Can I modify my apartment in a body corporate?

Can I modify my Queensland body corporate unit?

The lot owner is generally entitled to make modifications that are solely contained within the lot and that are non structural in nature.  The by-laws should also be checked to make sure that there are no specific rules in regard to the change being considered.  A recent trend is for a by-law requiring body corporate approval so that the committee can impose reasonable conditions in relation to how the renovations (but not what non structural renovations) will be carried out.  For modifications that are permitted, lot owners have an obligation to inform the body corporate where the lot improvements may impact the premium for reinstatement insurance.
Beyond the lot, the responsibility lies with the body corporate.  In a typical unit block situation, this would include doors, windows and fittings that are situated in a boundary wall between a lot and the common property.   Also included would be garage doors, balcony railings and balustrades.  The lot owner is entitled to request to improve common property at their own expense.
Where the modification being proposed is part of the common property, a committee resolution must authorise a minor common property improvement requested by a lot owner.  In addition to the items listed above, here are some common scenarios where a lot owner would require committee approval.  When the modification being contemplated is major, an ordinary resolution at a general meeting will be required to approve the improvement to the common property.  The lot owner is usually responsible for all maintenance of the improvement.

Ceiling insulation

Owners in top floor units can benefit from ceiling insulation.  Other owners can not derive that benefit.  Consequently, insulating the area immediately above the lot would need to be paid for by the lot owner.  Additionally, the insulation would need to be placed on common property and not within the boundary structure of the lot.
Owners need to seek permission from the body corporate to carry out this work.  Here is an extract from the Qld Small Schemes regulation outlining the process for bodies corporate regulated by that scheme –

  • (1)The body corporate may, if asked by an owner of a lot, authorise the owner to make an improvement to the common property for the benefit of the owner’s lot.
  • (2) The improvement must be authorised by ordinary resolution of the body corporate unless—
    • (a) the improvement is a minor improvement; and
    • (b) the improvement does not detract from the appearance of any lot included in, or common property for, the community titles scheme; and
    • (c) the body corporate is satisfied that use and enjoyment of the improvement is not likely to promote a breach of the owner’s duties as an occupier.
  • (3) An authorisation may be given under this section on conditions the body corporate considers appropriate.
  • (4) An owner who is given an authority under this section—
    • (a) must comply with conditions of the authority; and
    • (b) must maintain the improvement made under the authority in good condition, unless excused by the body corporate.

In the case of ceiling insulation, the committee should be able to approve the request.  The committee may choose to pay for the stairwells (at the expense of the body corporate) to be insulated at the same time and choose to coordinate with all top floor lot owners who may want to also have their ceilings insulated.  It is important that the committee approval is sought.  This BCCM adjudication case has an interesting outcome where this process was not followed.

Television antenna

Most bodies corporate have one or more television antenna(e) and associated cabling that is distributed to the individual lots.  This utility infrastructure is common property and must be maintained in good order by the body corporate.  If you are not happy with your television reception, check with the other lot owners.  There are a few possibilities –

  • The antenna servicing your lot is faulty
  • The antenna cabling and associated electronics (mast head amplifiers, active splitters, etc) servicing your lot is faulty
  • Your television or television cable to the wall socket is faulty or not of a sufficient quality

Be careful to isolate the issue before you request the body corporate to ‘fix’ the issue.  If the issue is your television or fly cable then the body corporate are within their rights to ask for you to pay for the service call.  On the other hand, the body corporate antenna may be faulty but no one else is using that antenna so it has gone undetected by other residents.
Some bodies corporate have permitted individual owners to have their own antenna.  This is a situation similar to the ceiling insulation case study described above.  However, given that there are likely to be ‘aesthetic’ issues, an ordinary resolution of the body corporate will probably be needed to get approval.  This BCCM adjudication case describes a dispute about a television antenna.

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