If you are an apartment owner embarking on a renovation project, you will need to follow a different process to those renovating a free-standing home.
When you own an apartment, you share public spaces with others living within the building. For this reason, you will have to take your neighbours into when planning your apartment renovation.
Apartment renovation: What are Strata By-Laws?
The main purpose of Strata By-Laws is to set rules and guidelines which aim to create a harmonious living environment for everyone within a building.
In simple terms, by-laws exist to help each household enjoy their own private space without interfering with the lives of others.
Strata By-Laws also set the regulations around individual apartment renovations. Each state in Australia has a different set of by-laws in place, but they generally include rules to regulate:
- Maintenance and repairs
- Interior renovations
- Installation and use of flooring
- Installation and use of air conditioning, satellite dishes and other technology
How do I get my apartment renovation project approved?
Each building will have its own set of rules, but in general, you will be required to:
- Submit plans to the Owners Corporation, which should include details such as the scope of the work being carried out and expected duration of the renovation project
- Give the Owners Corporation 21 days notice of your intention to renovate
- Give neighbours 14 days notice of your intended renovations
- Take the necessary steps to minimise the impact on others in the apartment complex
- Provide notice on how your renovation work will impact common areas (such as using lifts to transport building material)
Major apartment renovations – Which changes require approval?
Most buildings require owners to seek approval for major changes, which can include:
Renovating a bathroom is a major job, and this will be one of the most expensive rooms to spruce up. You can read our article on the average costs of bathroom renovations to get an idea of the costs involved.
Appropriate waterproofing is key when renovating a bathroom within an apartment building. The waterproof membrane beneath bathroom tiles prevents water from seeping into other apartments.
A kitchen can often be renovated without approval if it is going to remain in the same position. If walls or plumbing is being relocated, you will need to ask for approval first.
Removing internal walls
Removing internal walls to create an open plan space will require approval. The structure of an apartment building is a common asset owned by the Owners’ Corporation.
Any exterior changes that will affect the appearance of the building is often restricted, such as installing air conditioning units.
Changing flooring materials
Updating flooring can be problematic because some material will allow sound to be transmitted to other apartments. Some owners corporations will require you to submit the materials you’re planning to use, and might even require you to have a sound-test done after you’ve laid it.
Minor Apartment Renovations – What can you change without approval?
Painting is one of the simplest changes you can make and one that normally makes the biggest impact. As long as you are not going to affect the streetscape, you should be able to paint the interior of your apartment any colour you like.
Installing shelves or cabinets
Apartment owners can generally install shelves or cabinets without approval. This should include replacing kitchen cabinetry. It is best to check your own building by-laws as there might be some rules regulating this, especially when attaching items to shared walls.
You can add your personal touch by adding wallpaper or artwork to the walls. Always check your own by-laws first, especially if you are installing hooks.
New lights or tapware
Installing new lights or tap fittings should not require approval, but should be installed by a qualified tradesperson.
Tips to make the most out of your apartment renovations
If you keep the regulations in mind, there are many things you can do to make an apartment your own and as comfortable as possible. Here are some simple renovation ideas to make the most out of your apartment.
There is plenty of furniture available that has been designed with apartment living in mind. This includes coffee tables with adjustable legs, fold-down desks, and beds that can be tucked away when not in use.
Use colours wisely
Lighter colours will make a space appear larger. Consider keeping your walls on a light colour scheme and use accessories to add a splash of colour.
You should Marie Kondo your apartment and get rid of unnecessary clutter. By stripping down to the essentials, you’ll live more comfortably in a smaller space.
Don’t forget about the balcony
Even if you have a small balcony, you should put some thought into how you can make the most of this outdoor space. Consider buying outdoor furniture and investment in some pot plants for a lush feel.
Go the extra mile
If your budget and by-laws allow it, don’t stop at just a kitchen and bathroom renovation. Extend up into the roof space to create more space, remove unnecessary walls and add light-enhancing changes such as enlarging windows or adding skylights.
Apartment renovations – how to get started
Once you understand how Strata by-laws will affect your apartment renovation project, your next step will be to come up with a budget.
We have put together an article with a breakdown of the average costs of renovating different rooms within a property, which will give you a good overview of the costs. It will also provide you with simple renovation ideas to keep your costs down.
You can also use an online calculator to work out some numbers. If you need to arrange finance to fund your apartment renovation, you should consider enlisting the help of a home loan broker to go through your options.