Frequently Asked Questions

What is a by-law?

A by-law is a rule that can be made by an Owners Corporation which governs the control, management, administration, use or enjoyment of lots and the common property in a strata scheme. By-laws may also grant common property rights such as exclusive use of common property or a special privilege in respect of the common property.

 

By-laws must be complied with by the Owners Corporation, owners, and occupiers (e.g. tenants). Any lease agreement contains an implied term that the lessee will comply with the by-laws for the strata scheme. 

What by-laws apply to my strata scheme?

If the strata plan was registered before 1 July 1997, the by-laws which apply to the scheme are the by‑laws in Schedule 2 of the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 (these by‑laws replace the by-laws that were registered when the strata plan was first registered), together with and any changes to the by-laws made wither in accordance with the old or new strata laws. 

If the strata plan was registered after 1 July 1997, the by-laws which apply to the scheme are the by‑laws that where in existence on 29 November 2016 together with any changes to the by-laws made on or after 30 November 2016.

 

These changes to the by-laws are noted on the common property certificate of title for the strata plan, and will usually be contained in one document containing all consolidated by-laws.

How are by-laws changed?

A change to the by-laws means making, repealing, or the amending a by-law. The following must take place for the by-laws to be changed and for those changes to have effect:

  • The Owners Corporation must pass a special resolution.

  • A special resolution is resolution passed in a general meeting of the Owners Corporation where no more than 25% of the value of votes cast are against the motion.  The value of a vote in respect of a lot is equal to the unit entitlement of the lot.

  • An exception is a by-law amending or repealing an order of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 which has effect as if its terms were a by-law; that change requires a unanimous resolution.

 

  • The initial period must have expired for common property rights by-laws, by-laws allowing an owner to improve or enhance the common property and be responsible for future maintenance, or for by-laws which confer a right or impose an obligation on one but not all owners in respect of one or more but not all lots in the scheme. The initial period expires on the day there are owners of lots in the strata scheme the sum of whose unit entitlements is at least one-third of the aggregate unit entitlement.

 

  • The written consent of the owner is obtained for common property rights by-laws and by‑laws allowing an owner to improve or enhance the common property and requiring them to be responsible for future maintenance.  The consent must be obtained from the owner upon which the privilege, right or authority is conferred.

 

  • The change of by-law is registered in Land Registry Services NSW together with a consolidated set of by-laws incorporating the change.  The change must be registered within six months of the passing of the resolution by the Owners Corporation.  The change does not have any effect until it is registered and recorded on the certificate of title comprising the common property.

What are the types of by-laws?

  • A by-law in relation to the management, administration, control use or enjoyment of the lots or the common property of a strata scheme.

  • A common property rights by-law, which is a by-law that grants an owner or owners special privileges (e.g. to keep works affecting the common property already carried out) or exclusive use rights, in relation to a specified part or all of the common property.

  • A by-law allowing an owner to improve or enhance the common property by adding to, altering, or erecting a new structure on common property, and requiring the owner to be responsible for the future maintenance of the common property affected by the work.

  • A by-law to adopt or modify the common property memorandum prescribed by the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016.

  • A by-law specifying what additional work is to be cosmetic work.

  • A by-law specifying what additional work is to be minor renovations.

  • A by-law permitting the Owners Corporation to delegate its functions in relation to minor renovations to the Strata Committee.

  • A by-law limiting the number of adults who may reside in a lot by reference to the number of bedrooms of the residence.

  • A by-law amending or repealing an order of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 which has effect as if its terms were a by-law.  

What are the requirements of by-laws?

  • The secretary of the Owners Corporation must keep a consolidated up to date copy of the by-laws for the scheme.

  • The Owners Corporation, owners, tenants, mortgagees and covenant charges in possession, and occupiers, must all comply with by-laws.

  • A by-law has no force or effect to the extent that it is inconsistent with any law.

  • By-laws cannot:

  • Be harsh, unconscionable, or oppressive and may be invalidated by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

  • Operate to prohibit or restrict the devolution of a lot or a transfer, lease, mortgage or other dealing relating to a lot.

  • Prohibit or purport to prohibit or restrict children from occupying a lot in a strata scheme that is not a retirement village.

  • Prohibit or purport to prohibit or restrict the keeping of an assistance animal on a lot.

  • Be inconsistent with a community management statement or a precinct management statement for a strata scheme that is part of a community or precinct scheme.  There is usually also a provision in a strata management statement that provides that the by-laws for a strata scheme member of a building management committee cannot be inconsistent with the strata management statement.

How are breaches of by-laws enforced?

A breach of the by-laws may generally be enforced by the owners corporation or another owner or occupier in the strata scheme by one or a combination of the following:

  • Contacting the owner or occupier and advising them of the breach and requesting future compliance.

  • Seeking an order from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal  for the person to comply with the by-law. Mediation must first be attempted.

  • Seeking an injunction from the District or Supreme Court of NSW for person to do or refrain from doing a specified thing which breaches a by-law.

In addition, the Owners Corporation may issue a notice to comply with a by-law under Section 146 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. The notice may be issued only if the Owners Corporation or Strata Committee first pass a resolution approving the issue of the notice, or may be issued by the strata managing agent if they have been delegated that function (usually in their management agreement).  The notice must be properly served. If the by-law has been breached since the issue of the notice to comply, the Owners Corporation may, not later than 12 months after the notice was issued, make an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a penalty of up to $1,100. If a person breaches the by-law within 12 months after a monetary penalty has been imposed by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, then the Tribunal may issue another penalty of up to $2,200. Higher penalties apply if a by-law is breached which limits the number of adults who may reside in a lot.​ All monetary penalties are payable to the Owners Corporation, unless the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal orders otherwise.

What renovations can an owner carry out?

 

Lot renovations 

An owner can undertake whatever renovations they want within the airspace of their lot. This is subject to any by-law an Owners Corporation may make restricting the types of renovations an owner may carry out within their lot, and any planning laws that may apply to the lot. 

Common property renovations

An owner may carry out renovations to the common property of a strata scheme in connection with their lot subject to strict rules and depending on the classification of the renovations. There are three types of such renovations - Cosmetic Works, Minor Renovations, and Major Renovations.

What are cosmetic works and how are they carried out?

Cosmetic work is defined in Section 109(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 as the following work to the common property carried out by an owner in connection with their lot:

  • Installing or replacing hooks, nails, or screws for hanging paintings and other things on walls.
     

  • Installing or replacing handrails.

  • Painting.

  • Filling minor holes and cracks in internal walls.

  • Laying carpet.

  • Installing or replacing built-in wardrobes.

  • Installing or replacing internal blinds and curtains.

  • Any other work prescribed by the regulations. 

  • Any work the Owners Corporation says is cosmetic work.  The Owners Corporation does this by passing a by-law stating the nature of the cosmetic work.

However, cosmetic work cannot be:

  • Minor renovations.

  • Work involving structural changes (e.g. the removal of a load bearing wall or the enclosure of a car space).

  • Work that changes the external appearance of a lot, including the installation of an external access ramp. Other examples include external blinds, pergolas, awnings, hot water systems, and skylights.

  • Work that detrimentally affects the safety of a lot or common property, including fire safety systems.

  • Work involving waterproofing or the plumbing or exhaust system of the building.

  • Work involving reconfiguring walls.

  • Work for which consent or another approval is required under any other Act (e.g. where a development approval is required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979).

  • Any other work prescribed by the regulations.  

What is the approval process for cosmetic work?

An owner does not require the approval of the Owners Corporation or the Strata Committee to carry out cosmetic work.

What are the conditions for carrying out cosmetic work?

When carrying out cosmetic work an owner must ensure that:

  • Any damage caused to any part of the common property is repaired.  An owner is also responsible for damage to the common property for cosmetic work carried out on its behalf (e.g. by a contractor or a tenant).

  • The work and any repairs are carried out in a competent and proper manner.

An Owners Corporation may pass a by-law providing what other work is to be cosmetic work and also regulating the conduct and conditions of undertaking cosmetic work.

What are minor renovations and how are they carried out?

Minor renovations are defined in Section 110(3) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 as the following work to the common property carried out by an owner in connection with their lot:

  • Renovating a kitchen.

  • Changing recessed light fittings.

  • Installing or replacing wood or other hard floors.

  • Installing or replacing wiring or cabling or power or access points.

  • Work involving reconfiguring walls.

  • Removing carpet or other soft floor coverings to expose underlying wooden or other hard floors.

  • Installing a rainwater tank.

  • Installing a clothesline.

  • Installing a reverse cycle split system air conditioner.

  • Installing double or triple glazed windows.

  • Installing a heat pump.

  • Installing ceiling insulation.  

  • Any work the Owners Corporation says is a minor renovation.  The Owners Corporation does this by passing a by-law stating the nature of the work.

However, minor renovations cannot be:

 

  • Cosmetic work.

  • Work involving structural changes.

  • Work that changes the external appearance of a lot, including the installation of an external access ramp.

  • Work involving waterproofing.

  • Work for which consent or another approval is required under any other Act (e.g. where a development approval is required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979).

  • Work that is authorised by a by-law made under Section 108 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015  or a common property rights by-law (i.e. a by-law granting exclusive use rights or special privileges).

What is the approval process for minor renovations?

In order to approve minor renovations, the Owners Corporation must pass an ordinary resolution in a general meeting which approves the work.  That function can be delegated to the Strata Committee, but only if the Owners Corporation first make a by-law delegating that function.  When approval is given, the Owners Corporation (or the Strata Committee if they are delegated that function) can impose reasonable conditions on the owner. 

What are the conditions for carrying out minor renovations?

When carrying out minor renovations an owner must ensure that:

  • Any damage caused to any part of the common property is repaired.  An owner is also responsible for damage to the common property for minor renovations carried out on its behalf (e.g. by a contractor or a tenant).

  • The work and any repairs are carried out in a competent and proper manner.

  • They comply with any conditions imposed by the Owners Corporation (or Strata Committee if they have been delegated the power) in relation to the work.

An Owners Corporation may pass a by-law providing what other work is to be minor renovations in addition to regulating the conduct and conditions of minor renovations.

What are major renovations and how are they carried out?

Generally speaking, any work carried out by an owner which affects the common property in connection with their lot which is not cosmetic work or a minor renovation, is a major renovation.  Typically, these include structural changes, waterproofing, work to change the external appearance of a lot, or work for which approval is required under other laws. Some examples of the major renovations (though these will be different for each strata scheme) are:

  • Changing any waterproofing (e.g. in a bathroom or on a balcony or terrace).

  • Removing a structural wall.

  • Enclosing a balcony.

  • Enclosing a car space.

  • Changing external windows or doors.

  • Installing a skylight, awning, shutter, pergola, storage cage, solar panels, signage, satellite dish or antenna.

  • Work to install or move existing water, drainage or gas lines.

  • Any cosmetic work or a minor renovation that changes the external appearance of the lot.

What is the approval process for major renovations?

In order to approve major renovations, an Owners Corporation must pass a special resolution in a general meeting to authorise the work. 

 

If it is proposed that the owner has the ongoing maintenance of the common property affected by the works, or if special privileges or exclusive use rights (or a combination of these) are to be granted, then a by-law must also be made. This function cannot be delegated to the Strata Committee.  The by-law will usually impose conditions on the owner prior to, during, and after the conduct of the works.

The by-law is registered on the common property certificate of title in a dealing containing the consolidated by-laws.

What are the conditions for carrying out major renovations?

When carrying out major renovations an owner must ensure that:

  • They comply with any conditions imposed by the Owners Corporation in relation to the work which will be contained in the motion authorising the work and/or a by-law.

  • At least 14 days’ written notice is given to the Owners Corporation before any work involving a structural change to a lot is commenced.  The notice must contain a written description of the proposed alteration.