It might be your property, but as body corporate living involves shared spaces and structures, the likelihood is you’ll need approval before you start renovating or making even minor changes to your residence.

If you’re planning on making alterations to the look or layout of your unit or town house, here’s what you need to know…

Two sets of rules

Body corporate living is governed by two sets of guidelines and these include overarching rules set out under the Act, along with individual rules that are unique to each property as set out by your by-laws.

That means changes that may not require approval in some shared buildings will in others. It will also mean some buildings have more stringent conditions than others when it comes to making alterations.

How do the rules apply?

As a general rule of thumb, anything that will change the look or structural integrity of a strata title building needs approval. That might sound simple but consider these scenarios:

  • You live in a highrise apartment and you’d like to install louvre shutters rather than standard curtains as your window fittings for your balcony sliding doors. Do you require approval? Well quite possibly. Although this minor alteration takes place within your property, the result may affect the uniform look of the building, and this will be covered by your by-laws.
  • You live in a small unit block and you’d like to alter your kitchen by knocking out a wall for open plan living. Do you require approval? Absolutely, as this may affect the structural integrity of the building.
  • You live in a townhouse and you’d like to create a vegetable patch on your patio that overlooks a common area. Do you require approval? Maybe, again this will depend on your by-laws.
  • You live at the top of a three-storey residence and you’d like to replace your carpet with hard flooring. Do you require approval? Yes, because even though it can’t be seen, your hard flooring may result in noise for the residents below. You can see our more detailed blog on this issue here.
  • You live in a townhouse and you’d like to repaint the interior of your unit. Do you require approval? No, but you should be aware of where your tradespeople may or may not be able to park their vehicles while working at your place.

What to do

If you are considering making an alteration to your unit, even small, the best course of action is to consult your body corporate manager first. They will tell you if you require approval, how you should go about getting it, and any additional actions you may need to take to complete your works to the satisfaction of the greater community.

The final word

Seeking approval may seem tedious, but it’s a lot less hassle than having to return a property to its original form because your works breached a by-law or were outside the law. So if in doubt, double check. Contrary to popular belief, it’s easier to seek approval in a shared environment than it is to seek forgiveness.