NSW: Q&A Apartment renovations without approval. Oops … What do we do now?


Question: A lot owner has carried out works on his balcony and installed air conditioning without approval. What steps should the OC take to protect themselves?

An owner has tiled his balcony and installed air conditioning with a visible compressor sitting on the balcony. The owner has not obtained permission and we do not know if the people who carried the work are qualified. The owner has not supplied a full scope of works on either jobs. My understanding is that both jobs are minor renovations; however, waterproofing (if applicable) is a major renovation. Apart from no resolution obtained for both jobs, the owner still needs a common property rights bylaw which I am not sure we have. We do have a minor renovations bylaw.

  1. Are we able to ask the owner to supply a full scope of works so we can in retrospect approve or decline and thus seek an order to remove both as they are unlawful?
  2. If the lot owner intends to sell his unit down the track, he has made unauthorized changes to common property.
  3. What about the maintenance of the common property in case of damage caused by shoddy work?

Answer: You can retrospectively approve the application. I would be advising the first step is writing to the lot owner.

I wouldn’t say that they’re minor renovations because of the waterproofing. I’m assuming if they tiled the balcony, they would have had to put some sort of waterproofing substance down. Waterproofing does need a bylaw.

If it was just the (air conditioning system, and it was installed on the balcony where it’s not visible, and it doesn’t change the aesthetics of the overall appearance of the building, then you could consider it under a minor renovation. The minor renovation bylaw that the reader has referred to is potentially just permitting the strata committee to consider minor renovation applications, because under the Act a minor renovation application is considered at a general meeting, unless you have a resolution that permits your strata committee to consider those applications. I’m assuming that bylaw is just permitting the committee to consider that.

Going back to these type of works, they have tiled the balcony (I’m assuming this membrane and waterproofing). Even if there’s no membrane waterproofing, the tiles are attached to the lot, so I would say it needs bylaw. Regarding the air conditioning, if it’s not visible from outside of the building, then a minor renovation is fine. But if you’re going to have the bylaw for the balcony tiles, I would throw in the air conditioning in that bylaw.

You can retrospectively approve the application. I would be advising the first step is writing to the lot owner:

  1. advising that they’ve carried out on authorise works,
  2. advising them to make a full application so you can consider the impact on common property or any other lot as a result of these works

If the works are in order, and the Owners Corporation has no concern with the works then 100% they should be ratifying any approval by way of a bylaw. Because again, that is the mechanism in which will protect any shoddy works, any poor workmanship. When an incoming owner comes in, you want to make sure that the Owners Corporation is not responsible for those alterations. When an incoming owner comes in those assume the tiles are common property as they are in most cases for most schemes (not every scheme, but most), they would assume that the Owners Corporation responsible because there’s no bylaw to advise of that. I think the Owners Corporation has a duty of care to ensure that they enforce any unauthorised applications for that very reason that if an incoming purchaser comes in and says ‘Well, I did a search there was no indication whatsoever on the record, I wasn’t aware that I’d be responsible for these balcony tiles. The Owners Corporation failed to pursue the previous owner for the unauthorised works and I’ve now been affected because of that’.

I would strongly recommend this owner be pursued for the unauthorised works.

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