Renovating without Body corporate approval?

Discussion in 'Legal Issues' started by D Money, 17th Jun, 2010.

  1. D Money

    D Money Member

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    Hi guys

    I was hoping for some advice from the gurus with legal knowledge / experience on Body corporate dealings.
    · We have purchased our first PPOR and wish to remove internal walls and install floating floors into our apartment.The unit is in NSW
    · We have had a structural engineer provide a design certificate for the removal of internal walls
    · We have proposed acoustic underlay for the floating floors which will comply with the BCA requirement for internal noise transfer thru the floors.
    · We have written a letter asking the owners corporation to consider and approve our proposal in their scheduled Executive committee meeting today (17th June), settlement is tommorrow 18th June.
    · We were hoping they could discuss and decide on this today so that we can begin the renovations as soon as we settle (ie tommorrow).
    · If this decision is delayed then we will incur unnecessary additional costs as we will have to pay both mortgage for the PPOR and rent where we are currently, as we will be unable to move in until the renovations are complete. The approval at the general meeting could take weeks and weeks and would really stuff us up as we cannot order the kitchen etc until we know that the internal walls will not be there
    · The strata managing agent has said that they wont even CONSIDER the proposal until they have been advised that we are the owners (ie after settlement). We have requested that they consider our request and provide approval subject to settlement so that we can commence renovations immediately.
    · Strata managing agent has also stated that a general meeting will need to take place and then a By law for our unit will need to be written in.
    · We have noted in our letter to the body corporate that there are other apartments which have wooden floors already installed and as far as we are aware these are not causing any issues.
    Questions
    1. Can the Exec Commitee of the owners committee approve our request subject to our settlement?
    2. Does this need to go to an Annual General meeting or is EC meeting sufficient.
    3. Why does a “By Law” for our unit need to be put in place? From memory of the Strata report there are currently no special By-laws and at least 1 other Unit has had wooden floors already installed. Is a By-law needed for the removal of the internal walls?
    4. Are we able to legally commence the renovation without owners corporation approval, either commencing the wooden floors, the internal walls, or both?
    5. If we went ahead without their approval and then they met and decided that we couldn’t go ahead (not sure of what justified reason they would have?), do they have legal powers to force us to remove the wooden floors and re-instate the walls etc?
    6. Is there anything in the standard By-laws that are preventing us from commencing this straight away as long as the floors comply with the BCA and the removal of internal walls complies with the design specification of the Structural engineer ?


    Many thanks
     
  2. Propertunity

    Propertunity Real Estate Buyers Agent

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    I can make an attempt to answer some of your Qs.

    NO

    YES

    YES

    Essentially the walls do not belong to you alone. You cannot willy nilly remove them as they may affect other parts of the building and therefore other unit holders. That is why you need the structural engineer (which you have) but you still need BC approval.

    Just because you are on a deadline does not mean that the BC has to vary the process for their approvals. I don't think you need an AGM to put your proposal. But don't hold your breath waiting either.
     
  3. cadence

    cadence Member

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    D Money

    I think one incentive with buying a house is you get to do whatever you want with it. The same does not hold true with units.

    I can totally understand why you would like to do those things straight away but I would recommend that you do not commence any work until body corporate approves. It is not unreasonable for them to not consider your application until settlement. I'm sure the settlement will go ahead so you will the owners very soon, but from their perspective they can only take instructions from current owners, not prospective owners.

    If you go ahead and commence work without their approval, this is the kind of thing that will definitely get a mention at the next body corporate meeting after your settlement. You will be living in the unit, so other owners in the unit will know about this and they probably will not be too happy with it ... the idea of a unit being managed by a body corporate is that the building gets managed as a whole so there is an implied level of cooperation and courtesy amongst all owners.
     
  4. jrc

    jrc Member

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    You might want to check but removing internal walls often requires consent of the local council.
     
  5. D Money

    D Money Member

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    Thanks Propertunity,

    Do your No, No, yes answers for the flooring mainly refer to

    Bylaw 1 - [FONT=Arial,Bold][FONT=Arial,Bold]1 Noise[/FONT][/FONT][FONT=Arial,Bold]
    [/FONT]An owner or occupier of a lot must not create any noise on the parcel likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot or of any person lawfully using common property.


    & [FONT=Arial,Bold]
    Bylaw 14 - Floor coverings
    (1) An owner of a lot must ensure that all floor space within the lot is covered or otherwise treated to an extent sufficient to prevent the transmission from the floor space of noise likely to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot


    I guess the golden question is what noise would constitute "peaceful enjoyment". I would argue that if it complies with the BCA than it should be acceptable.
    [/FONT]
     
  6. D Money

    D Money Member

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    I had always understood that as long as you are not changing the external footprint of or height of existing buildings, Development approval was not required from the council.
     
  7. Propertunity

    Propertunity Real Estate Buyers Agent

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    No, my answers referred to the points you raised, that I quoted, immediately preceeding my Y/N answers.:)

    Let's see if the BC you have to convince buys into that argument.

    All the best with it.
     
  8. D Money

    D Money Member

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    :eek:

    Well, 5 weeks after settlement and still no body corporate approval.

    Why has this taken so long?

    Week 1 : Since settlement, the Strata manager said that she had not received section 118 and therefore we werent "owners". Chased up solicitor for the section 118.

    Weeks 2: Strata manager insisted our solicitor draft a by-law stating that the owner of our apartment is liable for any future repairs of common
    property that may be caused as a result of removal of walls

    Week 3: Strata manager said our first draft of by-law was not acceptable
    re-draft

    Week 4: Voting form for postal vote sent out to all owners

    Week 5: Vote took place but there was not a "quorum" which means 25% of "financial" people. "financial" people mean people who are upto date with their levies. Only 5 people had bothered to vote (32 lots in building)!!

    So have to wait yet another 8 days for the next Extraordinary General meeting. votal forms will be sent out to all owners again but again there is no guarantee that this time we will get enough numbers

    This process is very slow and frustrating!
     
  9. travelbug

    travelbug Member

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    This is normal. If you, say, removed a wall and the above unit had problems because of this why should Body Corp wear the burden?

    You don't need a quorum for the second meeting. A decision can be made by those attending (or with proxies).
     
  10. D Money

    D Money Member

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    yes I understand this.

    My only concern with this is that due to the by-law, future owners of my unit will also be liable if issues occur further down the track. This may provide difficulties when selling as potential purchasers may be nervous accepting that liability.

    Liability should really rest with the structural engineer (in the event that his design was defective and the builder carried out the works in accordance with the design) or the builder (in the event that works were not carried out in accordance with the design). Both of these parties will be insured for this (professional indemnity). If damage does occur, Body coporate will come after me and I, in turn, will have to pursue the builder or structural engineer which sounds like a very painful process.

    My only responsibility should be to engage professional people.


    The strata manager has advised that a second meeting is required and that we will still need a quorum, however she might be able to count the previous 5 votes and add on any new votes.
     
  11. Bargain Hunter

    Bargain Hunter You start with 1. Dufus.

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    That's interesting because there has never been a quorum at any of our BC meetings and yet things get passed all the time, special levies, approval of managing agents and so forth. I do not see why work on an individual unit should be any different. :confused:

    Regards

    Andrew
     
  12. D Money

    D Money Member

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    Hi Andrew,

    in section 12 of schedule 2 of the Strata Schemes Management act 1996 No 138 says:

    (1) A motion submitted at a general meeting of an owners corporation must not be considered, and an election must not be held, unless there is a quorum present to consider and vote on the motion or on the election


    so I think because the by-law requires a special resolution and the special resolution in turn requires a general meeting, then a quorum most be achieved.
     
  13. marg4000

    marg4000 Member

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    You are altering the building in some way and there is no way that responsibility should ever revert to the other owners via the body corporate. It is up to you to ensure that everything is done completely correctly. The onus will always rest with the owner of the altered unit, so be sure to keep good records to pass on to any future owner.

    This is standard practice. We owned a unit in a block where another unit owner applied to make structural alterations. She was granted permission under the same obligations for future maintenance.
    Marg
     
  14. D Money

    D Money Member

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    Finally, approval from the Body corporate!

    Finally 7 weeks after settlement , multiple phone calls and emails following up, 2 Extraordinary General Meetings, we now have approval to knock down the walls.

    Financially the delay has cost us around $4k in paying rent while we wait for approval (we are paying both rent at our old place and mortgage on the new).

    To be honest I never expected it to be this difficult and take this long. Lesson learnt is that approvals such as body corporate or council DA etc will always take longer than you expect.

    Anyways tommorrow I will be going crazy with the sledgehammer and taking my frustration out on the brick wall. Should be fun....
     
  15. D Money

    D Money Member

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    Well with 3 brazilian backpackers, some acrow props, a 4m3 skip bin, and now the walls are down!

    now I can order the kitchen and proceed with the rest of the rennovation - yiihaaa.