Strata dwellers – lab rats for society?


Is your nose twitching more than usual these days? Whiskers growing out past your ears?  I ask because I get the feeling that strata residents are lab rats for the rest of society.

Let’s take smoking, for example.  In the new laws coming in at the end of this month, for the first time smoking in strata has been defined as a nuisance – and that means things that might do us harm rather than something that is just bloody annoying.

Now, strata laws are late to the game on this, with offices, cinemas, pubs, clubs, restaurants and even pavement cafes having banned smokers ages ago.  Right now, under NSW health legislation, you can legally smoke on your balcony but not near the street entrance to your apartment block.

However, the new strata laws mark the first time legislation has been directed at smoking in our homes, albeit obliquely.  In short, if you smoke on your balcony or even inside your flat and it significantly affects one of your neighbours, you could be ordered to stop or face fines for not doing so.

The way modern flats are designed and built, if you are a reasonably heavy smoker – one of only 16 percent of Australians still defying the odds – the chances are you are going to annoy someone living above or next to you.

That said, smoking on balconies has not been banned. The experimental part of this is how much secondary smoke we lab rats are prepared to tolerate before we hit the big red complaint button.

Even so, buried deep in the new model by-laws is a lifeline (probably a poor choice of words) for smokers. Owners corporations can now opt for a by-law allowing smoking in a special zone created on common property, provided smoke doesn’t affect other residents.

Why would the government include such an apparently retrograde by-law as an option, particularly for new schemes?  Well, as with so much of strata law, this is all about keeping developers happy.

Think about the countries where new Australian apartments are being aggressively marketed.  Then consider this – China is in the top ten countries in the world for smokers and South Korea is in the top 20, with Japan just behind.

Coincidence or conspiracy?  Probably neither – just commercial common sense. Don’t worry about it – just shut your window and eat your cheese.

There’s more strata shenanigans on

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