A story about a strata management company threatening residents in an apartment building with $1100 fines if playing children make too much noise is bouncing around the internet.
The story made its way to Yahoo News after a visitor posted a warning notice on a reddit forum after she spotted it while visiting a friend’s apartment.
“Fun police are now infiltrating strata schemes where you can no longer talk and kids can’t play,” she wrote along with an image of the notice.
It said that complaints had been made in the western Sydney apartment block about children riding scooters and bikes on the pathways of the complex.
“Not only is this obstructing common property and putting resident safety at risk, but is creating excess noise through loud conversations, screaming/yelling by both adults and children,” the letter reads.
It goes on to warn that if excessive noise continued on common property, culprits could be liable to fines of $1100.
The “fun police” comment should be taken with a massive grain of salt. The strata managers were presumably only referring to the by-laws which are set by the apartment owners. If the majority of owners wanted to change them, they could.
What they can’t or shouldn’t do is ignore legitimate complaints about by-law breaches.
But there is a recurring debate in strata about children playing on common property, especially as more young families are moving into apartment blocks.
Some newer unit blocks have their own or shared playgrounds. Others regard driveways and parking lots as relatively safe places where kids can ride their bikes and skateboards (although their by-laws probably forbid it).
And then there are residents who just want peace and quiet.
The standard argument is that you have to allow kids to be kids. But do you? And isn’t teaching kids that they should respect other people’s boundaries part of parenting?
Scrolling through the kid noise posts to Flat Chat over the years we’ve had everything from selfish ignorance to deliberate disturbance.
In the former, parents remove their sound-insulating carpets and replace them with timber or tiles, then allow their kids to drive the downstairs neighbours mad with their charging around. “Kids will be kids.”
In the latter, parents in a townhouse complex were encouraging their kids to go and play noisily outside the home of a gay couple, because they had complained and they knew it would distress them.
This is a debate that will run for as long as there are provisions in the Strata Act that say you can’t pass by-laws banning children from strata schemes. You also can’t ban racists, homophobes and everyday idiots, either.
But strata is an organic beast and we are finding new ways of living together.
That’s why I suggested years ago that every set of by-laws – which are supposed to be provided to all residents – should have a statement of intent on the front page. Not one of those bland “mission statements” things about world peace and organic vegetables.
Something like: “The owners of this strata scheme are committed to having a well-run community and we will pursue complaints about excessive noise, illegal parking, smoke drift and illegal short-term holiday lets.”
Or whatever the majority of residents thinks is important. That way no one can say they didn’t know there were rules.
Meanwhile, it might have helped if the aforementioned strata manager’s “fun police” letter had listed which by-laws were being breached that might incur the threatened fines.
I’ll bet many of the residents concerned didn’t even know there were by-laws, let alone what they said or the fact that they could be fined for breaching them.