WELCOME TO HELL, NEIGHBOUR
TRIVIA question: Which French philosopher and playwright wrote the line: “Hell is other people”?
Answer: No idea, but odds are he lived in an apartment building.
Queenslanders are moving out of their suburban homes and into apartment complexes in record numbers. Their neighbours, once a friendly wave across the back fence, are now the width of a gyprock wall away.
And that can make for all sorts of tension.
The saying goes that most complaints in unit buildings are about crap: Children. Renters. Animals. Parking.
And if hell is other people, it’s nothing compared to other people’s kids.
After a big day at school the little critters still have energy to burn. Riding bikes and scooters, swimming in the pool, throwing balls at fences, generally making noise and disturbing the peace.
But when the noise isn’t inside their own townhouse (and only annoying their di- rect neighbours) it can get on the nerves of other residents as well. So what rights do other residents have when little Johnny and Jane are well into their second hour of Marco Polo in the swimming pool?
To be able to take any action, residents have to show that any noise is an unreasonable interference. The relevant word is “unreasonable”. Another way to look at it is: conduct that interferes “reasonably” is allowed.
What’s the difference? It’s a question of fact and degree.
The best analogy is to pretend you’re not living in a body corporate and the con- duct you’re complaining about is coming from the next door neighbour in a suburban street. Could you do anything about it?
Yes, people in apartment blocks live closer to their neighbours. But if there are kids playing in the street in front of my house there’s very little I can do about it.
And that is the same reality in bodies corporate.
(Actual answer: Jean-Paul Sartre, obviously. Do I look like a complete philistine?) Frank Higginson is a partner at Hynes Legal and specialises in body corporate law and management rights