OOPS! 10 classic errors strata living newbies make

For more than 10 years we have been answering questions and offering advice about apartment living. When we started, apartment residents were in a small minority and it was seen as a poor second choice to owning and living in a house.

These days, however, apartments are the first choice for most first-time home owners and they are increasingly a positive option for people who would rather live  near where they work (and play) than spend 10 or more hours a week in a car, bus or train just getting there.

By 2030, half the population of Sydney will live in some form of strata.

The world has changed but sometimes it’s worth going back to basics.  So here are 10 classic traps people new to unit blocks often fall into, from learning about levies to making assumptions about … well, just about anything..

  1. Forgetting about levies

You’ve worked out your mortgage payments, stamp duty, conveyancing fees,  transport costs, water and power bills and council rates down to the last cent, even allowing for a frothy coffee once a day.

Then you get your quarterly levies bill – your share of the cost of running your building.  If you opted for a block with resort facilities this could be a shock that sacrificing the coffee won’t cover. Check them out.

  1. Not getting involved

Only losers with nothing better to do get themselves elected to strata committees and attend meetings. Who has the time? And, hey, how much harm can they do?

You’ll find out when your committee is stacked with fixed-income retirees who do have the time and won’t spend a cent on the building unless the bill is attached to a court order.

  1. Not complaining about neighbour noise

Nobody wants to be a party pooper (apart from those who do).  But remember this when you are suppressing the urge to ask your neighbour to turn their surround sound down to less than 11: They don’t know how loud their music is in your flat till you tell them.

It’s when they don’t care that you have a problem.

  1. Assuming … just about anything

We were recently on radio in Newcastle and host opened with: “OK, we all know pets aren’t ever allowed in apartments …”

Not true, and much as it’s a bad move to contradict the guy with the volume switch on the radio, it was a perfect example of how everybody’s an expert on apartment living, until they actually live in one. Which brings us to …

  1. Not reading your by-laws

They’re attached to your contract of sale and tell you what you can and can’t do in your building – whether it’s having a pet or parking your car. Just because you haven’t read them doesn’t mean they don’t apply – as you will discover when you get a Notice To Comply followed by a fine.

  1. Believing that as owners, you can do as you please with your flat

All you really own is the airspace between your walls, the floor and your ceiling. Start messing with them without permission and you could be in big trouble.

  1. Thinking visitor parking is a spare communal space.

A friend who parked her mum’s car for a few hours in visitor parking came out to find a threatening note from a tradie neighbour who had filled his garage with work gear: “Don’t park in my f…ing space again – or else.”

It’s not your space just because you got there first.  It’s for visitors, not residents. That’s why it’s called ‘visitor parking’. Get it?

  1. Assuming the rules are only there for tenants.

First time we ever knocked on a neighbour’s door to ask him to turn his music down, he said, “Sorry, mate, I own the place …”


“So the by-laws don’t apply to me.”

Oh yes, they do, mate.  The rules for tenants and owners are pretty much the same … only renters can’t vote to change them and owners can’t be evicted for breaking them.

  1. Believing local council noise rules supersede by-laws.

Local council laws say you can’t make a lot of noise after 10 pm on school nights and midnight on weekends.  Strata by-laws usually say you can’t disturb other residents’ peace and quiet … ever.

The former means you can call the cops, the latter means that if you insist on playing Led Zeppelin at full bore in the middle of the afternoon, you could eventually be fined. Dazed and confused much?

  1. Thinking there are too many rules

There aren’t and those that do exist are basically common sense (if you want a whole bunch of different people to get along). Each community finds its own way of working and for many the by-laws are only there for when things get out of hand.

There are no StrataKops patrolling buildings, issuing fines for every minor by-law breach.  But it mostly works, most of the time.

Do you know someone who’s new to apartment living, or maybe just thinking about it? Click on one of the share buttons below and spread the love …
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