Pet Peeves and Animal Attraction

There are few more vexatious issues in apartment blocks than the question of pet ownership. Some buildings won’t have a bar of the noisy, smelly little blighters while in others, failure to own a moggie or a doggie is such a breach of fashion protocol that you could end up being reported to the Owners Corporation for un-neighbourly conduct.

But seriously, in new buildings where pro or anti-pet policies have not been fully worked out, a lot of fur and feather could fly before the issue is settled. In fact, it was just such a battle that led directly to the writing and publication of our book Apartment Living, earlier this year.

The problem is that there is no grey area. People either like pets or hate them and it doesn’t take much to extend that antipathy to the people who hold the opposing view to your own. Then, as the positions become more preposterous the attacks get more personal. I recall one anti-pet campaigner saying he had no objection to “proper dogs” although they would need a backyard, a clear swipe at the building’s less-than-macho owners of papillons and bichon frises.

Friends recently found themselves belatedly in a campaign to have pets banned from their block. The argument was that pets presented an unacceptable fire risk because you might trip over them in your rush to escape a blaze. But if that were valid, they should ban people who drink, fry their food and have children since these are by far the most common causes of domestic fires.

And here are another couple of statistics. Pets help you live longer and have a calming influence, making you better neighbours. Also, one third of families in Australia have pets – why would you want to exclude one in three potential buyers the next time you put your property on the market?

But pro-pet buildings should beware. It is very hard to deal with nuisance pets once they’re established in a building. If you are going to have them, make sure they are registered with the Executive Committee and that there is a clear set of penalties and a procedure in place for removing pets that spoil their neighbours enjoyment of their property.

You can be pro-pet and still recognise that constantly yapping dogs or cats that rip up lobby carpets are unacceptable. Welcome pets into your building … but only if you’re sure you can get rid of them if you need to.

JIMMY’S MAILBOX

We live in an apartment block that is probably about 30 years old. We have had complaints from our neighbours downstairs about the noise from our sliding door on to the balcony. We have had them serviced but the complaints continue. We can also hear very clearly the noise from our upstairs neighbours’ doors. Any suggestions? – Bob W

First thing is that many apartment blocks put up 30 years ago were never intended to last as long as they have. They were seen as a short-term option in a country that was obsessed with the quarter acre block. So your sliding doors, serviced or not, may well have passed their use-by date.

Modern sliding doors will be lighter, better and quieter and, here’s the good news, they probably come under common property so they are an owners’ corporation issue which means you won’t even have to pay for having them changed. If your building has enough money in its sinking fund, get quotes on how much it would cost to replace everyone’s doors – you are, after all, not the only one whose suffering.

And if there’s not enough cash in the sinking fund, you have a whole other set of problems as various bits of your building reach the end of their natural life.

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