The Social Dimension

9 years ago
7 minutes

Excited about the many benefits of apartment living? Not having to worry about gardening, improved safety and security, access to common recreation and leisure facilities and no maintenance are just some of the motivation for people to move into an apartment.

Like with any big decision in life, doing some research on the pros and cons and reflecting on your expectations and potential concerns is vital to reduce disappointments and improve your satisfaction.

Living in an apartment means that you live much closer to your neighbours and it is important to understand the challenges and opportunities this presents.  

Tip:  Write down what you really value about a home, things which are important to you and things you are happy to comprise on.  Do you feel comfortable to adhere to rules or do you love the freedom to do what you like?  Are you sensitive about noise, do you work shifts and have to sleep during the day?

Not all apartment buildings are the same. There are apartment buildings which have common recreation and facilities whereas other may not have any at all.  Some have social clubs and or regular get togethers, often initiated by residents. There are people who have moved into an apartment who value the fact that they know more of their neighbours than they did living in a house in the suburbs. Others have never met their neighbours despite living in close proximity.  People have different preferences and needs. Some people value privacy and some love a sense of community. Apartment living can provide privacy or can foster social interactions depending on the design of the building, facilities, governance and residents.  

Tip:  Check out the design of the common areas, are they welcoming and easily accessible

Reflect on your interest and potential use of common facilities. It sounds tempting to have access to a gym, swimming pool and other facilities. Are you going to be likely to use them? All owners have to pay for the maintenance of those facilities through their body corporate fees, whether they use them or not. They can make an apartment a more desirable place to live and create a sense of belonging, so really you need to weigh up the pros and cons carefully.

One of the biggest complaints about living in apartments is noise, which can be from neighbours, from people coming and going in the common area or from lifts, air conditioners or other services. In addition noise can be generated from outside the building such as cars, pedestrians, trains, rubbish removal and delivery vans. 

Tip: Check out the sound insulation of the building. There is a minimum acoustic building standard but ideally the building should exceed the minimum standard particularly if you are sensitive to noise. Walk around the site of the apartment at different times of the day and observe what is happening. Is it busy during the day and quite at night? Is there a school or a pub close by, what are the closing hours? If unsure about the sound insulation, get professional advice.

One important aspect which is quite different to living in your own house is the fact that living in an apartment means you have to adhere to by-laws which regulate what is allowed and not allowed in the building. This covers things such as parking, accessing the lift and the use of common areas, having pets, rubbish collection, what you can do on the balcony, window coverings and when and what noise you can make. They also regulate any alterations and renovations you can make in your apartment.

Tip:  It is important to ask for a copy of the by-laws before you consider buying to ensure you do not get any surprises when you move in. By-laws can be changed by owners but it can be a difficult process to do so.

As an owner of an apartment you automatically become a member of the Owners Corporation which is responsible for the administration and management of the apartment building. This includes making by-laws, enforcing by-laws, setting the body corporate fees and ensuring they are paid, developing a maintenance plan, taking out insurance, appointing a body corporate manager and building manager in larger buildings. But ultimately the responsibility rests with the Owners Corporation.

The governance of the Owners Corporation is regulated by the Owners Corporation Act. The Act differs between States. Some people see the management of strata titled property as the 4th level of governance in Australia.  As an apartment (lot) owner you have voting rights which depend on your entitlement and liability. This is linked to the size and value of your apartment, which means larger apartments or people owning more than one apartment have more voting rights. This is outlined in the Owners Corporation schedule which is part of the plan of subdivision. Often Owners Corporations appoint a committee which oversees the management and administration during the year. Any member can nominate to be on the committee. Most significant decisions do require the voting of all members. Some decisions such changing by-laws requires the support of 75% of eligible votes and are often presented at the Annual General Meeting.  

Tip: Check your lot entitlement and lot liability in the Owners Corporation Schedule which is part of the plan of subdivision. This will determine your voting rights and your liability of the Owners Corporation costs.

There is an added complexity for new Owner’s Corporations. The by-laws, the lot entitlements and lot liabilities are developed by the developer before any lots are sold. The developer also sets the body corporate fees based on an initial budget, this can change significantly as the building gets older and requires more maintenance. In addition often developers appoint a body corporate manager to administer the Owners Corporation and sign contracts for the maintenance of lifts, cleaning and care taking before a committee of owners has been appointed. 

Tip: Check what the proposed Owners Corporation fees are and if they are comparable to similar apartment complexes. Check if any contracts have been signed by the developer on behalf of the Owners Corporation and what the terms and conditions of those contracts are, including the duration of the contracts.

Like with many good things in life, compromises and trade-offs are required.   Apartment living has many advantages and with some research, planning and flexibility, you should be able to find an apartment which meets your needs and expectations and provides you with a great quality of life.

Rosemarie Speidel, Owner/Manager Vertical Neighbourhood Connections For more tips and information on the governance and social aspect of apartment living check out