As more and more of us move towards medium or high density living, it’s important to be aware of the issues that go along with living in an apartment or unit complex.
When people live in such close quarters with others, there’s bound to be the odd disagreement, and the body corporate (also known as the strata committee) is charged with mediating such disputes.
A body corporate is a bit like a democracy – as a property owner, you get a vote, but so too does the annoying neighbour with the electric guitar…
That said, there are stacks of benefits to high-density living.
They can be excellent investment properties too – so long as you keep in mind the following common complaints.
The problem: Parking issues
One of the hottest issues of contention in any medium or high-density living development is that of parking.
Many families these days own two cars, yet most apartment titles come with just one parking space per unit.
Visitor parking is another common problem, as the limited spots available are almost never enough to cater to the various guests who might come and go throughout the day.
If you’re thinking of investing in an apartment, have you considered whether or not your tenants are likely to have a car?
If the property is close to public transport or an employment hub, then a car may not be a necessity.
Otherwise, there may be an opportunity for your tenant to sub-let a parking space from another resident who doesn’t own a vehicle.
Alternatively, if you’re tenant is an apartment-dweller who doesn’t drive and you have a car park on your title, you could make some extra cash by renting out your carpark separately.
The problem: Shared amenities
If the apartment complex has a gym, barbeque area or swimming pool, chances are this area will be one of the biggest causes of conflict for the body corporate to deal with.
From messy tenants leaving their rubbish behind, to drunken louts hogging the pool area when your kids want to have a swim, shared amenities can be a constant source of angst amongst warring neighbours.
As a rule we avoid investing in buildings with expensive common facilities – they create excessive Body Corporate Fees.
But if you’ve bought one of those high rise apartments with facilities, ,make it a rule for your tenants that they should always, always, always clear up after yourself and/or your children when you’ve used any shared facilities, and report and damage or misconduct to the body corporate immediately.
Many buildings have a booking system for popular amenities like the barbeque area, so make sure your property manager communicates the rules to your tenant, lest they accidentally commandeer the common property without permission.
The problem: Noise
To those who have only ever lived in standalone housing, you probably have no idea just how much noise can tear through the walls of an apartment building.
Especially many of the new buildings that seem to be built from paper mache rather than bricks and mortar.
You don’t just hear the loud parties from the uni students down the hall… you’ll also hear babies crying, children tearing around the place, housebound pooches whining to go outside, and even some of the most, how can I put this, intimate moments of your neighbour’s lives.
Again, that’s the reason why we avoid buying in the many new high rise blocks that look like they’ll become the slums of the future.
Ultimately, every resident in Australia has a legal right to reasonable peace, comfort and privacy.
As a landlord, it’s your obligation to uphold this – just as it’s your tenant’s obligation to respect the rights of their neighbours.
Obviously, with loud gatherings that contravene local laws about noise pollution, a resident justified in making a complaint, but when it comes to some of the other day-to-day noise that neighbours will make, the waters are a little murkier.
This is where having a great property manager can really be worth it’s weight in gold, as they can provide advice and guidance about how to best manage the situation.
The problem: Kids and pets
They say you should never work with animals or children, and seasoned body corporate officials will confirm that these cute little blighters can incite all kids of conflict in high-density living environments – from legitimate complaints about noise and mess, to overblown whining from that sour-faced retiree in Apartment 10 who seems to have a vendetta against all living things.
This is a tricky one.
Kids will be kids, and there’s not much you can do about noisy children, other than asking the resident to minimise the noise after-dark or in the early hours of the morning.
Also, while it’s a very personal decision whether or not to accept pets in your property, it can also be a very profitable one.
Tenants with a small cat or dog may be willing to pay a premium to rent your property.
You’ll need to check your strata corporation’s by-laws, of course, to ensure pets are allowed in the first place.
The problem: Smoking
Which is fair enough – none of us can deny knowledge of the disastrous health effects of nicotine.
If your tenant is a smoker, they might find apartment living a bit of a drag (pardon the pun) – even smoking on your own balcony might be off-limits if the odour wafts into another property upwind.
Encourage your tenant to quit! Ok, I know it’s not that simple.
But seriously, if your tenant is smoking and it’s causing issues with the neighbours – or if your tenant is the frustrated neighbour smelling someone else’s second-hand smoke – try talking to the offending party first, before you officially approach the body corporate.
Many smokers don’t even realise other people are affected by their habit, especially when they’re out in the open air.
If that fails, move the complaint up the chain of command within the strata committee.
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