New strata laws hammer DIY renos

As new strata laws free up the regulations on renovations, can we expect a fresh wave of ‘DIY-itis’ in our apartment blocks?

Maybe the opposite is true. New definitions of cosmetic, minor and major renovations may allow us to make small changes to our apartments, but they could be bad news for hobby renovators who believe that evenings and weekends are “Makita Time”.

DIY renovation is one of those relatively modern trends – encouraged by a plethora of TV shows –  that have left strata law behind.  So many blocks have formulated their own by-laws while other responses varied from blanket bans to a free-for-all.

But now the law says strata committees can decide what work can be done, when it can be carried out and whether having watched The Block is a sufficient qualification for you to do it yourself.

What’s the problem? Well, DIY demolition had been carried out by 43 per cent of home renovators, says a survey by online tradies register ServiceSeeking.com.au. Just as scarily, 14 per cent did their own electrical work and 12 per cent tackled plumbing.

Under the new laws, which come into force at the end of November, ‘cosmetic’ changes that won’t require approval will include inserting nails or screws in walls, painting, filling holes and cracks in internal walls, laying carpet and installing or replacing handrails, built-in wardrobes and internal blinds and curtains.

The big change, however, is in the ‘minor’ renovations – and this is work that might currently require a special resolution backed by a 75 percent vote at a general meeting.

These include kitchen renovation, changing recessed light fittings, installing hard floors, installing or replacing electrical or power points and reconfiguring walls. They don’t include anything that involves waterproofing, structural change or the appearance of the block.

The new laws allow approval to be given by the strata committee, which may not unreasonably refuse it.  But there is a catch.

You must give the committee written notice of the proposed renovations, including copies of any plans, duration and times, details of who will be doing it (and their qualifications) and arrangements to remove rubbish and rubble.

This is the committee’s chance to ensure your renovations aren’t at everyone else’s expense – including making sure you are not renovating the place yourself in the evenings and at weekends when everyone else is trying to rest.

The idea that there ever were regulations will come as a shock to many strata owners – and some may carry on anyway, knowing the StrataKops probably ain’t coming.

But if nothing else, the new laws will be a reminder that their home is neither their castle nor a building site.  Have your say on the Flat Chat Forum.

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