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How do we tighten loose reno laws?
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Mr Wong
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14/07/2017 - 4:01 pm
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At a recent SCA NSW Owner's Seminar, informed speakers advised owners of a flaw or omission in Fair Trading's Model By-laws.  

Minor Renovations are now permitted within individual lots under certain fairly loose conditions. These renovations, although requiring plans and qualified tradespeople to do the work in most cases, do not require a by-law to be lodged with Land and Property Information. The problem seems obvious to anyone who has had problems with unauthorised work being done on the sly within their strata scheme. Over the years, with changes of lot ownership, repairs to these 'renovations' become the financial responsibility of the Owners Corporation.

Minutes of meetings where Minor Renovations are approved by ordinary resolution inevitably become buried over the years, and as memories fade, having no by-law registered, the same problem of who pays, may well occur with these authorised renovations. New owners will be unaware that they are responsible for cracks and leaks that later develop within their lot; it would be a pretty amazing conveyancer who might go the extra yards to dig that deep.

In the following draft by-law, I have deliberately not included hard flooring, because another speaker at the SCA Owners Seminar spoke to us of the flaws in flooring laws (pun intended).  If you are not comfortable with the sounds emanating from your neighbours' lot, it is incumbent upon you to pay for an acoustic engineer's report. This will only tell you if the decibels are too high. It doesn't cover the doof doof sound of stocking feet or the startling sound of cutlery dropped on the hard floor or dining chairs pushed in and out from the table. Not loud noises, but nonetheless not how it was before the soft flooring was removed; over your bedroom, it's hard to escape if you are recuperating from the flu or having trouble sleeping. The truth is, if the lot owner knew before they installed the so-called 'insulated' timber flooring that you would be able to track them around their flat and be aware of their comings and goings, they'd probably have thought twice about it.

The suggestion was, to have the lot owner pay for their own tests so the OC is aware of the impact on all occupiers. That's a whole other kettle of fish, . . . but in the meantime . . .

How does this additional by-law sound to cover responsibility for minor renovations? I am not a lawyer and didn't finish high school. Don't run with this without having it checked by a grown up.

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Minor Renovations By-law

On the conditions set out in this by-law and with prior majority approval by ordinary resolution passed at a properly convened meeting of the corporation by a majority of the votes of lot holders present and voting on the resolution, each Owner has the authority to carry out Minor Renovations to the common property in connection with the Owner's lot and, once installed, to maintain the approved Minor Renovations.

The owners corporation, when considering an Owner's proposal to conduct Minor Renovations may impose conditions on any approval and must not unreasonably withhold their approval.

The lot owner must submit a by-law outlining their proposal for approval by a simple majority of the votes of lot holders present and which will be lodged, at the lot owner’s expense, with Land and Property Information.

Before obtaining the approval of the owners corporation, an owner of a lot must give written notice of proposed minor renovations to the owners corporation, including the following:
(a) details of the work, including copies of any plans,
(b) duration and times of the work,
(c) details of the persons carrying out the work, including qualifications to carry out the work,
(d) arrangements to manage any resulting rubbish or debris.

An owner of a lot must ensure that:

(a) any damage caused to any part of the common property by the carrying out of minor renovations by or on behalf of the owner is repaired, and
(b) the minor renovations and any repairs are carried out in a competent and proper manner.

The by-­laws of a strata scheme may provide for the following:

(a) additional work that is to be a minor renovation for the purposes of this section,
(b) permitting the owners corporation to delegate its functions under this section to the strata committee.

This section does not apply to the following work:

(a) work that consists of cosmetic work for the purposes of section 109,
(b) work involving structural changes,
(c) work that changes the external appearance of a lot, including the installation of an external access ramp, (d) work involving waterproofing,
(e) work for which consent or another approval is required under any other Act,
(f) work that is authorised by a by­law made under this Part or a common property rights by­law,
(g) any other work prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection.

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Mr Wong
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17/07/2017 - 11:10 am
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A friend who is went to the same SCA meeting where the suggestion to insert a Minor Renovations by-law was suggested, pointed out to me that my draft is too all-encompassing. "All minor renovations need a by-law?" is pretty much the spanner they put in my works. And they are quite right.

How do I differentiate between a major 'minor' renovation like 'reconfiguring' a wall by adding a doorway through a common property internal brick wall or moving plumbing pipes around inside those walls VERSUS changing a light switch.

Future generations of owners must be responsible for repairs and maintenance so that the expense does not fall by default on the OC. A current owner is not responsible for undocumented and untraceable modifications. Only owners who were around when the work was initially authorised may in future recall the timing. Minutes aren't good enough without that living memory because the new OC has to know where to look, and as the lawyer at the SCA seminar pointed out, after 7 years, with the OC's agreement (or can it be the SC's decision?) documents may legally be culled; not so by-laws.

Can anyone help me with a suggestion on how to word a clause to differentiate between major 'minor renovation' versus minor 'minor renovation'? It will go to a lawyer finally, but without this clause in the initial draft, is bound to be thrown out with the bathwater.

Among other things, the new Act lists minor renovations as 'reconfiguring walls'.

"110 Minor renovations by owners
(3) Minor renovations include but are not limited to work for the purposes of the following:
(a) renovating a kitchen,
(b) changing recessed light fittings,
(c) installing or replacing wood or other hard floors,
(d) installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points,
(e) work involving reconfiguring walls,
(f) any other work prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection."

Jimmy T perhaps? I've heard you talk at SCA and you have a good turn of phrase.

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JimmyT
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17/07/2017 - 11:39 am
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Mr Wong said

 

Jimmy T perhaps? I've heard you talk at SCA and you have a good turn of phrase.  

I don't know about that but I do know that I have just spent half an hour sorting out all your posts and quotes of your own posts and repetitions of posts and moving them to new topics.

PLEASE if you have a different strand of question that requires pages of text, start a new topic.  We started talking about the new by-laws and the pet and smoking options and suddenly we have screeds about renovations.

ALSO, please don't click the 'QUOTE' button when all you have is an additional point to make.

The quote button is there for you to identify a specific line in a previous post (if you need to).  So, if you use the quoted material, edit it down to the line you are responding to (like I did above).

I just deleted pages and pages of quoted material that was long to begin with. The previous posts are still there - you don't have to quote it.  No one is going to read your questions if they have to wade through the same material, in its entirety, time and time again.

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Lady Penelope
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17/07/2017 - 12:47 pm
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Mr Wong - Your By-law is too wordy. All owners must comply with the SSMA 2015.

You would not then need to list all of the separate items that Minor Renovations cover or the separate conditions as the conditions about damage etc are already contained within the Act.

You may add additional conditions to a Minor Renovations By-law but these conditions must comply with the Act and they must be reasonable.

As a suggestion some reasonable additional conditions could include that:

(1) a licensed tradesperson be engaged, with appropriate insurance, and

(2) an engineer’s certificate be obtained for structural work including reconfiguring of walls (all at the owner’s cost) and

(3) the approval for installation of new or replacement timber or other hard floors such as tiles is  conditional upon compliance with the 3 Star AAAC Guideline for Apartment and Townhouse Acoustic Rating, and the owner warrants to remove the hard flooring and reinstall carpet if the hard floor is found to provide inadequate acoustic installation, and

(4) hard floors will not be approved for bedroom areas due to noise transmission at night, and

(5) the strata owner maintains any items installed in good repair, at the owner’s cost. 

https://www.scribd.com/document/323972200/AAAC-Guideline-for-Apartment-and-Townhouse-Acoustic-Rating-2010

The following site may be useful: http://www.lexology.com/librar.....e228f7539e

As is: https://www.ocn.org.au/book/export/html/1409

The owners corporation can delegate permission for minor renovations to the strata committee. It would need to pass a by-law to do so.

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clement
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17/07/2017 - 2:26 pm
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Our Strata Managers recommended that we introduce two new by-laws.

  • One covers minor work - covering Kitchen and Bathroom renovations which do not involve any Structural or Water Proofing work.
  • The other covers Bathroom renovations (where there are plumbing and Water Proofing work)  and Air Conditioning Installation.

Both require that the owner submits plans to be approved by the Strata Committee but once agreed to no further by-laws are required.

These were accepted at the AGM.  This seems to be reasonable as it makes life easier and cheaper for renovations as it saves the cost of by-law for the owner. 

I am rather surprised that more strata schemes don't introduce similar by-laws; is there a down side?

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scotlandx
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17/07/2017 - 4:15 pm
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I think there is.  In the second case if there is work affecting common property, and things like waterproofing and plumbing, you need to make it clear that those works are the responsibility of the owner, not the owners corporation.  

I would be very concerned if owners could do works and then if things go wrong with those works the OC had to foot the bill to fix them.  Without a by-law how do you do that, bearing in mind that you need to bind future owners? (you can do a universal by-law that binds people who do works but that is another story)

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clement
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18/07/2017 - 9:56 am
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I am a little confused. The 2 new by-laws were accepted at the AGM so I assume they are now part of the Strata Plan's by-laws. Therefore any owner who does renovations which fall into either of the two categories (Minor and Bathroom&AC) after the by-law is registered is subject to it. Also any subsequent owners of the property where the renovation was done would also be subject to it.  Is this correct and could it have any selling implications?

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scotlandx
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18/07/2017 - 10:34 am
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The question is, do the by-laws bind the owners, how do they bind the owners?  Are they put on a register setting out the works in detail and do they sign something specifically stating that they and any successors in title are bound by those by-laws?

It may be the case that they do, which is fine, but if you don't have a mechanism to bind specific owners the by-law is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

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Lady Penelope
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18/07/2017 - 10:59 am
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clement - Not all by-laws that have been correctly made are actually legal. There are sections in the Act which enable these types of by-laws to be overturned by a Tribunal Order.

The OC can pass a by-law delegating approval power to a strata committee under [s110(1)] for minor renovations.  However some items are excluded from this delegated power.

Certain types of works that cannot be delegated to the strata committee to approve are:

 "(a) work that consists of cosmetic work for the purposes of section 109,

(b) work involving structural changes,

(c) work that changes the external appearance of a lot, including the installation of an external access ramp,

(d) work involving waterproofing,

(e) work for which consent or another approval is required under any other Act,

(f) work that is authorised by a by-law made under this Part or a common property rights by-law,

(g) any other work prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection."

 

The above renovations still require OC approval rather than strata committee approval.

In my opinion if an air conditioner is to be installed in a structural wall or on common property then it would require OC approval rather than committee approval.

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clement
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20/07/2017 - 2:31 pm
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Scotlandx and Lady Penelope, many thanks for your response. The A/C units will be placed on the lots's balcony but obviously there will be a need to breech common property (external walls) to get the piping etc done. Is it possible to specify in the by-law exactly how this work should be carried out? 

Also and this is a legal question - When is the lot owner bound by the by-law? When a new owner buys into the block are they automatically bound by the by-law through their purchase?

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Lady Penelope
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20/07/2017 - 3:40 pm
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clement - Have any other owners placed an a/c on their balcony? If so you may be able to copy their common property by-law.

I haven't personally seen this type of by-law as I live in QLD and these types of by-laws are not required.

I don't think that you would need to specify how the work is to be carried out, except to say that it will be carried out by a qualified a/c installer.

You may need to include the following information in your Special Resolution Motion and/or your common property rights by-law:

  • Location of split-system or inverter split-system
    unit.
  • Specific manufacturer, model, size and colour.
  • Your agreement not to produce unreasonable level of noise.
  • Your agreement that the a/c must be of an appearance in keeping with the rest of the scheme.
  • Location of air conditioning compressor and dripper.
  • Installed by a qualified installer.
  • Your consent to maintain that part of the common property wall to which the a/c is attached, and the a/c unit itself.
  • Your consent to the by-law.

It is my understanding that the common property by-laws for the renovation of a specific Lot (including all of its conditions) runs with the property and binds all of the subsequent owners of that Lot. SSMA 2015 states:

135 Requirement to comply with by-laws

 

(1) The by-laws for a strata scheme bind the owners corporation and the owners of lots in the strata scheme and any mortgagee or covenant chargee in possession, or tenant or occupier, of a lot to the same extent as if the by-laws:

(a) had been signed and sealed by the owners corporation and each owner and each such mortgageecovenant chargeetenant and occupier, and

(b) contained mutual covenants to observe and perform all the provisions of the by-laws.

(2) There is an implied covenant by the tenant of a lot or common property to comply with the by-laws for the strata scheme.

Note : The effect of having been taken to have signed and sealed a by-law is that the person is always taken to have known about it.

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clement
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20/07/2017 - 4:38 pm
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Thanks - I assume that any undocumented work carried out prior to the by-law being adopted becomes the responsibility of the OC. Should the OC make a list of all undocumented work prior to the by-law being introduced - would this help with possible future disputations?

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