This article was contributed by Serafina Froio from Strata Project Management
Not the Channel Nine television show. This article is about how to better plan and manage renovations in strata buildings. According to Treasury Secretary, John Fraser, the plethora of home renovation shows is a sure sign that something is amiss in the Sydney and Melbourne housing market (SMH: 1 June 2015), a symptom of possible over-investment in property.
Whatever the cause, amidst all the interest in renovating, many Executive Committees are suffering ‘’renovation fatigue’’ and finding they lack the information and processes to properly manage the number and variety of renovations being proposed. This is creating confusion and delays for lot owners, annoyance for residents suffering through poorly managed renovations, and extra work for Committees who often don’t have the time or expertise to focus on renovations properly. Many people look to the Strata Manager to perform this function, but it’s not the Strata Manager’s role.
In addition to the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996, renovations are a form of development governed by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and other planning instruments. In some cases renovations, including internal works, may also require a Development Application and if you are in a building affected by a Heritage listing, the situation may be different again.
Heritage complexities aside, the reality is that many renovations impact common property and building amenity in some way. In the case of minor cosmetic renovations, where original layouts are not changed, it might be as simple as ensuring neighbours are aware of repainting or carpeting and to expect tradesmen, noise or odours for a few days. In the case of major renovations, the work might require noisy demolition, impact structural elements, affect centrally provided services like air conditioning and fire sprinklers, or even permanently change the building fire schedule. Major projects also often affect lifts and other building access for extended periods, which can be disruptive if not planned and communicated properly.
Ensuring renovation impacts are properly assessed and managed is critical. When the paint has dried, and in many cases the property has changed hands, it’s the Owners Corporation left to manage the fall-out when things go wrong. Leaks caused by failed or missing waterproofing, complaints about noisy floors and non-compliant fire services, are just some of the problems that can arise and are not always easy to remedy. If this sounds familiar or you just want to be better prepared, here are some tips to better manage renovations in your building.
Don’t assume Owners wanting to renovate know what’s required of them. Renovation means different things to different people – many don’t consider changing a floor coverings from carpet to timber or tiles a renovation, and will have no understanding of the potential noise issues as they might affect your building.
Review your existing By-Laws and determine how to fill any gaps. Do you need to amend an existing By-Law or create another one to deal with something specific, like acoustics or floor coverings? Your Strata Manager can help guide you and you might need to help of a good strata lawyer too.
By definition By-Laws are written in legalese so can be impenetrable and confusing. To complement your By-Laws, a Renovation Guide can be a very helpful tool. It’s a plain English document that sets out what’s required and why. It allows you to go into more detail about the building, its services and common property than could ever be covered in a By-Law.
Renovations are hard work, but they shouldn’t be a rumble that ends up in the Tribunal. Investing in quality resources is an investment in maintaining the standard of your building and mitigating risk. They also help engender a sense of responsibility and ownership of the built asset as a whole. Simply put, clear and comprehensive tools enable you to give Owners the information they need to get it right the first time – and that’s a compelling argument if you do end up in a Tribunal.
If you need help to review or manage your existing renovation process or want to create a better one, we can help – call Strata Project Management on 02 8356 9079 or speak to your strata manager today.