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Renovating property seems to have become an increasingly popular trend over the past decade.

Australian television shows have been constructed entirely around the trials of fast paced, high drama renovations. Owners in community titles schemes are not immune to the lure of improving the value of their property investment.

Owners need to be mindful that increasing the value or liveability of their home does not necessarily mean they can go ahead and make whatever changes they want. This article outlines what the law says about making improvements to your property.

Improvements to the lot

As a lot owner you might think ‘it’s my lot, so I can do what I like with it’. While that may be the case in a lot of situations, you still need to ask yourself the following questions. Is my renovation:

  • going to impact the common property?
  • in breach of any of my body corporate’s by-laws?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, you may have to ask for body corporate approval to improve your property. Ripping out and replacing a bathroom may seem like an obvious owner improvement that does not need body corporate approval, as a bathroom is usually located completely inside the boundaries of a lot. However, you may need to alter the pipes or wiring that service your bathroom. If this is the case, the location of those pipes and wiring will determine if they are your responsibility or the body corporate’s responsibility and whether approval is required. Be aware that if you make an improvement to the common property for the benefit of your lot, you may have ongoing maintenance responsibilities for that improvement, unless you are excused by the body corporate.

Bodies corporate often have by-laws which state that owners need to seek approval for renovations. In most cases, the by-laws relate to the external appearance of a lot. However, some by-laws require owners to ask for approval for things like floor coverings and removing structural elements of the lot. You may only be allowed to have white backed curtains hanging inside your lot, as another example.

Even if a lot owner needs to ask for approval to make an improvement to their lot, the body corporate must act reasonably when making its decision.

Read more on lot owner improvements from the Commissioner here