Almost a quarter of the Australian population live in a strata title home, and with the rise in apartment living, the number is increasing every day in parallel with the obsession for home renovation. Influenced by the promise of instant profit, Australia has become a renovation nation. Rarely is any renovation experience straightforward, but when it’s compounded by the lack of or lax strata bylaws, it’s only a matter of time before there is a problem. In today’s show we talk with Matthew Wrigley, who is the managing director of Perpetual Strata Management.
Kevin: Almost a quarter of the Australian population live in a strata title home, and with the rise in apartment living, the number is increasing every day in parallel with the obsession for home renovation. Influenced by the promise of instant profit, Australia has become a renovation nation. Rarely is any renovation experience straightforward, but when it’s compounded by the lack of or lax strata bylaws, it’s only a matter of time before there is a problem.
Matthew Wrigley is the managing director of Perpetual Strata Management. He says there is an increase in the number of disputes arising from strata property renovations. He joins me.
Matthew: How are you, Kevin?
Kevin: Matthew, I’m well. Thank you. Tell me, what’s the basis of these? Are you surprised by the increase in the number of these?
Matthew: Not at all. With many homeowners now looking to property to invest in, they’re looking for quick capital growth areas, and that’s why they’re buying un-renovated properties and then adding value to them.
Kevin: What do most of the strata issues and disputes relate to?
Matthew: Most of the disputes relate to noise and damages. The damages can be from knocking a brick through the common wall into your neighbor’s property or even the time they start work.
Kevin: In that case, what steps then should someone take if they’re in a strata property before actually planning a renovation?
Matthew: Communication is key. You need to work with your strata manager. The strata manager is there to give you the best advice possible and help you through all these things. They’re not there to work against you; they’re there to help you get through the whole process of getting it completed.
Kevin: You mentioned that noise is one of the factors. I think, too, getting tradies onsite and the general confusion down in the common areas can also be a bit of a problem.
Matthew: Yes. Stopping the lifts, where they’re parking all their vehicles – it all contributes to basically just annoying other tenants and owners. That’s one of the big keys. When a jackhammer starts at 7:30 in the morning, I can say I’d probably have at least a couple of calls that morning.
Kevin: It would be quite disconcerting, too, if someone was actually knocking a hole in the wall and a few bricks came through into my apartment. I think I’d get a bit upset about that, as well.
Matthew: Yes, and it does happen.
Kevin: What about the changes you make inside? Making sure that you’re not knocking down any supporting walls? Do you need to get some sort of professional advice about that before you go ripping walls out?
Matthew: 100%. You need to have a structural engineer involved. You need to get that all approved prior. You need to have it approved once it has been taken out and the structural beams have been put in and signed off. You just need to have the correct paperwork.
Kevin: What about liability? Are there any rules that people might not know about if they’re going to go into these things?
Matthew: The liability is with the owner. However, there is a gray area if the lot is then sold with the problem because then it goes back onto the owners corporation.
Kevin: What are the guides to a good strata renovation?
Matthew: The first thing to do is consult your strata manager. Advise them of what you’re looking at doing. Also, investigate and research to find the correct builder to do it. If you can find the correct builder who will be willing to work with the strata manager, you’ll be always able to get through the project a lot smoother.
Kevin: Do the rules change around Australia? I know this show goes all around Australia. Are they different state by state?
Matthew: They are different. New South Wales, I would say, would be one of the strictest with Queensland closely following. It all comes down to the owners corporation and how they want to run the building. If you can set the building up initially to have correct bylaws in place that allow people to do renovation but they must follow a certain process to do so, it allows them to do the renovations. Unless the buildings have correct paperwork, the owners hold responsibility for it and it doesn’t fall back onto the owners corporation to maintain it, look after it, or problem-solve the issue.
Kevin: As you said, going right back to the start, Matthew, it’s all about communication. Make sure that you communicate well, and before you go slipping into getting any renovations done, make sure you’re talking to the appropriate people in your organization.
Matthew Wrigley, managing director of Perpetual Strata Management, thanks for your time.
Matthew: Thanks, Kevin.