Do you need a by-law to install tiles in an apartment?

This Q&A first appeared in the April edition of the LookupStrata NSW Magazine. The response was provided by Nancy Torry, a Solicitor in our Sydney office.

Q: I want to change my floor (currently carpet) to tiles. Our Strata Management says a by-law may be needed first as the tile will be attached to my floor (a common property). I would like to confirm whether a by-law is really needed for that case and is there any way I can do it without any by-law needed?

A: You need to carefully check what your current registered by-laws state about floor coverings and your scheme’s process for approving “minor renovations”. You should also consider whether the installation of tiles in your apartment will result in noise transmission to other lots. If you follow the correct approval process, this will help to avoid disputes with your neighbours and the expensive cost of having to reinstate the work afterwards.

If your scheme was registered prior to 1996, the Schedule 2 model by-laws in the Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 may apply. By-law 14 of the Schedule 2 model by-laws state:

14       Floor coverings

(1) An owner of a lot must ensure that all floor space within the lot is covered or otherwise treated to an extent sufficient to prevent the transmission from the floor space of noise likely to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot.

(2) This by-law does not apply to floor space comprising a kitchen, laundry, lavatory or bathroom.

If your scheme was registered after 1996 and your scheme has adopted the model by-laws, there is no specific by-law about floor coverings. You do however have a general obligation regarding noise – see by-law 6 of the Schedule 3 model by-laws :

6   Noise

An owner or occupier of a lot, or any invitee of an owner or occupier of a lot, must not create any noise on a lot or the common property likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot or of any person lawfully using common property.

A similar by-law about noise exists in the pre-1996 model by-laws.

Your request to install tiles in your apartment would be considered “minor renovations” to common property, pursuant to s110 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. One of the minor renovations specifically listed is “installing or replacing wood or other hard floors”.

Minor renovations require the approval of the owners corporation before you carry out the work. This would need to be a majority of owners at a general meeting. Alternatively, the Committee can approve minor renovations, but only if they have been delegated the power to do so pursuant to a by-law.

Your approval may need to be supported by details such as:

  • any plans of the work
  • when the work will be carried out (times and dates)
  • qualifications and details of the tradespeople who will do the work.

The approval may be subject to reasonable conditions imposed by the owners corporation and cannot be unreasonably withheld by the owners corporation. This may include conditions such as ensuring your flooring meets a certain acoustic standard and even documentation after the tiles have been installed, such as an acoustic engineer’s report.

On the face of it, you may not need a by-law to carry out this work, if the proper approval process is followed. That said, it may be prudent and appropriate for the owners corporation to insist on a by-law. If they prefer you put a by-law in place before the work is carried out, they have the option of drafting it in a way that outlines a fair and reasonable approval process for not just you, but all owners that may wish to carry out this work in the future.

The team at Bugden Allen Graham Lawyers can assist with drafting a floor coverings by-law. Alternatively, you can go online to www.bylawbuilder.com.au and order a Floor Coverings by-law for just $129 + GST.

DISCLAIMER: This answer, provided to a question on the Look-up-Strata web site, is not intended to be legal advice. You should seek independent legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of your particular legal issue.