Planning a condo renovation? Want to be successful? Read on.......

Planning to upgrade your condo with a professional renovation? Remember: just because you are working only on the interior of your unit does not exclude you from strata bylaws. Under BC’s Strata Property Act, an owner must obtain written approval before altering a strata lot. Adjoining walls, flooring, plumbing, and electrical are examples of items in a renovation requiring approval. In addition to the Act, each condo strata will have its own schedule of bylaws and approval process. So what is the best way to navigate through all these rules? Follow these simple steps.

Before you start, talk to your property management company
Get a clear understanding of the bylaws and the renovation approval process. Most often, the management company will act on behalf of the strata with your builder. These days, if the next strata meeting is weeks away, a common request is to seek council approval via email, eliminating the need to wait. Regardless of the strata process, time must be accounted for in your plan for the approval.

Create a work list
Your strata will want to see your plans for the renovation project. Some councils require extremely detailed information, others not as much. Rule of thumb: break down the renovation into projects, e.g. bathroom update; new kitchen. Then, under each item, list work to be done, e.g. new kitchen: demolition; removal of existing cabinets and appliances; non-structural wall removal to open kitchen to living room; installation of kitchen island; new appliances and cabinetry; painting walls; new flooring; new electrical; use existing plumbing. Breaking out the work will provide a clear picture of the intended renovations, and will also serve as a checklist for potential issues.

Be flexible
When renovating kitchens and bathrooms, ventilation, plumbing and electrical will be factors in determining if your renovation is possible. Approaching your renovation with flexibility is recommended as there will inevitably be a bylaw or restriction unrelated to structure, but nonetheless, a bylaw you must adhere to. Make sure to read the bylaws with your builder before the process begins. Chances are you are not the first to renovate and there will be a lot of information on what is, and is not, allowed.

Work from your list
Dates, timing, insurance and permits are just a few things required by the strata. Working from the renovation list, your builder will be able to provide required records and timelines for starting and completing each job along with the required insurance, etc. Depending on the work to be done, access points to your unit within the building and to the street will be required. The bylaws will provide information on access rules, working hours (noise bylaws), demolition removal processes, etc.

Photo journal from start to finish
It’s not just the pretty pictures that count. Be sure to capture each stage of the renovation, including the messy days, when walls and floors are torn out and opened up. Images provide a catalogue of the state of the original condo, the steps taken, and the work completed – a great source of information not just for the strata council, but also on the final walk through before signing off.

Working with a professional builder, who knows the strata rules, will expedite the process and protect you from potential do-overs. It’s a simple plan.


Courtesy of Westcoast Condominium. Story by: Bob de Wit Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association

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