Of all the neighbours in apartment blocks who can turn tolerant, accommodating, reasonable residents into screaming psychopaths, it’s not all-night party people, or weekend hobby home renovators, or barking dog owners (or even owners of barking dogs) that are the worst.
No, it’s the balcony bombers. They smoke, eat and drink on their balconies and then chuck their cigarette ends, spit and drop bottles and glasses – and all sorts of other garbage – on to the terraces of the people who live below.
You think I exaggerate? Back in 2008 the operators of a childcare centre at the 400-plus unit World Tower in George St complained that more than 500 cigarette butts were found on the children’s play area every day.
Add to that used condoms, tampons, underwear and even used syringes that were retrieved from its terrace and sunshades, which were peppered with cigarette burn holes.
Watching that glowing arc as your ciggie drops into the night is so cool – never mind the people who live downstairs.
But it’s not always deliberate dumping. Once, a dear friend of ours couldn’t understand why early morning light wasn’t pouring into her terrace bedroom as it usually did – until she saw the giant stuffed toy gorilla that had descend from who knows where or why, and wedged against her window.
People on the ground floor or podium level of apartment blocks usually buy or rent terrace apartments because they want a bit of garden to compensate for not having a view. They probably didn’t bargain for the scorched earth policy of their upstairs neighbours.
So what can do you do if some of the people who live in or are visiting the units above you think that your terrace is their giant ashtray?
Obviously the balcony bombers are breaking by-laws and could be fined or even evicted for breaching their tenancy agreement. But first you have to catch them.
And there’s a relatively easy way of doing that that has the added bonus of giving civil libertarians the screaming abdabs.
The strata committee can’t do this, but as an individual owner all you need is a fairly simple webcam and attach it to a laptop that’s been loaded with software that can take pictures at, say, one frame per second.
You point the camera up at such an angle that you aren’t looking into anyone’s unit. Then, every morning whizz through the unedited highlights of your upstairs neighbours’ misbehaviour, looking for that tell-tale glowing arc.
“That’s an invasion of privacy,” I hear you roar. No it isn’t. Your camera is on your property and you are not pointing it into other people’s homes.
Of course, out of consideration, you’d put a warning notice on your noticeboard telling neighbours that the outside of the building is under surveillance, and why.
In fact, that might be all you need. Big Brother doesn’t have to be watching – people just have to think he is.
There’s more on this and other strata outrages on the forum