Apartment gripes – an obsessive responds

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It’s always a bit disappointing when you read the same old anti-apartment prejudices trotted out … especially when it comes from a colleague (albeit in a light-hearted vein)..

Am I too sensitive?  Am I obsessed? Probably both but I read THIS PIECE online this week and, as much as dog really shouldn’t eat dog, I had to at least have a bark.

Yes, there are serious and just bloody annoying issues that we have to deal with in apartment living. But most of them are not these.

 1. So many neighbours

If you live in a house, you probably have neighbours on either side of you. Lucky you. When living in a high-rise apartment, commonly you’ll have neighbours above, below, and on both sides. This holds the potential for double the trouble. Your neighbours could be loud and partying all the time, or perhaps worse, they may complain about you every time you have even just two friends over for a couple of quiet drinks.

Europeans have been living in apartments since Roman times, our Asian neighbours seem to cope too. It’s a trade-off; try buying a house near your city centre workplace, that is also handy for restaurants, cafes and shops. A three-bedroom terrace in Darlinghurst will set you back a couple of million, at least.

At least in apartment blocks there are rules to stop people behaving badly, and conversely, they set parameters that stop people complaining about you because they have hypersensitive hearing and you like to play a little music.

By the way, try dealing with a noisy neighbour when you live in a house.  A house-dwelling friend of mine ended up having his garden and the front of his house trashed and his life threatened when he politely complained about a non-stop party that had raged next door for three days and nights.

Three cop cars and seven police arrested the neighbour who then took an AVO out against my friend but didn’t even turn up for court (my friend had to take the morning off work). Thank heavens for strata by-laws!  Also, when someone is behaving that badly, you can assume others are complaining too – so you can’t be singled out.

Most people in apartments try to get on, allow each other a bit leeway and look after each other – it’s called community.  Many people in houses don’t even know their neighbours’ names.

2. You can hear EVERYTHING

Speaking of noise. In a building with so many people, you can hear someone, somewhere most of the time. This is especially the case if the walls are thin. What’s that banging next door? Oh, it’s neighbour one assembling their Ikea furniture. What’s that thumping from the ceiling? Oh, it’s neighbour two practising tap dance… well, hopefully.

You must be living in a cheaply built or badly managed apartment block where other residents have been allowed to replace carpet with uninsulated floorboards and hang surround sound speakers off walls that only just meet the tolerances prescribed in our inadequate building regulations. If these things are occasional disturbances, they are signs of life, at worst.  If they are constant, there are ways of stopping them.

I recall living in a house in Auckland where an elderly neighbour started each day, at about 7 am by scraping, yes SCRAPING, the gutter outside his house with a metal shovel, to clean up any debris that might have landed there in the previous 24 hours.  Requests that he use a brush, then the shovel, were met with “why would I do double the work when the shovel does it all in one go?”

3. What’s with all the rules?

Sometimes living in a high-rise apartment can feel more like living in an adult dorm. You can only move in or out at certain times and you have to keep it down during “quiet hours”. Next thing you know, you’ll have to start asking the building manager if it’s OK for your friend to sleep over.

No you won’t. But let’s get this clear – you want everyone else to tiptoe around while you make as much noise as you like? That’s really going to work!

The reason there are restrictions on when you can move in and out is that, left to their own devices, most people will move at weekends – often employing mates who don’t know what they are doing –  clogging up lifts, parking and stairwells at a time when everyone else is at home.

Do it during the week and you will probably have to use professional removalists and will cause minimal disruption to your neighbours (although that doesn’t really count for much in our “me first” culture).

4. Not-so pet friendly

If you want to own a pet, living in a high-rise apartment can be a little impractical. Not only will your furry friend have limited space to run amok, the toilet breaks often involve lengthy trips up and down the building every time your pet needs to do its business.

Hmmm.  Cat litter and dog bogs, anyone?  If you don’t want to walk your dog, don’t buy a dog or (and this is a poor alternative) live in a house with a yard. The whole “apartments are bad for pets” argument has been well and truly trampled to death under the feet of pet owners, dog walkers and even the pet-free who love saying hello neighbours’ animals but, like grandchildren, they can be handed back when you are done with them.

5. The lift is a double-edged-sword

…  don’t be too surprised when the lift stops on every floor when you’re running late. And then there’s the awkwardness – you stand there silently, reach past people to push buttons, and immediately end any conversation you were having as soon as a new person joins you in the lift.

Why would you stop talking as soon as another person gets in?  Are you talking about them? That’s certainly what they will assume.  Next time you get in, they will stop talking about you. Oh, and there’s a cure for running late.  If you are going to work at the same time as everyone else – leave earlier (I speak as someone who once thought i was going to have to do my monthly spot on ABC 702 on the emergency phone when the lift stopped between floors on my way to the studio).

6. Parcel delivery is tricky

Living in a security-conscious building offers no safe place for the postman to leave your package while you’re at work, resulting in them leaving behind said slip. Isn’t this the reason we online shop in the first place? So that our packages can come to us, not us to them?

Yeah … but the post office won’t leave them at your front gate or on your doorstep either because of your kleptomaniac neighbours who will happily jump the fence to nab your box set of Breaking Bad.  And what does this building manager of yours do when he’s not checking up on your overnight visitors or ignoring your complaints about the tap dancer upstairs?

7. Fire alarm evacuation

If the fire alarm goes off for any reason, have fun walking down more than a dozen flights of stairs. Then before you know it, you find yourself in a sea of strangers, wearing pyjamas at some ungodly hour. It’s amazing how much fuss burning a piece of toast can cause at times.

If people are doing that a lot, they can be charged for the call-out and they usually then learn to dial down the toaster.  And it’s amazing what a leveller standing on the street in your jammies can be.

8. Extra set of instructions for visitors

By adding another dimension to your living situation, you add a considerable level of difficulty when giving friends and family instructions to your front door. With a house, you usually just give someone your street name and number and voila, they arrive with no fuss.

Ever driven down a street, especially at night, looking for house numbers hidden behind ‘witty’ names like Dunromin, Costa Fortune and Thistledome? And as for visitors parking on a suburban road – forget it.  If two families in the same street have a dinner party on the same night, late arrivals are stuffed.  Then it’s walk three blocks and watch out for the muggers near the Pokemon Go hot spot.

Look, apartment living isn’t perfect and there are more serious problems than those listed here. But if you want to live near work, cafes, shops and entertainment and you aren’t prepared to engage in your community in any meaningful way, ALL of the above could happen to you.

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