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Double trouble as regs fail on minor renovations

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This is a cross section of waht is know as double glazing everywhere except the NSw strata regs.

When is double glazing not really double glazing?  When it’s cited in NSW strata regulations.

As mentioned in this week’s newsletter, and detailed on the Forum, a Flatchatter is involved in a procedural arm wrestle with his strata manager and committee as he wants to install thicker glass in his windows and sliding doors to cut down sound from the nearby railway.

He points out, correctly, that the strata regulations say installing double and triple glazing is a minor renovation that doesn’t require by-laws.  He’s not even going that far – he just wants to put thicker acoustic glass in the same frames, so that must be OK, right?

Wrong, say his strata manager and committee. They insist the regulations actually mean secondary double glazing which doesn’t involve changing the window frames.

Now, before we go any further, I should say that I and others can’t see how you can put thicker glass in the window without changing to a more accommodating frame. But if the glazier says that’s possible, who are we to argue?

The general opinion is that if he wants to change the windows, he’ll need a special resolution by-law because he’s altering common property. But then if installing double glazing truly is a minor renovation, by definition he doesn’t need by-laws.

So waht did the regulations mean to say.  Here is the wording of Section 28 (e) of the NSW strata regulations, defining minor renovations: “installing double or triple glazed windows.”

It doesn’t say secondary double glazing. And is there even such a thing as secondary TRIPLE glazing?

Just to explain, genuine double or triple glazing, as defined by just about any building code in Australia, is a sealed unit of two or three sheets of glass separated by a vacuum or an inert gas. 

They have remarkable sound and thermal insulation properties but they do involve the removal and replacement of the original window frames. Our sponsors Windowline are market leaders in this technology.

Secondary double glazing is either a removable framed sheet of glass that clips on to the existing window frame (usually with magnets), or it’s a completely new window that matches the shape and openings of the existing window (or doors) and is often installed on the inner window sill, in the window recess.

Secondary glazing doesn’t change the existing window so they are probably minor renovations. By the way, we haven’t found anyone selling secondary triple glazing, but if your secondary glazing was itself double-glazed, that might count.

FYI, integrated double glazing is best for keeping heat out in summer and in during winter while some reports say secondary glazing is a bit better for sound insulation.

Anyway, what do the regulations actually mean? We asked Fair Trading for their definition of double glazing in the context of the regulations and they told us they don’t have one.

“The Regulation does not provide further definition of ‘double or triple glazed windows’,” a spokesperson wrote.

“To assist in confirming the type of glazing proposed and to confirm compliance or otherwise with the provisions of 28(e), the lot owner may wish to obtain advice/information from the glazier confirming the type of glazing proposed and discuss this again with the owners corporation.”

“If a lot owner does not agree with the owners corporation’s determination that the work is a major renovation requiring a special resolution and a by-law, the next step in the dispute resolution process is for the lot owner to apply for mediation with NSW Fair Trading .

“If mediation is declined by the owners corporation or if it is unsuccessful, the lot owner then has the option to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to seek an order.”

Great! So ask your glazier if the window complies with Section 28 (e) of the Strata Regulations – and he will say yes, of course, especially if they’ve read the regs (but will probably say yes, regardless, because they want to sell windows). 

Then take it to your committee who will either say “no” – because according to strata managers we know, that is the correct answer if you are talking about full double or triple glazing –  or they will say “yes” because they have also read the regs and crazily taken them at face value.

If they say no, you can go for mediation to Fair Trading (who don’t have a definition of double glazing, despite having oversight of the building industry) and thence to NCAT where someone who’s never lived in an apartment can interpret the regulations and issue a ruling.

And all this from the department of Better Regulation. Call me a nitpicker but aren’t strata regs supposed to clarify the law, not increase confusion and fuel conflicts.

NB: This column has been edited after observations by strata professionals that you can’t change the thickness of the glass in a window without changing the frames.

I tend to agree (although I’m not a glazier) but my point is that the regulations blithely say one thing when they probably mean another and that is far from anybody’s definition of “Better Regulation”.

4 Replies to “Double trouble as regs fail on minor renovations”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    Maybe it isn’t rocket science, but then why do the regulations say that “double or triple glazing” are minor renovations, which by definition don’t require by-laws. Telling people that they should take the issue to NCAT (which is what Fair Trading told me) makes you wonder why we have regulations at all when they are so loose as to be meaningless.

  2. Kareela says:

    It’s really not rocket science. It’s a question of whether the windows are common property or not. First you establish whether or not they are common property. Then you can consider the nature of the renovation.

    If the windows are common property, then you need a special resolution of the owners corporation to alter them. If you are not permanently altering the common property, and perhaps the clip-on glazing could amount to this, it would amount to a minor renovation, and you don’t.

    If the windows are not common property, as for example in the case of balcony windows within the envelope of the lot, the constraints would be in respect of alteration of the external appearance of the building, etc.

  3. Dweller456 says:

    Hello, to summarise the above – if an apartment owner wants double or triple glazing where the actual windows are replaced, they need to seek approval from their strata committee and if approval is given, a special by-law must then be created for the glazing of the windows? Otherwise, if an apartment owner wants double or triple glazing where frames are clipped or screwed onto the existing windows or walls around the windows, it is considered a minor renovation and strata approval is not required? Have I got this right? Thanks!

  4. Jimmy-T says:

    If you want to start a discussion or ask a question about this, log into the Flat Chat Forum (using the link above). More people will read it there and you can more easily keep track of responses.

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