Strata renovation rules
Understand what changes need approval, otherwise you might be forced to change it back.
New flooring needs approval
Many people do not realise that putting in floorboards or tiles needs permission.
- You need permission to do a kitchen or bathroom renovation. You also need permission to change the walls, floors, or ceilings.
- Each strata is different. Check the by-laws before you start renovating so you know what approvals are needed and how to get them.
- If you don’t follow the correct process, you risk having to pay money to put the property back to how it was before you renovated it.
- This information is provided by NSW Fair Trading.
Did you know
Getting renovations done
Changing the rules
Many owners corporations update their by-laws to make the process of requesting approvals quicker and easier. For example:
- an owners corporation creates a by-law that adds a range of items to the list it considers 'cosmetic', meaning owners don't need to seek approval each time.
- the owners corporation creates a by-law that allows the strata committee to make all decisions on 'minor' renovations, rather than going to the full meeting of the owners corporation.
Learn more about changing by-laws.
The three types of renovations
Cosmetic work doesn't need approval.
Cosmetic work can't change the outside of a property or affect things like structure and waterproofing.
You are allowed to:
- install or replace hooks, nails or screws (for hanging paintings or other items on walls)
- install or replace handrails
- paint the interior
- install or replace blinds and curtains
- fill minor holes and cracks in internal walls
- lay carpet
- install or replace built-in wardrobes.
This applies to all strata schemes. Your strata scheme can choose to add more types of work to the list of cosmetic work. The owners corporation can pass a by-law to do this.
Minor renovations need approval, often this is from the strata committee.
Many schemes give the approval power to the strata committee. Otherwise. approval will require a vote at a general meeting.
Write to the strata manager or secretary and ask them to vote on your changes. You’ll need more than 50% of the votes cast in favour of the work at the meeting.
If the strata committee does not have the power to approve minor renovations, you’ll need to ask for approval at an annual general meeting (AGM) or an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).
Minor renovations include work to:
- renovate a kitchen, including flooring
- change recessed light fittings
- install or replace flooring, such as hardwood or tiles, as well as removing carpets to expose the flooring underneath
- change internal walls
- install or replace wiring, cabling, power, or access points
- install a rainwater tank
- install a clothesline
- install a reverse cycle air conditioner
- install double or triple glazed windows
- install a heat pump
- install ceiling insulation.
This applies to all strata schemes. Your owners corporation can choose to pass a by-law to add other types of work to the list of minor renovations.
Minor renovations can’t involve:
- structural changes or changes to a property’s outside appearance
- anything affecting waterproofing (for example, most bathroom renovations).
Before you get approval, you may also need to show your strata committee:
- plans of the work, including dates and times of when the work will be done
- an acoustic certificate to show sound insulation if you're installing flooring
- qualifications and details of the tradespeople who will do the work.
Major renovations need a special resolution vote at an annual general meeting (AGM) or other general meeting. This means no more than 25% of the votes cast are against it, based on unit entitlement.
The strata committee can't approve major renovations.
Major renovations include:
- structural changes (for example, moving a structural internal wall)
- waterproofing (for example bathrooms)
- changes affecting the outside appearance of the property, such as an access ramp
- work that needs approval under other laws (for example, council approval)
- changes to the ceiling or making a false ceiling.
If your work changes the structure of a lot (for example, removing a wall or installing ducted air conditioning), you must also give the owners corporation at least 14 days’ written notice before the work starts.
Your notice should describe how your renovations will change the property structure.
If you’re a tenant, you should write to your landlord to ask them before you make any changes.
If the landlord agrees to the change, they must follow the strata approval process that is listed above, on the tenant’s behalf. The landlord cannot unreasonably reject requests for 'minor' changes as set out in the tenancy laws.
Renovations and common property
If you want to make a renovation that affects the common property, the responsibility for maintaining that part of the property may be transferred to you. This is decided by the owners corporation and will usually depend on how much your renovations affect the common property.
The owners corporation would need to approve giving you the job of maintaining it. For it to decide this, it must pass a ‘common property rights’ by-law.
Before it does so, you must agree to the rule. This means you agree that you will maintain the common property. The details for this responsibility will be in the by-law.
You should keep this in mind when you plan on seeking renovations that will have a big impact on common property.
Learn the difference between annual general meetings, extraordinary general meetings, and strata committee meetings.
Owners corporations can update their by-laws to make the renovation approvals process quicker.
Some renovations are actually 'maintenance' and should be paid for by the owners corporation.
Find out about strata announcements, recently published resources and more. You can also subscribe to other newsletters of interest.