Five ways do-nothing neighbours could cost you heaps


While many apartment residents complain about the decisions their strata committees make, it could be the ones they don’t make that are causing the most harm.

Here are five examples where their doing nothing could be costing you money … and sleep.

  1. Physical neglect

More than half of Australian apartments are owned by investors, many of whom pass all responsibility to their rental agent.

That means the owners may not be aware of the state of building, including how it looks, or what it’s like to live in. The agent can concoct a dozen reasons why their rents rarely go up but “your unit block is slowly turning into a slum” usually isn’t one of them.

It’s not just the rental agent.  The committee and strata manager may also be locked into a state of blind indifference.

Of course, this all comes home to roost when you can’t get a decent rent or reliable tenants.  The answer is to get involved and don’t let neglectful neighbours destroy your investment.

  1. Low levies

This is related to neglect, but runs deeper.  Not only are your fellow owners choosing not to maintain and repair the building but they are going for the cheapest options on everything from the choice of strata managerto basic services like cleaning and painting the building.

This often happens in blocks where the committee is dominated by absentee investors and retirees with too much time on their hands and too little cash in the bank.

Point out to other owners what they are losing in terms of value and what they could be gaining if the building was run more efficiently, rather than cheaply.

  1. Living in the past

When every other block on your street has state-of-the art security and yours is strictly physical locks and keys, you are a target for every sneak thief and rogue parker in the area.

Are your letterboxes conveniently positioned outside the building, providing a one-stop shop for identity thieves?  Can anyone wander in and take the lift to any floor? Are there old front door keys floating around in the pockets of former residents?

Investing in updated security systems means yours will no longer be the least secure building on your street and crims will look elsewhere.

  1. Hear no evil, minute no evil

If your strata committee glosses over complaints and behavioural problems, from noisy neighbours to parking thieves, then your block may be sliding towards anarchy.

They may think any mention of any problems in the minutes harms future sales.  But if you read the records of a potential purchase and you find no mention of any by-law or rule breaches or Tribunal actions, someone is probably covering something up.

Better to see evidence of problems tackled and solved rather than the highly unlikely scenario of there never having been problems in the first place.

  1. Not our problem

When your committee declines to get involved in local issues, don’t be surprised when a multi-story block pops up where your view used to be.

Many committees say it’s not their job, when they actually mean that the committee members aren’t directly affected.

But if the representatives of the nearest community aren’t prepared to speak up when a new factory or high-rise, dance club or brothel is proposed, why would the local council not assume that no one cares?

The answer to all these potential problems is to get involved – if you don’t and things go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.

This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

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