Renovating An Apartment: What You Need To Know

Renovating your own home can be an exciting time. In fact, in recent years nearly half of all homeowners have renovated their properties, to the tune of more than $12 billion in 2021, according to industry reports.

If you’re part of the ever-growing number of Aussies looking to make a renovation to their home, you may be wondering what the legal requirements are. After all, while it may seem like it’s OK to put anything you want in your home, understanding the requirements from a council and strata perspective can save you valuable time when working with council staff and strata managers. Let’s explore what you need to put your best foot forward before you start renovating your next apartment.

Plan Out Your Big Ideas

First things first, it’s best not to walk into a hardware store with a head full of ideas but nothing to spend it on. The first, and simplest suggestion that can be made to any potential renovator is to sit down and write down a plan for all the changes you’d like to make.

Remember, a renovation isn’t always about big, structural changes like a granny flat or a home extension. While a lot of money is thrown at renovations, sometimes a renovation can be as simple as a new coat of paint and some changes to countertops and flooring.

Write down and plan out the changes you’d like to make to your property. If known, consider making a note of the cost to do such measures, so that if you need to change your plans down the line, you can understand where the biggest cost impacts can be made.

Discuss With Building Management

Once you’ve documented all the changes you’d like to make, it’s time to speak to a building manager to discuss if approvals are required. Rules are different in every state, so depending on your circumstance, you may or may not need to speak to a building manager, or in some cases, a strata manager.

In general, it’s considered best practice to approach a building or strata manager if approvals need to be sought, well before starting any renovation. Any approvals that are sought should be completed in writing and sent to a strata manager in a timely fashion.

In some states, unauthorised renovations can result in fines and legal action – not to mention if something goes wrong in the renovation as a result of unauthorised or poorly researched works. Don’t leave seeking approvals to the last minute – as this can be a costly exercise if you’re forced to undo renovations as a result of poor planning.

Do You Need Council Approval?

If you’re looking to make extensive changes to your property, and have sought strata approval, you may also need to seek approval from the appropriate council body. Depending on the type of modifications that you are looking to make to your property, a council may have extra obligations and requirements that you are required to observe.

Most states have a list of councils available for public search, and organisations such as the Australian Local Government Association have references to the relevant state bodies as needed. As with your discussions with building management, document any communications that you make. This can be helpful later, particularly if you choose to move and need to provide any additional information to future owners or tenants.

Handle Stairs And Elevators With Care

If you’re looking to shift heavy equipment or furniture around, it may be best that you speak to your strata manager about the best times to book a lift for private use. For many managers, they’ll be happy to accommodate this need, given enough notice, as long as it’s not during peak usage times.

Use blankets or other soft materials to soften the impact of cupboard edges and metal sheets, as damaging stairs or an elevator as a result of renovations can not only be an unpleasant experience for what you’re carrying but can also be financially painful when the strata manager issues you the repair bill for the damage you’ve made to the stairs.

Finally, consider what you should do to be the best neighbour possible during renovations. Remember, renovations can be loud and noisy, and many councils and strata corporations have noise limits, particularly outside of waking hours. At the end of the data, renovations may be temporary, but friendships can last forever – so when you’re working on your next renovation, be mindful of your neighbours!