Strata Renovations: The Importance of a Good By-Law
Lot owners are often referred to us by their strata manager when they want to renovate their lot. The reason is that the work will involve waterproofing, involves structural elements, changes the external appearance of a lot or may require consent under other legislation such as work that requires development consent and as such a by-law is required.
A good by-law protects both the owners corporation and the lot owner and future owners of the lot by setting out the rights and obligations of the lot owner.
To protect the lot owner the by-law needs to set out clearly the work that has been authorised and the time frame in which to do it as well as any conditions that must be met before the work can start such as providing details of the builder and their insurances. A clear statement of the authorised work means that the owners corporation has a reference point for changes to the common property as well as who is responsible for that work. This is important in case there are issues with the work later and, in the case of structural work, so that a record of any structural changes to the building is kept.
To protect the owners corporation a good by-law should also set out conditions for the lot owner and their contractor to comply with during the works to ensure that other lot owners and the owners corporation itself are not unduly burdened by the works. Conditions such as requiring work to comply with relevant standards and legislation such as the Building Code of Australia and the Design & Building Practitioners Act 2020, setting out access and parking requirements, use of lifts (if there are any), hours of use of percussion tools and disposal of waste should all be dealt with in the by-law so that all lot owners are aware of the requirements.
It is also essential to include conditions regarding the maintenance and repair obligations for the work. Generally, if the lot owner is to conduct the work, the authorising by-law will require that they take on the future maintenance and repair of it. Rights are often also created for the owners corporation to conduct the repair and maintenance work if the lot owner does not do so and for the owners corporation to recover the cost of doing so from the lot owner.
Why are these obligations required of the lot owner? Although no one wants their renovation to cause issues they sometime can. This can be during the conduct of the work with contractors leaving waste on the common property or causing parking chaos by using all the common property visitors parks or after the work is completed if there is a defect in the work or through age and wear and tear the work requires replacement for instance a waterproof membrane in a shower not being installed correctly. Having these obligations clearly set out and agreed to in the registered by-law before the work commences can short circuit any later disputes. It also means that in the years after the work is completed there is a record of what the lot owner is responsible for.
This is general information and should not be considered to be legal advice. If you are affected you should obtain legal advice specific to your individual situation.