Planning A Renovation? Some Neighbourly Advice

Neighbours and Renovations

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: their renovation plans for a dream home scuppered by the objections of their neighbours.

And it’s every neighbour’s nightmare: the home next door carrying out renovations that reduce their home’s views, privacy or ‘livability’, yet alone the noise and dust during the work itself.

Yet for many homeowners who are planning to extend or add a storey to their home, one of the reasons to stay put rather than buying a bigger place is that they get on well with their neighbours.

So it would be sadly ironic if, by carrying out building work to stay in their street, they disturb the ongoing harmony of their neighbourhood.

A common misconception is that neighbours must be formally consulted if any building work is being planned. As we detail, in NSW neighbours only have formal input when a homeowner requires approval for a Development Application.

However, whether your home alterations require approval or not, their are many good reasons to keep your neighbours onside and some simple ways that you can do this.

Before looking at these, it’s worth a quick recap on the different types of development .

The 3 Different Development Pathways

Some types of home renovations and minor building projects don’t need approval from council or an accredited certifier. If your project meets specific standards and requirements you may be planning an “exempt development” and there is no need to inform neighbours.

Other straightforward renovations may meet specific criteria that means they need “complying development” approval. In these circumstances, you can get fast-tracked approval and their are two required neighbour notifications, which, if in metropolitan Sydney, are:

  1. Your certifier or council must inform neighbours within a 20 metre radius that you have applied for a complying development certificate 14 days before it can be approved.
  2. After the certificate has been issued, 7 days before any work commences you must notify neighbours within 20 metres from the boundary of your development.

All other developments must go through the Development Application (DA) process with your local council which requires formal notification of neighbours who then have the ability to provide their feedback about your plans.

Consulting Your Neighbours

As we say above, just because your don’t have to get your neighbours approval, doesn’t mean that you should ignore them. Long term neighbourhood harmony is your goal!

And remember that at the early stages of planning, you may not be certain that your neighbours won’t have a say down the track.

As a ‘concept to completion’ designer and builder of home renovations – a service that includes managing the DA on your behalf – Addbuild has more than 40 years of experience on the best approaches to this delicate dance.

In all but extreme cases – yes, occasionally you find some neighbours can’t be reasoned with – our experience suggests that talking to your neighbours at the earliest opportunity will pay off in the long run.

Simply sit down with your neighbours and first explain why you need extra space in your home. This gives you the opportunity to see how they respond, and to answer any questions or learn about possible objections.

In most cases your neighbours will be happy for you and will appreciate the fact you took the time to talk to them.

Some will also realise the potential for improved property values of their own home by having a newly renovated home next door.

We think that this approach is far more likely to work than a possible alternative: your neighbour first hearing about your plans when they receive a copy from your Council or certifier.

Keeping Neighbours Onside During the DA Process

We also emphasise that talking to your neighbours before submitting your plans is really only the start of the process.

Keep in regular contact as the plans are being developed, especially if any of the changes you have made are relevant to your neighbour’s initial feedback, or your are making alterations that may affect them.

Staying in contact before the formal DA notification hits their letterbox is also a good idea and makes it clear that if they have any misgivings, your neighbours can talk to you first before giving their feedback directly to Council.

Keeping Neighbours Onside Before and During Building

We also advise that communications with your neighbours shouldn’t stop once the DA is approved.

Whether you have an exempt development, a complying development or went through the DA approval process, talk to your neighbours before building commences and whilst it is happening.

We all know that building work creates noise and debris, so keeping neighbours informed about start or finish times, and the likely major disruptions, gives them a chance to plan around disturbances if they can.

You may even find that if you are living at home during your renovations, a neighbour’s home may be an oasis from your building site complete with a good cup of tea.

We rarely find that a stand-off approach gets the best result. In summary, it’s really as simple as treating your neighbours as your would like them to treat you.

If you are in the early stages of planning your renovation and still researching your options, advice on how to approach your neighbours is just a part of our free “Consumer Guide to Home Improvement” and we cover many related topics in our Home Improvement Blog.

If your plans are a bit further along and you are looking to find someone to design and/or build an extension or addition, feel free to give us a call on (02) 8765 1555 or contact us using our online form.