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Strata renovations under the new laws

5 December 2016

Jane Crittenden, a specialist strata lawyer, states that one of the most significant changes in the new strata reforms is the new method of regulating renovations, additions and alterations to units.

Under the new Act, brought in on 30 November 2016, new categories of works affecting common property have been created. 

These include “cosmetic work by owners” (Section 109), “minor renovations by owners” (Section 110) and other works affecting common property (Section 111). 

Cosmetic work

Cosmetic work allowed to be carried out in a competent and proper manner, without approval of the owners corporation, includes:

  • installing hooks, nails or screws to hang a painting or things on walls
  • installing or replacing handrails
  • filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls
  • laying carpet
  • installing or replacing built-in wardrobes, internal blinds and curtains and other work prescribed by the by-laws passed by the owners corporation.

However it does require an owner to ensure that any damage caused to any part of the common property is repaired.

Section 109(5) specifies work not included. This is defined as “minor renovations” in Section 110, and includes work:

  • involving structural changes that affects the external appearance or safety of a lot 
  • that affects the fire safety systems, waterproofing or plumbing or exhaust system of a building in a scheme
  • reconfiguring walls, and any other works defined by the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 (‘the Regulation’) as not being cosmetic work.


Minor renovations 

Minor renovations are defined in Section 110 of the Act, and are supplemented by additional items set in Regulation 28.

A special resolution is not needed to carry out minor renovations to common property in connection with an owner’s lot. 

An ordinary resolution at a general meeting is required to approve minor work, and approval may include conditions imposed by the owners corporation. However an owners corporation cannot unreasonably withhold its approval.  

Minor renovations are defined non-exhaustively and there may be items which are not expressly listed in the Act or Regulation.

The items listed in Section 110(3) are:

  • renovating a kitchen
  • changing recessed light fittings
  • installing or replacing wood or other hard floors
  • installing or replacing wiring, cabling, power, or access points
  • work involving reconfiguring walls
  • any other work prescribed by the Regulation.

Some items are very general descriptions which could range from limited to quite extensive work. Regulation 28 supplements Section 110(3) with a number of additional works which are considered minor renovations.  

These include removing carpets to expose wooden or other hard floors, installing a rainwater tank, clothesline, reverse cycle air-conditioner, solar panels, solar hot water system, heat pump or ceiling insulation.  

Section 110(4) specifies the information which an owner must give to an owners corporation about proposed minor renovations before seeking approval. 

This includes details of the work, plans, duration and times of the works, the people carrying out the work and their qualifications, and arrangements for removal of rubbish and debris.  

The Act also imposes an obligation on the owner to repair any damage caused to the common property.

Section 110(5) reserves the right to an owners corporation to pass a by-law to specify work which it considers to be a minor renovation, and permits the owners corporation to delegate its functions under Section 110 to the strata committee.  

Excluded from the definition of minor renovations is cosmetic work, waterproofing, structural changes, changes to the external appearance of a lot, work which requires approval of a by-law.  

The definition of minor renovations includes reconfiguring walls, but excludes structural changes and this could cause tension and give rise to disputes between owners and owners corporations. 

Works affecting common property other than cosmetic renovations and minor renovations are dealt with by Sections 111 and 142 of the Act. A by-law approved by special resolution is required for such works.

Common property rights by-law 

A common property rights by-law is defined in Section 142 of the Act and discusses the right of exclusive use and enjoyment, or special privileges of the whole or any specified part of the common property.

Section 144 of the 2016 Act requires a by-law to specify whether the owners corporation or lot owner is responsible for the maintenance and serviceable repair of the common property or relevant parts.

Registration of by-laws

Section 141 of the Act provides that a change to the by-laws of a strata scheme has no effect until written notification is registered with the Registrar-General of the Department of Lands. 

This must be done within six months of the date of the passing of the resolution to make the by-law. The six-month time limit is a significant reduction in time from the present requirement of two years and applies to all by-laws approved.

Tribunal powers

In the event of uncertainty if proposed works are cosmetic or minor renovations, an owner may seek a declaration from the Tribunal (Section 127). 

Presumably, it would be necessary to seek such an order if proposed works an owner considered cosmetic were considered by the owners corporation to be a minor renovation.

Section 126 of the Act also sets out the Tribunal’s powers to permit an owner to carry out alterations and repairs to common property and other property.