Renovations To Lots

Renovations To Lots

Can an owner undertake renovations or alterations to a lot?  Yes but these may be subject to controls of the owners corporation and other authorities such as the Municipal Council.

Owners have obligations regarding notification of works and in some cases, the written approval of the owners corporation is required.

Notifications

If an owner intends undertaking works to a lot there are requiremements regarding notification to the owners corporation.  These do not require approval, only notification.  These are set out in the Model Rules and the Owners Corporations Act 2006 (OC Act)

Notification of Renovations

Model rule 5.3 is:

5.3   Requiring notice to the owners corporation of renovations to lots

An owner or occupier of a lot must notify the owners corporation when undertaking any renovations or other works that may affect the common property and/or other lot owners’ or occupiers’ enjoyment of the common property.

The notification is required if there works will affect the common property which can include:

  • access to the lot by contractors across common property;
  • use of common property by contractors undertaking work;
  • noise or dust affecting other lots or common property.

Application for Permit

Section 133 of the OC Act obliges an owner or occupier who is making application for a building permit, planning permit or certification of a plan of subdivision affecting the lot to notify the owners corporation and is:

133   Notice of planning and building applications and plans of subdivision

A lot owner must give notice to the owners corporation of any application by the lot owner for a building permit or planning permit or the certification of a plan of subdivision affecting the lot.

If a permit is required, notification is to be given no later than when the application is made.  If the permit is approved, it is good practice a copy of the approved permit is forwarded to the owners corporation for retention in its records.  Any permit requirement is a matter for Council and the owners corporation is not a party to the application.  The owners corporation or manager cannot provide advice as to whether a permit is required. Enquiries can also be made of the Municipal Council, a building surveyor or a planner if there are changes of use.

Effect on Insurance

If any change to the use of a property would affect the insurance premium paid by the owners corporation Model Rule 5.1 requires notification and the rule is:

5.1   Change of use of lots

An owner or occupier of a lot must give written notification to the owners corporation if the owner or occupier changes the existing use of the lot in a way that will affect the insurance premiums for the owners corporation.

If there is any uncertainty, the owners corporation should be advised so that it may provide this information to the insurer.  The failure to provide relevant and timely advice may compromise insurance the cover held by the owners corporation.

Approvals

Changes to the external appearance of a lot require the approval of the owners corporation even if wholly contained within the lot.  This is set out in Model Rule 5.2 which is:

5.2   External appearance of lots

(1)  An owner or occupier of a lot must obtain the written approval of the owners corporation before making any changes to the external appearance of their lot.
(2)  An owners corporation cannot unreasonably withhold approval, but may give approval subject to reasonable conditions to protect quiet enjoyment of other lot owners, structural integrity or the value of other lots and/or common property.

Change of this appearance includes but is not limited to alterations to colour schemes or materials used.

If any proposed renovations would alter common property Model Rule 4.3 requires the written consent of the owners corporation and the rule is:

4.3   Damage to common property

(1)  An owner or occupier of a lot must not damage or alter the common property without the written approval of the owners corporation.
(2)  An owner or occupier of a lot must not damage or alter a structure that forms part of the common property without the written approval of the owners corporation.

As works are usually within the lot, Model Rule 4.3 would not operate.  It is an obligation of the party undertaking the works to determine if works would extend beyond the boundary of the lot.  This is particularly relevant if it is proposed to extend the building upward by adding another floor or building an extension in a courtyard. 

If a building would extend onto common property this may require consideration of the grant of a lease of the relevant area to the owner.  This requires approval by special resolution which is 75% of all members are in favour.  Alternatively, the plan of subdivision may be amended to alter lot boundaries so that the building would be within the lot.  This requires all members agree to the change.  There is no right to alter the common property including extending a lot without the consent of the owners corporation. 

Other Rules

In addition to the Model Rules some owners corporation have made rules in addition to the model rules.  Such rules may have particular provisions regarding building works and these must be complied with.  These may include the requirement to provide detailed architectural and engineering plans, specification of materials, copies of any permit, details of contractors undertaking works, a copy of the building contract including public liability insurance of the contractor, obligation to clean the common property at the end of each day’s works and controls on parking on common property by contractors.  In addition there may be an obligation to lodge a bond prior to works being undertaken.  Owners are strongly advised to check if rules have been made and ensure there is compliance with any relevant rule.

External Authorities

For any external controls such as those exercised by Council, owners should make the appropriate enquiries as there may be penalties for works undertaken without the necessary permit in place.

If the building is affected by heritage controls the Municipal Council and Heritage Victoria should be contacted to determine if either or both bodies have any specific obligations or requirement for approvals.

In undertaking any works an owner should ensure that competent contractors are engaged, holding any necessary licenses and have public liability insurance.  Renovations or alterations may require engaging a registered builder and entering in to a Major Domestic Building Contract.