Renovate My Apartment
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Last week I was contacted by a new client who said to me that Renovate My Apartment and for that also advice prior to the purchase of her first home, a one bedroom apartment in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. She wanted my help to renovate the place she chose to buy and engaged me to give her advice prior to purchase so she had some ideas of what she might be able to achieve within her budget. As we started to work together I realized that there was lots of advice I was giving her that could be helpful to others who are looking to purchase an apartment to renovate, or who are already living in an apartment and want to do some improvements. So I decided to compile my list of advice in case this was of use to other followers of the blog. An apartment renovation is different to the renovation of a standalone home as you have shared spaces in an apartment that will need to be considered as part of your renovation, as well as many very close neighbors who are likely to have an opinion on any renovation you want to do. Although you don't have to deal with Council you will have to deal with the Body Corporate and abide by the rules of your own apartment complex, so this comes with it's own range of challenges. The purpose of this article is to try and step you through some of the main things to consider before you start planning a renovation of your apartment. Please also note that the below is my opinion and advice only in the interests of being helpful. I would suggest you get your own expert advice from the relevant specialists (e.g. builder, structural engineer) on any of the below before making big decisions about any apartment purchases or renovations. The first place to start before going any further is to find out about the rules that your body corporate (or ruling body) have set for your apartment complex in terms of approvals to renovate. A good place to start for this is to review the strata By-Laws as these often contain detailed information on what is allowed so that the comfort and safety of all occupants within the apartment complex are maintained. This might include details about hours you would be allowed to work, what materials can be used (e.g. in some cases you can't use wood flooring as this is too noisy), installation of satellite TV or air conditioning, what modifications are and aren't allowed, whether you're allowed to make any structural changes and so on. The purpose of the By-Laws are to set the rules by which everyone in the apartment complex operates in terms of what they can and can't do to their apartments and also their own conduct within the complex itself. The By-Laws are there to protect each owner within the apartment complex and ensure the privacy and safety of all residents is maintained. The By-Laws also serve to layout what can and can't be done to the common property, for example windows (see below for more information on windows). Each state in Australia, and no doubt all parts of the world, have their own laws surrounding Strata By-Laws and these are all updated regularly, so it's best to look up your own local law about what is relevant to where you live and also make sure you get a copy of the By-Laws for your own apartment complex as well. Once you find out what the rules are about what you can and can't do within your apartment complex the next stage is to prepare your design and scope of work and submit this to your Body Corporate for approval. Your body corporate will generally require a combination of the following in order to assess your renovation application (but check with your own Body Corporate to find out what they will want to review):plans and/or a design of changes, normally drawn up by a designer or draftsman (for major works) advice and drawings from a structural engineer for any structural work you might want to do
a detailed scope of work
estimated time frames for your project
a schedule of fixtures and finishes, particularly showing changes to any fixed floor coverings.
It's important to be well organized about submitting all of the above to your Body Corporate as it can take some time for your requests to be discussed and for you to get a decision.