometimes they can seem like a bureaucratic nightmare. When it comes to giving your bathroom a facelift, you may need to get permission first and follow specific rules.
We recommend you approach your strata manager before any type of renovation. Owner corporations generally appreciate being asked about changes as a matter of courtesy. If they find out about your renovation from residents inquiring about your construction noises, it may put them offside.
In NSW, there are three categories of renovations.
1. Cosmetic changes
Cosmetic changes to a bathroom don't require approval from strata. They are changes made to the space within the apartment, such as painting the walls, changing a showerhead or vanity. However, if the vanity requires changes to plumbing or needs to be fixed to the wall, this may be classed as a minor renovation.
2. Minor changes
Minor renovations can be done with the approval of Owners Corporation by ordinary resolution. No by-law is needed.
Minor renovations to a bathroom include installing cabinets, such as a floating vanity. Recessed light fittings are in the ceiling, which is a common boundary so also needs permission, unlike changing a hanging light fixture. However, wiring or electrical work may also need permission for this reason.
Changing hard flooring like the tiles in a bathroom may change the sound of your footsteps for the tenants below you. That's why you need permission for changing any hard flooring, which also includes timber.
Altering non-structural walls during strata renovations may be done as a minor renovation.
Lot owners must get the approval of the owners corporation by general resolution (50% of those entitled to vote at a meeting) before any work can commence.
Lot owners may need to provide details of the work, including:
- the work, such as any plans
- the duration and times of the work
- the people who will carry out the work, including their qualifications, licence and insurance.
3. Major changes
Any major bathroom changes require a special resolution. Approval is required for major work, which includes waterproofing a bathroom. Plumbing under the floor is the responsibility of the owners corporation.
You should have a lawyer prepare a common property rights by-law for inclusion in an agenda of the Owners Corporation. Some standard by-laws may be purchased online through various websites. However, we always recommend that you use a strata lawyer to draft your exact works, so the intent of the by-law is properly covered.
Most bathroom renovations require a special resolution to be passed by strata. This is because of the plumbing, tiling and waterproofing that needs to be carried out.
For any structural changes, you need to give advance notice. Provide a written description of the changes you'd like to make to the owners corporation at least 14 days before the work is to start.
By-laws are a set of rules that owners, tenants and, in some cases, visitors must follow. They cover the behaviour of residents and the use of common property. So, renovations may fall under a by-law. Owners corporations can determine the by-laws that suit the preferred lifestyle of the strata scheme. So by-laws can vary significantly. It's important to understand which by-laws apply to your scheme.
You should therefore make sure to check with your owners corporation before making any changes or contacting renovators.
Renovating a bathroom under strata can be confusing. As it will probably be a major renovation, it's important you get a bathroom builder who understands strata, is licenced, insured and provides minimal disruptions to other residents. If you need help with your strata bathroom renovation, don't hesitate to contact Vivid Bathrooms.