When Do I Need Permission to Renovate my Condo?

Tony Gioventu
July 19, 2016

As seen in...

Westcoast Condominium


One of the most common complaints of condo living is when owners renovate their homes without understanding the basic bylaws of the strata and when they need permission to renovate. Before you renovate your condo, even simple cosmetic renovations, always read the bylaws for your strata. 

The Schedule of Standard Bylaws of the Strata Property Act require an owner to obtain permission in writing before they alter a strata lot that will involve any of the following:  the structure of the building; exterior; chimneys; stairs; balconies; doors, windows and skylights on the exterior or that face common property; fences; railings; patios, balconies or yards; common property located within a strata lot; or those parts of the strata lot that must be insured by the strata corporation. 

If It’s On the Outside, You Need Approval

The first part is easy: generally anything to do with the structure or the exterior needs approving. But the last part is where most owners fail to obtain permission, and where the alterations may have significant implications to the strata lot, neighbours or the building. 

Under the act, the strata must insure all original fixtures. With the exception of a bare land strata corporation, these include components and finishes within a strata lot as well. Most commonly these are the original carpets and flooring, kitchen cabinets, sinks, lighting assemblies, bathroom designs, and the finishes installed by the developer. 

It seems a bit crazy to think I need approval to upgrade my carpets, change my built-in shower, install hardwood floors, move an electrical outlet, or change the configuration of my kitchen. After all, it is my strata lot, right?  

Building Systems Are Interconnected

What we forget is that many of these buildings’ systems have interconnected features that, when altered, can have a significant impact on other strata lots. The simple rule is to consider how the renovation may impact another owner. 

If you are changing the soundproofing, ventilation, plumbing or electrical systems, it is likely you will require the written permission of the strata corporation. Compound the alterations with aging buildings and it is even more likely there may be asbestos in the finishing products and it will be necessary to conduct environmental testing and comply with WorkSafeBC abatement procedures. 

Don’t be the owner who decides to rip up your carpets and install flooring from a box, or replace your kitchen cabinets and sinks without a qualified and insured contractor, or renovate the bathroom and flood the neighbours below. 

Develop a renovation plan that clearly describes the scope of work you intend to do. Contact your strata council and inform them of the work and get permission to go ahead. When someone is renovating their strata lot, the strata corporation cannot unreasonably withhold permission, but if there are problems they will be seeking damages, fines and penalties against you if you have not complied with the bylaws. 

Tony Gioventu
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association, which promotes the interests of strata property owners by providing advice, resources and support for its members. Tony has more than 20 years of experience within the local real estate and development industry.