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How to Legally Make Changes and Improvements to Your Apartment

When you purchase an apartment, you own that property. To some extent, this means that you can alter your home according to your needs and preferences. However, while a house is a free-standing building, an apartment is a building that you share with other people, meaning that the renovations you make need to consider the thoughts and feelings of the people around you.

The Strata by-laws in Australia place certain restrictions on the alternations that you can make to an apartment. For instance, you can’t alter common property like lounges without permission, and you may need to get approval from a local body to engage in “major” renovations that involve knocking down walls or changing the apartment structure.

Here’s what you need to know to legally make changes and improvements to your apartment.

Strata By-laws and Apartment Alterations

Strata by-laws are rules that exist to make sure that everyone in an apartment complex can live happily together. The purpose of these by-laws is to make sure that each owner or renter can maintain a private space in their apartment, without interfering with the home lives of the people they share a building with.

Additionally, strata by-laws also help apartment complexes to maintain a mostly uniform appearance. This means that if you renovate, you will not be permitted to do anything that would detract from the cohesive appeal of the complex.

Importantly, the by-laws available to guide changes and improvements in your apartment will alter according to the state that you live in. Most forms of strata title, for instance, suggest that everything beneath your floor coverings, paint and wallpaper are owned by the person or entity that owns the apartment building. This means you’ll need to apply for approval to change anything significant within your home.

Making Changes to your Apartments: The Basics

Just some of the issues that you may face when you’re looking for ways to legally make changes and improvements to your partners include concerns around:

  • Landscaping and architectural guidelines
  • Interior renovations
  • Use and installation of floor coverings
  • Use and installation of air conditioning
  • Repairs and maintenance

When you’re considering making a change to your apartment, the best thing you can do is fill out an application informing the complex owner of your plans. The Owners Corporation in your apartment complex will be responsible for managing disputes and approving renovations. Before you make any changes to your home, you’ll need to:

  • Submit your plans
  • Give notification for how long the renovation will take
  • Give the Owners Corporation 21 days of notice
  • Give neighbours 14 days of notice
  • Ensure that work isn’t carried out a time that might unduly impact the lives of your neighbours
  • Estimate the time required to transport materials or work in common areas of the building.

Major or Minor Apartment Renovations

One way to determine how much work you’ll need to put into planning your renovation project is to decide whether your project is a major or minor renovation. Minor renovations and cosmetic improvements in can often be done without an approval process. You’ll simply need to check with your apartment complex to find out whether they expect a notice when you change the cabinets in your kitchen or alter your furnishings in any way.

On the other hand, major apartment renovations can be trickier. Major apartment renovations like changing your bathroom, kitchen, changing floor materials, or knocking out part of a wall may all require approval from the Owners Corporation. While these laws may seem somewhat restrictive, it’s worth remembering that you do have rights as the owner of your apartment. The key is to make sure that you understand the expectations of your complex owner.

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