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Read This Before You Renovate

Thursday, 14th June 2012

Over winter we saw a number of renovating shows hitting our TV screens. This has no doubt prompted a bit of a renovating boom, with some people looking around their homes and deciding it's time to get the sledgehammer out.

However beware, renovating or amalgamating apartments without the correct approvals to undertake the work can cost owners thousands of dollars in fines. Owners may also have to spend money on restoring property to near original condition if ordered to undo work already completed.

A rule of thumb is to ensure advice is sought from appropriately qualified people, before any action is undertaken or approvals granted. Also, check with your owners corporation or body corporate to see what permissions you may need, especially around noise and access to common property (i.e. a skip bin to take away building materials that can only be placed on common property).

Owners may also need permission from their local council and, in case of a historically listed building, sign off from the relevant heritage authority.

Strata managers have dozens of stories about apartment owners making changes to their apartments that have had to be reversed.

One story from NSW is about an apartment owner who demolished the sliding doors on his balcony and installed bi-fold doors without permission. He was required to remove the new doors and restore the balcony to its original condition.

If you are still keen on renovating here are some tips to follow:
  1. Plan your renovations - make sure that if you do renovate you are going to be able capitalise on the investment in your property when you wish to sell. With markets all over the place at the moment it may be wise to check if your area is experiencing steady growth if you plan to sell in the next 12 months to two years.
  2. Use professionals - always seek professional advice and services from a licensed builder, structural engineer or a certified plumber, before undertaking the work.
  3. Finance - do you have the right finance and will you be able to pay back any loans so that the end result is a profit on the initial investment? It may be worth talking to an accountant or financial planner just to make sure at the end you are not left out-of-pocket.

There are a number of ways to get finance, so talk to your lending institution and get the financing that's right for you.

Finally, you should also advise the building insurer that there have been changes to the apartment. If you've fitted in a $20,000 kitchen but the coverage is only for a $5,000 kitchen you don't want to be out of pocket if there is a disaster.

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Comment from Cleo on Tuesday, 30th July 2013

The trend to remove carpet in an apartment make-over and replace with tiles or lovely polished floorboards, isn't always straight forward. Make sure you check with your strata by-laws before committing to the expense (otherwise you may be made to strip it all again). Often the devastating effect of the impact noise on the downstairs neighbours is huge. Specifiers recommend a good acoustic floor underlay be used before adding the tile/timber floor. If someone claims it meets the Australian Building Standard for noise transmission, you may have a problem and have to depend on Strata Law (see below). Australian Building Standards are a joke when comes to apartments and those that apply to flooring seem to have been designed for people whose feet never actually touch the ground. Read more on


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