Why it pays to be neighbourly in a strata building.

It used to be that knowing your neighbours was common. That popping next door to borrow something – or just to say hello – was considered the norm.

However, with technology helping to keep us more connected with those further away, many have neglected the potential social circle which exists around them – their neighbours.

In Australia, over 2 million people live in strata complexes such as apartments, units or flats. These buildings feature shared areas including hallways, stairwells, gardens and even facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and cinema rooms.

These shared areas, known as ‘common property’, can even include a portion of your walls, floors and ceilings.

Considering how many Australians live in strata, and the extent to which their homes are shared, it is remarkable that good relationships with our neighbours isn’t considered a necessity.

Close confines can cause conflict: the value of Owners Corporation rules.

When people picture strata living, the images conjured up are often of nosy neighbours, restrictive rules and passive-aggressive noticeboards.

Living closely together with others who might have a different lifestyle to yourself can of course breed a level of conflict.

Complaints within an Owners Corporation commonly involve subjects such as misuse of parking spaces, the wafting smells of cooking or smoking and the way noise travels from one apartment to another.

Every Owners Corporation has a set of rules by which all residents must abide, and these rules are designed to minimise the potential for conflict among residents.

Instead of feeling restricted by the rules in place, consider that by following them you are helping your neighbours live comfortably in their own homes, just as they are helping you.

The benefits of knowing your neighbours: resolve conflict and increase well being.

A formal complaint process does exist to help stamp out inappropriate or inconsiderate behaviour. This process can be time consuming and in the worst cases, expensive. It can also leave a bitter taste in the mouth of those simply trying to enjoy their homes. Being neighbourly can help ensure this process is only used as a last resort.

Often, complaints arise because a resident has not considered or is simply unaware of the impact of their actions on those around them.

Knowing your neighbours, while not preventing this completely, means the resolution of these situations is more likely to be a simple hallway conversation the next time you cross paths, rather than a lengthy – often public – back and forth between residents.

You may even find these situations arise less frequently in a community-minded complex. It is much easier to consider the feelings of friends and acquaintances over strangers.

Beyond reducing conflict, a sense of community has been shown to improve mental health and reduce feelings of loneliness – an important point considering a recent report showing 35% of apartment dwellers live alone.

Furthermore, it can be a factor in reduced tenant turnover, improved property security and increased care of a building and its facilities.

The caretakers of community: the role of the BM, the OCM and the COM.

It’s easy to understand how strata residents might feel daunted about how exactly to foster a community in their building.

The good news? You don’t have to do it alone. There are three key players in the running of an Owners Corporation: the Building Manager (BM), the Owners Corporation Manager (OCM) and the Committee of Management.

Most Owners Corporations will have at least one of these appointed, and it is their job to ensure that a building runs as it should and meets all its legal requirements.

The BM and OCM are typically appointed by the Committee and play a role in facilitating better communication among residents, while promoting and enforcing the Owners Corporation rules.

The Committee makes decisions on behalf of all Owners and directs the BM and OCM accordingly.

If you have an idea to make your building more neighbourly, or simply want some advice on how to play your part, these ‘caretakers’ are a wealth of knowledge and support.

Find out about The Knight’s work building community in the properties we manage >

This article was first written for and published by The Southbank News.