Mutually assured distraction … working AT home or ON your home


If there was going to be anywhere in these long days of lockdown that mutually exclusive wants and needs were going to butt up against each other, it was apartments.

For instance, take hobby renovators, relishing the opportunity to get all those little jobs – and some big ones – done while they are working (or not working) from home.

Spending time and energy improving the value of your home is a form of investment, after all.

And then you have the people who are working from home, or trying to, while there is all this banging, drilling and sawing going on around them.

Now, that’s not to say apartment blocks are turning into building sites. According to an article in the Domain section of the Sydney Morning Herald, strata committees and managers are postponing maintenance jobs because they don’t want tradies traipsing through their common areas, trailing whatever bugs they might have picked up en route.

This is in stark contrast to standalone houses where those crazy quarter-acre-block kids are throwing all caution to the wind and ramping up the renos, like there’s no tomorrow, at least according to another story in the SMH.

Getting back to strata, residents in a lot of buildings, especially older blocks, may be regretting right now that they never got round to adopting a by-law about renovation building noise.

There was a time when the give and take in a small community would allow for a little noise now and then, so there was no need for restrictive by-laws. But these blocks were built before home renovations were considered a form of TV entertainment.

The over-arching state laws about noise from power tools were clearly written with houses in mind.  You can hammer and drill in a house to your heart’s content from 7am to 7pm, in most states, with your neighbours allowed an extra hour’s sleep on Sundays.

But those restrictions, or lack thereof, don’t work in unit blocks. Go to a modern, well managed apartment building and you’ll find restrictions pulled back to 8am to 5pm and either Saturday mornings only, or not at all at weekends.

However, even those periods of permitted noise were designed for when most people were at work. Now they put people working from home in direct conflict with those not working at all, who may be seizing the chance to add some value to their property.

So how do you keep everyone happy? First of all, check your by-laws (or rules) to see if there are any restrictions on what you can do and when you can do it.

Then check to see what level of notification the work demands. Most significant jobs will require you to at least let the building manager or committee know what you are planning.

More substantial or intrusive works may require permission or even by-laws.  Check with your strata manager or secretary or, failing that, call Fair Trading (NSW), Consumer Advice (VIC) or the equivalent in your state.

And finally, assuming you are complying with all the legal requirements, let your near neighbours know what you are planning and invite them to tell you if there are times when noise would be a problem for them.

Recently, we couldn’t record the Flat Chat podcast without being interrupted by building noise. But then we got a message to the workers; could they give us a clear hour at any time of their choosing?

They were surprised we could even hear them but were happy to comply.  As in most aspects of strata living, a little communication goes a long way.

This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.





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