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4 pre-renovation duties for condo owners in Singapore

Renovating your dream home isn’t all fun and games—you already know that. But even before you conceptualise the interior designs and place orders for tiles and laminates, some “unsexy” paperwork needs to be in order. From permits to approvals, to compliance with BCA, URA, and MCST, the nitty-gritty of renovating a condominium unit can be frustrating.

If these acronyms sound foreign to you, you may want to hold your horses. Here’s a handy checklist of paperwork to go through, lest the authorities or condo management throw a spanner in the works before they even begin.

1. Plan Submission to BCA

In the same way that HDB homeowners need renovation permits to get started, residents of condos have to apply to the Building Construction Authority in Singapore. The same applies for other private properties like private apartments, cluster houses, and strata-bungalows, as well as landed homes.

Of course, exceptions apply. For example, if you’re merely replacing a false ceiling with lightweight material, or demolishing a non-load bearing wall, a plan submission to BCA will not be required. BCA calls these “insignificant building works”, and you can see other examples here.

Outside of these exemptions, your architect or engineer has to submit building plans and structural plans (for additions and alteration works that tamper with a unit’s structural integrity or the building’s common structure).

2. Planning Permission from URA

Should additions and alteration works change the building’s appearance or increase the gross floor area (GFA) of your condominium unit, you’ll need to obtain Planning Permission from Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). So if you’ve got loft-y dreams of constructing a mezzanine, this is something to note.

But, first, your Management Corporation’s (MC) Chairperson or Secretary will have to indicate their agreement via a letter of authorisation, which will be submitted for review alongside your proposed construction plans.

3. Renovation Permit from MC

So BCA has cleared your building plans, and URA has given you their blessings to house an elevated study, guest room, or gym. Now what?

To kickstart renovation for real, a Qualified Person (QP) or contractor needs to obtain a permit and, subsequently, a Temporary Occupation Permit from the condo’s MC. Since management differs across developments, the rules vary accordingly. Some may ask for a deposit to “insure” themselves against damages to common areas; others may not. Still, things like access and working days and hours apply across the board.

For instance, in new launches, renovations happen back to back and amenities like elevators and parking lots are limited. Which is why you’ll need to notify the Management Agent about who to expect, and when to expect them. If your renovation professionals have bulky cargo in tow, they could pad the elevators in advance.

To avoid getting fined, clarify all the house rules. What should or should not go into the garbage conveyor? How should waste be disposed of?

4. Compliance with MC

Apart from renovation guidelines, the types of modification allowed also varies across developments. To err on the side of caution, always check with your MC or developer, and even URA where applicable.

For starters, not every condominium permits glass curtains or fancy balcony screens. The loft we talked about earlier? URA would only say yes if the total area does not exceed 5sqm, and the headroom is no greater than the height below it. Plus, it has to be constructed with lightweight material. Lucky enough to have a Personal Enclosed Space? Building a shelter comes with fine print, too.

At the end of the day, it’s wiser to do your due diligence on what’s possible and what will get you into trouble before going ham on the floor plan. But if you need someone to guide you along, feel free to reach out to me (Harvey Chia) at 9199 9141.


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