Here are 10 sure signs that the building you chose for your new apartment is a good place to live ... and hints on how to improve it if it isn't.
1. FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The entrance hallway or foyer should be clean, bright and welcoming. Depending on the overall quality of the block, you want something that's like a friendly holiday hotel or a six-star resort. You don't want the entrance to be dirty, depressing or off-putting and more like a neglected dole office or a cold corporate office block. This is your home and that starts at the front door.
2. UP WHERE YOU BELONG
The lifts should be clean and graffiti free. If there are CCTV cameras to ensure this, that's the price you pay. They should not be clogged up every weekend with people moving in and out (because weekend removals shouldn't be allowed). They should work most of the time and should be fixed quickly when they don't. Every lift should also have a small A4 sized noticeboard to let everyone know of any issues or events in the building - talk about a captive audience!
3. HELLO THERE
It's great if neighbours greet each other with a smile and step aside to let people out of the lift before they start pushing their way in. OK, that may seem all a bit touchy feely but it's a lot better than people glowering at each other wondering if they were the ones who complained about their party or, indeed, had the party everyone complained about.
4. LOOK HERE
Most buildings have notice boards but they should be lively and inclusive, not restricted to the body corporate committee's latest ruminations (more on that later). Dog walking and baby-sitting services, special deals at local cafes, car spaces for rent, notices of book and film clubs - these are the kinds of things that create a community. Requests for or offers to sell furniture are cool. Recycling furniture and books through a building is a good thing. One person's trash is another's treasure.
5. SPEAKING OF COMMUNITY...
So many body corporate schemes pay lip service to the idea of community but don't actually do anything about it. So if your block has a book or wine club on the go, don't dismiss it just because you aren't interested. It shows there is life in the building and that should be encouraged.
By the way, the simplest way to create a sense of community in a body corporate block is (with the committee's permission) to invite a local bottle shop to hold a wine tasting in the foyer once a month where residents can sample their offerings and order wine at a discount and with free delivery. It's a retail service, for sure, but nothing quite brings strangers together better than sharing their thoughts over a glass or two.
This is one of the perennial problems of body corporate, and if no one ever parks illegally in your spot and there is almost always a free visitor parking space (because they aren't occupied by residents with more cars than spaces), you are probably in a good building - simple as that.
Pets are great at bringing people together but, like obnoxious children, they should be seen and not heard. It's good to be greeted by a friendly wagging tail on the occasional encounter in the lift or lobby. It's not so good to be driven nuts by barking and whining when the dog is left alone for hours. A good building allows pets, provided their owners are well-behaved.
We are all entitled to party occasionally, and in a happy building people make allowances for that. You might even be invited to a neighbour's party every now and then - if only to stave off complaints if it gets a bit rowdy. Unfortunately, though, there is an overgrown student dickhead element that thinks that it's OK to make as much noise, as late and as often as they want in apartment blocks because if you don't like it you shouldn't live in a flat'
A good building will root these numbskulls out quick-smart or at least use the power of the by-laws and council regulations to make them behave. By the way, any body corporate committee that insists noise is a dispute between neighbours and none of their business is not only wrong under body corporate law but they are derelict in their duty of care and should be voted out at the first opportunity.
If only there was a simple way that everybody in your building could communicate with each other ... hang on, isn't that what Facebook is for? Lots of buildings have their own Facebook pages that keep neighbours informed about what's happening and let each other know about new cafes that have opened or where the best place is to get your car serviced.
To be fair, it involves a lot of work to maintain a Facebook page and it can descend into a forum for abuse very quickly if it's not monitored. However, there's nothing wrong with the old-fashioned newsletter, including in an electronic format, to let people know what's going on.
10. COMMITTEE COOL
If your body corporate committee is open, inclusive and welcoming, you are on a winner. If they encourage you to come along and take part in discussions (even though you can't vote) so much the better. If, however, it's a closed shop with a tightly held membership run by a control-freak chairperson, then the best you can hope for is that they are at least efficient.
Personal vendettas with name and shame' and biased minutes on the notice board have no place in a harmonious community. But remember that these people give up their time and energy voluntarily ... so cut them some slack. However, members who want to be on the committee but never turn up for meetings and are only interested in their pet projects should be shown the door the first chance you get ... creating a vacancy for you! Whoo-hoo!
Produced with permission from Century 21 Life@Home