In the recent case of Stocker v The Owners – Strata Plan No. 6622  NSWCATCD 31, the Tribunal considered whether works carried out by a lot owner were cosmetic works, or minor renovations, or works that were not cosmetic works or minor renovations, and the type of resolution required to approve the works.
In 2011, Mr Hartley (who was the second respondent in the matter) had removed bricks from a wall, installed sound insulation, fire rated panels, and a book case occupying the common property void. Mr Hartley had not obtained approval from the Owners Corporation for these works.
In response to concerns raised by Mr Stocker, Mr Hartley commissioned a building report which concluded that the removal of bricks and the installation of the bookcase had not affected the structural integrity of the wall. On 25 February 2021, the Owners Corporation passed an ordinary resolution retrospectively approving the works.
Mr Stocker sought orders:
- To have Mr Hartley restore the common property to its original condition (under s 132 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (‘’SSMA 2015”);
- That the retrospective approval of the bookcase was invalid because the motion was carried by ordinary resolution when a special resolution was required; and
- That Mr Hartley be removed from the strata committee.
The Tribunal found that Mr Stocker did not have standing to seek an order under section 132 of the SSMA 2015. The Tribunal outlined the two circumstances where a special resolution would not be required for works. First, where the work was considered cosmetic work pursuant to section 109 of the SSMA 2015 which did not require the approval of the Owners Corporation and second, where the work was considered a minor renovation pursuant to section 110 of the SSMA 2015 which only required the approval of the Owners Corporation by way of an ordinary resolution.
In this case, the Tribunal did not consider the works to be cosmetic in nature because a bookcase was not a built-in wardrobe. The Tribunal went on to state that even if it was regarded as a built-in wardrobe, the work involving reconfiguration of a wall is excluded from the definition of cosmetic work. The Tribunal concluded that the works were a minor renovation as defined by section 110 of the SSMA 2015 because of the reconfiguration of the wall and that there was no evidence to suggest that any of the exclusions in section 110 of the SSMA 2015 applied to the works. As such, a special resolution was not required to approve the works.
Finally, the Tribunal was not satisfied that it should make an order that Mr Hartley be removed from the strata committee. Although Mr Hartley did the work without obtaining the consent of the Owners Corporation, he had taken steps to address the concerns raised by Mr Stocker. He commissioned a building report and a fire safety report and undertook the recommended work. He also put the matter to a general meeting to obtain retrospective consent. There was no evidence of any failure to exercise due care or diligence, nor any evidence of serious misconduct. The Tribunal also did not accept that because another committee member indicated that she did not need to see information if Mr Hartley has seen it, that this was evidence of undue influence.
This case highlights the importance of ensuring that proper approvals are obtained for any works you intend to carry out in relation to your lot prior to the works being conducted. It would be prudent for you to inform the strata manager before intended works are carried out so that the strata manager can inform you of the required approvals or direct you to seek legal advice.
We have previously written an article on the types of approvals needed for works which you can read here.
This is general information and should not be considered to be legal advice. You should obtain legal advice specific to your individual situation.
Authors: Laura Cashman & Jasmin H.Singh