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Spring is already upon us and there is an increasing number of requests from lot owners residing in strata schemes to renovate their strata lot which frequently involves the request for exclusive use of common property attic spaces, courtyards, balconies and other common property areas.

Many strata lot owners are still perplexed by the process and requirements involved before carrying out strata renovations. The following are some frequently asked questions.

Question 1 – Do I need council approval for my works which involve common property?

The answer to this question depends on the type of development involved, the applicable Local Environmental Planning Instrument, the Building Code of Australia requirements and many other detailed requirements which are beyond the scope of this article. If you are unsure, it is best to make an appointment to meet your senior planner at your local council to discuss your requirements.

Question 2 – I am changing the use of my lot from commercial to residential but not changing or altering any common property. Do I still need the owners corporation’s consent to my development application with council?

Generally speaking, no.

Question 3 – Is my balcony common property or on my title?

You need to obtain a copy of your registered strata plan including any registered strata plan of subdivision, copies of all your scheme’s by-laws and seek legal advice.

Question 4 – Should we include diagrams, drawings and a scope of works within the Special By-law?

Yes.

Question 5 – Do I really need a Special By-law as my proposed works don’t affect common property?

Generally speaking, most renovations will in some way interfere with or affect common property. A common misconception is that front entry door locks are the owner’s responsibility. If the front entry door locks were in existence at the date of registration of the strata plan, it is the owners corporation’s responsibility to maintain and repair them, unless there already is a by-law in place which makes the lot owner responsible to maintain and repair them.

Question 6 – Can the Executive Committee pass my Special By-law so I can bypass the owners corporation?

No. It needs to be passed by a special resolution in general meeting of the owners corporation.

Question 7 – I want to remove some internal walls? Do I need to have certification from an engineer?

Yes. The owners corporation will want to ensure that the removal of any internal walls (load bearing or not) will not affect the structural integrity of the building.

Question 8 – Do I need to pay the owners corporation any money e.g. a license fee or lump sum fee for the grant of exclusive use of the common property attic space above my unit?

I recommend that you obtain specialist strata legal advice based on your own individual circumstances.

Question 9 – My owners corporation’s executive committee have asked me to provide them with a valuation of the proposed exclusive use area. Is this really necessary?

I recommend that you obtain specialist strata legal advice based on your own individual circumstances.

Question 10 – I want exclusive use of a common property area adjacent to my ground floor unit but can’t work out the boundaries. Where do I go from here?

If you and/or the owners corporation are unsure of the boundaries from reviewing a copy of the registered strata plan and/or registered strata plan of subdivision, you may want to consider obtaining a survey diagram from a registered surveyor and legal advice.

Question 11 – Who is a lot owner concerned? Do I need all owners in my scheme to consent to my Special By-law?

This area of law appears to be settled but I recommend that you obtain specialist strata legal advice based on your own individual circumstances.

Question 12 – Does my Special By-law need to be registered?

Yes. It should be registered promptly. Registration ensures that your Special By-law is legally enforceable. Most owners corporations will not authorise you to commence your renovations until your Special By-law has been registered.

Question 13 – Oops! I already commenced my strata renovation works without knowing the need for a Special By-law and have been issued a stop work order. Where do I go from here?

I recommend that you obtain specialist strata legal advice based on your own individual circumstances.

If you have any legal enquiries about this article, please feel free to contact Michael Pobi at michael.pobi@pobilawyers.com

This article has been prepared by Michael Pobi who is a Strata Lawyer in Sydney.

The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice. The accuracy and completeness of this article (and its contents) should be checked by obtaining independent legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon its contents in any way.

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