The 3 types of renovations as per NSW strata laws

In New South Wales, renovations can be classified into three categories – cosmetic, minor and major. Each of these renovation types have a different approval process. When planning to renovate your property within a strata scheme, it is important to consider what type of renovation work you will be doing and at what point you need your owners corporation approval. Here’s a gist of the 3 types of renovations as per NSW strata laws to help you get clarity:

Cosmetic renovations

Any superficial changes you’d like to make within your own property, to change its look and feel, could be a cosmetic renovation. To make these changes, you need not seek the approval of the owners corporation. For instance, cosmetic work includes painting, laying carpet or installing or replacing hand rails.

However, while making cosmetic renovations within your property, you must keep in mind that you would be responsible for any damage to common property as a result of the renovations. Also, certain changes cannot be made as cosmetic changes, as per the law. These include:

  • Minor renovations
  • Structural changes to the property
  • Changes to the appearance of a lot
  • Works affecting the safety of a lot, including fire safety systems
  • Waterproofing or plumbing or exhaust system of a building
  • Reconfiguration of walls
  • Works requiring consent or approval under any other Act
  • Works required by the by-laws.

Minor renovations

For minor renovations, approval is required from the owners corporations. These renovations could include changing recessed light fittings, replacing or changing common infrastructure such as wiring, cabling or power or access points, plumbing and installing a heat pump to name a few. The owners corporation is allowed to impose reasonable conditions on the approval of such works. The owners corporation may also ask you to pay for and maintain the equipment or infrastructure you change. They will have specific by-laws outlining these aspects of minor changes – so make sure you’re conversant with these by-laws before you start any renovation work. The law prescribes that minor works do not include:

  • Cosmetic works that are defined in the legislation
  • Structural changes to the property
  • Changes to the appearance of a lot, including an external ramp
  • Works affecting the safety of a lot, including fire safety systems
  • Waterproofing or plumbing or exhaust system of a building
  • Works requiring consent or approval under any other Act
  • Work that is authorised by a by-law or a common property rights by-law

Major renovations*

Major renovations could impact the very structure and framework of the property. So they warrant a much more stringent approval process. First, the work needs a special resolution vote before it can move ahead. Next, before the work begins, the owner must give the owners corporation written notice at least 14 days, describing the proposed alteration in detail. Unlike for minor renovations, the owners corporation cannot delegate approval for major renovations to the strata committee.

Major renovations ideally include:

  • structural changes
  • waterproofing
  • fire-safety
  • cladding and insulation
  • changes affecting the outside appearance of the property, such as an access ramp
  • work that needs approval under other laws (for example, council approval)

Before you make any renovation to your property, make sure to go through your state laws first and understand what category of renovation your work could fall under. Then, make sure to take the necessary approvals from your owners corporation as required. Get acquainted with your property’s by-laws and planning regulations so that common property and shared amenities are not affected.

To determine the most appropriate course of action for your planned renovation check with the strata manager. For an up to date information on NSW strata legislation, download a copy of PICA Group’s Essential Guide to NSW Strata Legislation.

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*Source: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au