Nightmare neighbours fall into several categories, but most of them have varying degrees of ignorance, inconsideration, selfishness, bloody-mindedness and lack of awareness.
Now, there are innocent parties. The parents of a constantly screaming baby would like the noise to stop just as much as you would. The hearing-impaired neighbour who turns the TV up to full volume doesn’t know that it’s making the ornaments rattle on your sideboard.
But then there are the others, sent to try our patience and test our resolve, and sometime semmingly happy to do so.
The Hobby Renovator: He or she bought their apartment with the intention of giving it a TV Block-style DIY makeover. Unfortunately, they need to hold down jobs to pay for all their trips to Bunnings, so the work tends to get done when you are trying to rest after your own day job, or putting your feet up at weekends.
What can you do? Most state governments restrict noise from power tools before 7am (8am Sundays and holidays) and after 8pm. But owners corporations (body corporates) can impose their own restrictions on noise from renovations, for instance, to not before 8am or after 5pm and not at all at weekends. This is a by-law (rule) that any older apartment blocks, ripe for renovation, might want on their books.
The Party Animals: Not only do these people regard apartment blocks as student flats for the notionally grown-up, the odious people they invite often seem to take even greater pleasure in making as much mess and noise as possible.
What can you do? Noise restrictions – not after 10 pm on school nights and midnight on weekends, in most states – can be boosted by by-laws (rules) that basically forbid any excessive noise at any time. That can lead to breach notices and, eventually, fines. The difference with state laws is that you can call the cops and they can issue on-the-spot penalties.
Garbage disruptors: These range from people who refuse to separate their recyclables “because recycling doesn’t work” – thereby ensuring that recycling doesn’t work – to residents who leave soggy bags of kitchen filth outside their apartment doors because it smells and they plan to take it down to the bins when they next go out. Or maybe the time after that.
What can you do? You may have to get creative … or obsessive. Cameras trained on the garbage bins might identify the anti-recycler or, even better, deter them. Going through their unsorted rubbish to find a discarded envelope might do it too.
As for the bag left in the lift lobby, one building manager I know got tired of having his polite requests ignored. So one day he opened the front door of the flat and tipped the contents of the bag in the miscreants hallway. Problem solved.
People who go through your garbage: Yes, the other side of the intolerable neighbour is the intolerant one. They complained when you cheered too loudly at a football match, hung off their balcony to photograph otherwise unseen laundry drying on yours, and accused you of running an Airbnb when your cousin cat-sat for you.
What can you do? These people clearly have more time on their hands than is good for anyone, including themselves. But compromise and communication are always preferable to confrontation so take it all with a pinch of salt and don’t over-react.
If it gets too much, hand them the email address of your committee secretary and the web address of your local strata complaints system (NSW Fair Trading, Consumer Advice Victoria, etc) and invite them to go for their lives.
This column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review