What is the easiest way for a townhouse extension to proceed and how can you protect other owners from future liability for the extension and the extension owner? – Vivienne, NSW

Q: Our strata includes four two-storey townhouses which are grouped together in twos. One townhouse owner has submitted plans to extend his unit by building another floor above his second storey.

The townhouse is separated from the other town house by two, one storey garages. Initially, it was agreed that a by-law would allow the the owner of the proposed townhouse to extend his unit, and that he would be responsible for all repairs and maintenance of the new extension.

Question… what is the easiest way for the extension to proceed and one which protects the other owners from future liability for the extension and the extension owner interests?

A: If a by-law has already been passed allowing the owner to extend their unit, they may proceed with the work. The passing of the by-law infers that the owner has presented the necessary paperwork and details surrounding the extension (e.g. who the contractors are, what kind of renovation they will be making, the expected duration of work, etc.), and that it has been approved by special resolution at a meeting.

If the owner has not gone through these steps and obtained the by-law allowing them to make the extension it is highly recommended that they do so. It is always easier to get approval first before carrying out major works as it will be costly to undo work that is later disallowed.

To protect other owners from future liability for the extension, the by-law should outline responsibilities such as maintenance and repair costs for the extension.

Some additional points that are valuable to consider are:

– Insurance cover of the contractors. They will need to have adequate insurance cover to make up for the cost to repair any damages as a result of the extension work.

– Being aware of and following council approved times for renovation works. This will ensure that residents near the renovation works are not disturbed too early in the morning or later at night.

– They will also not likely own the airspace above their lot so that will need to be part of the consideration, as well as permission from local consent authority (most likely your local council).

If a by-law has not been registered and this all sounds too complicated, you may want to look into a by-law drafting and registering service for this purpose. Having a thorough and clear by-law in place ensures everyone is equally and fairly protected, and can reduce the chance of disputes and disagreements caused by unclear/uncertain rules.