Can I Renovate A Unit?

renovate a unitMany people buy property planning to renovate and, ideally, add substantial value.

But what if the lot in question is a lot in a strata scheme? Can you still renovate a unit? And just how much do you need to involve the body corporate in the process?

As with most things body corporate the answer is “it depends”.

I’m not trying to be deliberately vague as it really will depend on your body corporate by laws. And body corporates are all different in their attitude to renovations and changes. Some allow almost blanket permissions, other are very strict and allow few, if any changes at all.

The overriding factor will be to ask first. Body corporates are all about people and communication is vital. Whatever the rules in particular schemes almost all committees will react badly to works that start without permission.

Why do I need to seek permission to change my own lot?

Renovation happens inside the lot, the lot you control and are responsible for, so why is it then you need to seek permission prior to making changes?

Firstly there are practical considerations; it’s a good idea not to remove a load bearing wall in your building. That could be interesting. There are also services like plumbing, electrics and cabling that are expensive to rectify if damaged. Consultation with the committee can avoid some serious issues with the project.

Then there are a couple of other factors at play: the overall presentation of the scheme and fairness to all lot owners.

Presentation of the Scheme

communal front

A uniform external appearance adds value to units

Strata schemes are communal investing schemes. Each of the lot owners has bought themselves a lot and a stake in the common property. That means all lot owners have an interest in how the building looks since it all forms part their investment.

That usually manifests itself as a desire to keep that look uniform and will result in restrictions on what changes you can make both to the exterior of your lot but also to the interior when those changes might be seen from the outside.

Most commonly that means curtains or blinds must be uniform, balconies must remain uncluttered with restrictions on hanging washing or erecting screens or decorations. Actual restrictions will be different scheme to scheme so check the bylaws.

Some changes, like installing an air conditioner, may actually affect common property such as an exterior wall, so should be discussed with the owners or their representative, in the case of body corporates, the committee.

Fairness To Other Lot Owners

What you do on your lot must not impact on the enjoyment of the other lot owners.

On the surface it would seem that renovating inside your own lot has got nothing to do with the other lot owners at all, but not so.

Renovation is a messy business. There will be rubbish generated, noise, dust, work men traipsing over common property and building materials about the place, all things that your neighbours might object to.

Then there are practical considerations. Will the change that you make impact your neighbours? If yes then fairness for all lot owners needs to be considered.

The most common example here is hard flooring in apartment buildings. It is astonishing how much tiles or timber amplify noise underneath. Steps need to be taken to minimise noise.

Seeking approval to renovate a unit

To be clear, some schemes are happy for you to do what you please. That said a good rule of thumb is to formally ask for permission before taking any action.

Approval for renovations is pretty easy to do. A written request to the committee outlining what you want to do and asking permission is good enough.

The committee may ask for further clarification and though it may seem annoying or pedantic it really is a good idea to humour them. It is well worth the effort to have your renovation policy approved in full prior to any works being undertaken.

Some schemes may require a bond be paid prior to any renovations going ahead. This is to indemnify the body corporate should the common property somehow be damaged during the process.

A scheme may also have a renovation policy you will need to adhere to, which, while helpful, doesn’t absolve you from first obtaining permission.

What can happen if you don’t get permission?

Guidelines for what you can and can’t do within your lot are codified in the body corporate bylaws. If the bylaws are specific, and it’s most likely that they will be, then the body corporate can enforce them.

Practically what that means is if the committee take exception to anything that you’ve done, and there is no approval, they may ask you to undo it.

If you’re asked to remove something and you do not, the body corporate can seek recourse through the legal system. Adjudication from Office Commissioner Body Corporate is the first step, followed by QCAT if that proves uneffective.

And unless you’re prepared to fight your way through the courts you will mostly likely need to undo whatever it is you’ve done. And yes that can and does include major infrastructure change like ripping up a floor or taking down a structure.

If you’re buying a lot in a body corporate that has some difference, either a construction or some sort of change, it’s a good idea to find out if that change was approved. It isn’t uncommon for these things to come to a head until years into the future.

Oops, I didn’t get approval, now what?

If you have made changes to the lot without seeking approval, seek approval now! Retrospective approval is as good as pre-approval but can be a lot more difficult to get.

If you’re tempted to just ignore it consider, it can make your lot more difficult to sell, since a smart buyer will ask for proof of approval.

Lot owners change in any scheme and that can also mean changes in the makeup of the committee. Just because one committee overlooked a change doesn’t guarantee all committees will.


Renovation is a great way to increase the value of your investment, and there is no reason why you cannot renovate your unit. There are however restrictions on how, when and what you can do. Seek approval first and you should have no problem.


A little knowledge can go a long way

I see so many stressful and frustrating issues in body corporate records that result from simple misunderstandings it hurts my head. If I could do one thing to help it would be to teach everyone the basic rules, so they can avoid all these dramas.

With that in mind I've put together a short eBook that sets out the basics everyone owning in a body corporate really should know. It won't make those big issues go away, but it will give you a firm grounding from which to communicate.

It's completely free, so please, download it now!

Download Now


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