November 10, 2019 at 4:04 am #24891SandyMember
Work that is prescribed as ‘minor renovations’ in sn 110 of the 2015 Act includes kitchen renovations and installing wiring, cabling or power points.
1. If the kitchen renovations include moving a kitchen sink and therefore work on the common property plumbing, is that still a minor renovation? Or could it be argued this is structural work?
2. Re power points etc., if the work involves chasing a common property wall is that ok under s 110? Or again, could this be said to be structural work? (My owners corporation has not allowed this in the past even under a special by-law.)
3. The work prescribed as minor renovations is expanded further in the 2016 Regulation and amongst other things includes rainwater tanks, clothesline, reverse cycle air conditioner and heat pump.
The inclusion of these seems contradictory to the note that these should not involve structural changes or changes to the external appearance. It would be impossible to install any of these items in my multi-storey strata scheme without changing the external appearance (they would have to be installed on balconies).
Could we leave these out of the inclusions for minor renovations in our relevant renovations by-law?
SandyNovember 10, 2019 at 8:40 am #24904Amanda FarmerExpert
I think the first step here is being clear on what “structural changes” means.
Work involving “structural changes” is expressly excluded from being ‘minor work’ under section 110. Similarly, work “that changes the external appearance of a lot” cannot be minor work. This is in section 110(7) (b) and (c).
In my view, the term “structural changes” is intended to cover changes to the structure of the building.
What does that mean?
Let’s obtain some guidance from the words used to describe a “major element” of a building in the Home Building Act:
“an internal or external load-bearing component of a building that is essential to the stability of the building, or any part of it (including but not limited to foundations and footings, floors, walls, roofs, columns and beams)”
If work is going to change one of those components, it is probably structural work and therefore cannot be minor work.
Another way to think of it is: does a structural engineer need to be involved here? Eg – removing internal walls. Is it a load-bearing wall? If so, the Owners Corporation should request a certificate from a structural engineer confirming that all steps have been taken to ensure the ongoing structural support of the building. This cannot be minor work.
When you apply your examples of plumbing and power points, I can’t see how these could be considered “structural” changes. The plumbing is not a ‘structural’ element of the building, and you’re not necessarily “changing” a load-bearing wall by chasing an electrical cable into it. Of course, this may need to be considered on a case by case basis.
You are right that if the installation of any of the ‘minor work’ items listed in section 110 or Reg 28 changes the external appearance of a lot, then it cannot be minor work. This is an overriding provision. In some buildings, these items may not affect external appearance. Again, it’s a case by case consideration. Think about an apartment on a high level facing away from the street/road/anyone’s line of sight. Is an air con installed on that balcony really going to change the external appearance of the lot?
If you’re delegating authority to the strata committee to consider and approve minor works applications (which I imagine you are, via this by-law), it is probably a good idea not to be too restrictive in the by-law itself, otherwise you may be at risk of an allegation that the by-law is “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”. If you haven’t watched it already, you might be interested in my webinar on the subject, which points out that buildings banning items listed in section 110 (like hard flooring) may be at risk of having their by-law invalidated on the grounds it is ‘harsh, unconscionable or oppressive’.
If the strata committee is considering every minor works application anyway, I would not be too concerned about removing items from the list of ‘minor works’ but rather, I’d be clear that even though those works may be listed, if in a particular case they constitute a structural change, or change the external appearance of the building, they will be considered ‘major work’ requiring a separate by-law. I believe my template here is designed that way.
And I see you have asked a further question on just that point…I’ll head over there shortly.
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