My parents tell me that when I was born, my sister had a hard time adjusting to no longer being an only child. All of a sudden she could no longer use her toys without interruption, whenever she wanted to, and however she pleased. As parents need to do, ours implemented some rules around playing with toys, but they didn’t want to go overboard. Instead, they encouraged us to do those magic things that all kids need to learn: take turns, share, and be gracious and understanding.
Moving from a freestanding home to a strata complex is a bit like going from being an only child to an older sibling – your behaviour has to change to accommodate others. Carrying on as if you are still an only child when you have a sibling doesn’t result in a very harmonious environment – in fact, quite the opposite! It’s the same in a strata community.
Strata living offers a multitude of benefits and the increasing number of people in Australia transitioning to it from living in a separate home shows this is widely recognized. However, what may be clear in some communities is that not everyone making the change realises there is a difference – that difference being you can’t use all areas or facilities without interruption, when you want and however you please.
Buying into a strata scheme means buying your own lot and a joint share in everything else. This sounds simple and people may profess to understand it when they sign on the dotted line to buy, but the practical ramifications may be hard to accept. How do you balance your right to use certain areas or facilities in your strata community with everyone else’s right to do the same thing?
Like my parents knew, some rules are necessary. In strata communities, by-laws exist to regulate the rights of residents to use shared areas such as parking areas, pools and gyms. Abiding by the by-laws is the best way to ensure you’re not accidentally stepping on any toes, but that equally, your right to enjoy what you (partly) own is protected.
But not every situation that may crop up on common property can be pre-empted and regulated by by-laws, and nor would you want it to. A community ruled by a million and one by-laws would not be harmonious; people would be more likely to desert shared areas, too scared of breaching a by-law to take advantage of the facilities and amenities.
When it comes to shared area etiquette in strata communities, perhaps the best approach is to translate those childhood lessons into practice (and hopefully be more successful as adults): take turns, share, and perhaps most importantly, be gracious and understanding.
Here are some examples of situations which may require a bit of extra thought in strata communities:
Moving in/out: In some circumstances, you can’t transport furniture through common property unless you have given sufficient notice to the body corporate. Even if you are not required to, it would be considerate to give notice to your neighbours or other residents on your floor. Be mindful not to block access to lifts or stairs for other residents.
Laundry: You’ve gone to hang out your washing on a shared line or use the shared dryer, but it is full of dry clothes. Can you remove other people’s clothes? Yes – within reason. Put the clothes in a basket or bag if available. If not, see if you can find out what lot the clothes belong to and advise them they are dry. Perhaps start a practice within the community by leaving a note with your washing saying to the next person feel free to remove the clothes when dry.
Pets: Even though you’ve been approved to keep a pet within your lot under the by-laws, some extra consideration is required in shared areas. It’s proper etiquette to ask someone already in a lift if you may join them with your pet or if they would prefer you wait for the next lift. Gardens and grassed areas of the strata community are not similar to a private yard for your pet; they should be leashed at all times.