By laws – management of the Strata building – some difficult choices for example, flooring, internal renovations

09/08/2018

By-laws are fundamental to the operation, the rights and obligations of the Owners Corporation, lot owners, occupiers and others for the good management of the Strata building.

There are many by-laws which are incorporated because they are the “usual by-laws” or “common by-laws” often without any real consideration as to the effect of those by-laws for a particular Strata Scheme.

On the other hand there are some Strata Schemes which are in effect controlled by a few people making their own rules as to the management of the Strata Scheme.  Each has its own problems.

We recommend that careful consideration be given to each of the Strata by-laws that apply and more particularly, any new proposed by-laws to apply.

We believe that owners should consider what is best for the building; rather than what is best for a particular owner at a particular time.

An owner should consider the effect on others as well as his/her own position.  With consideration of proposed by-laws on this basis it is more likely that the Owners Corporation will come to a sensible conclusion as to the by-laws that they will allow.

Flooring

A typical example is the issue relating to flooring.

Often an owner wishes to upgrade the flooring for example by way of installation of timber flooring.  The usual by-law restricts certain flooring and usually requires carpet and underlay or noise resistant flooring in areas other than the kitchen and wet areas.

In the last 15 years there has been an abundance of timber flooring and there are many products for example Regupol which can be utilised as an underlay which has sufficient noise reduction capabilities if properly installed.  Some by-laws relating to flooring require acoustic testing before and after installation and strict compliance with products so as to achieve noise reduction between units.

If the owner of the unit above the unit in which you live wishes to put in flooring then if it is to be allowed one would expect that the specifications should be such that the new floor does not allow transfer of noise from the above unit to your unit.  This would require a by-law which sets out the various specifications.  This is sometimes difficult and expensive to achieve.

If however you are the owner seeking flooring for example timber flooring you would probably like to convince the Owners Corporation that what you are doing is adequate protection.  Often an owner is reliant upon the supplier of the product.

In our view what is required is a compromise which applies to all new floors to be installed in the building.  To achieve this, the Owners Corporation needs to seriously consider the proposal made by an owner who wishes to install timber flooring.  The owners in our view should not just accept the word of a supplier.

Once an appropriate by-law has been prepared and drafted in our view it should be enforced so as to achieve harmony within the Strata Scheme.

Another example is the removal of an internal wall.

Internal Renovations

If you wish to remove a structural wall between a kitchen and the dining room consideration should be given to the building as a whole.  Assume your unit is on level 3 of an eight storey building; do you assume that the structural integrity of all other units are intact (as originally constructed) or has there been renovations to some of the other units?

Do you assume that the work that you wish to undertake should only take into consideration the current structure of the building on the basis that no other owner will wish to make any structural changes or do you assume and make provision for each unit to make similar changes in their unit as you wish to make in your unit? Usually when a lot owner or Owners Corporation seeks advice from us as to the appropriate course to be adopted they have not considered these questions.

Sometimes other owners do consider these questions as part of their consideration of any proposal by a lot owner.  This is a fundament issue especially when an owner is asking for the removal of a structural element such a structural wall.

Once those questions are considered it is appropriate to engage an Engineer to prepare the necessary plans for the removal of the wall.

Often an indemnity is given by the person with the benefit of the by-law which almost always is an indemnity which is assumed by the purchaser of such a renovated unit.

If you are considering undertaking renovations to your unit whether it is to replace the floor coverings or of a structural nature, we would recommend you seek our advice so you are fully informed as to your obligations and limitations when it comes to renovating your strata lot.  Please contact Richard Watson Senior Strata Solicitor or his Personal Assistant Shereen Da Gloria to discuss your enquiry.

This is only a preliminary view and is not to be taken as legal advice without first contacting Watson & Watson Solicitors on 02 9221 6011.

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