City of Sydney offering lessons to Sydneysiders on how to live in an apartment
Mar 22, 2017
Apartment residents who have had enough of noisy neighbours, overbearing strata committees and reckless renovators are being urged to brush up how to be the model apartment dweller to help create better high-density living in Sydney.
With more than 70 per cent of residents in the City of Sydney living in apartment buildings – five times the national average – and more than 80 per cent of residents expected to be living in them by 2030, it’s vital for the local government area (LGA) to have well run strata communities.
“More than 70 per cent of people are living in apartment buildings, if these aren’t functioning well, if they’ve not an effectively communicating community that’s not good for the city, we have to get it right now,” said City of Sydney councillor Jess Scully. “People need to feel engaged, empowered and like they have a say in where they’re living.”
Sydneysiders can learn how to get the most out of apartment living in a series of free workshops for apartment residents.
In a bid to help apartment dwellers, both new and old, get their head around the raft of challenges that can come with strata living, the council is running workshops covering recent changes in strata laws, and a range of issues affecting residents, including buying off the plan, renovation and repair basics, living with pets and strata governance and finance.
“You can’t go it alone or just do what you like in an apartment block, not only are you closer to your neighbours … but you have a shared financial interest,” said council’s policy and program development officer Nelson Tilbrook.
“The more people getting involved and having a say, the better the outcome.”
Apartment owners are being urged to take the opportunity to learn about the rules and regulations that affect them. Photo: Robert Shakespeare
He said the Strata Skills 101 workshops that have been running for the past five years, gave owner-occupiers, investors and renters the chance to quiz experts and discuss practical solutions to a range of issues.
“They can share ideas and solutions with each other, what works and what doesn’t,” he said, noting that common concerns included addressing noisy tenants, overbearing residents who tried to control the whole building, and short-term letting.
Karen Stiles, chief executive of the Owners Corporation Network, which has partnered with the City of Ryde to run similar seminars, said most people in apartments had no idea about strata rules and regulations that affected them.
“I’d say 95 per cent of people who’ve bought into strata, they move in and are like what’s going on, how does this work,” she said. “The apathy is a big issue, they think we’ll just let someone else take care of it.”
She said education was needed to help clear up confusion among residents about how to best deal with building defects, short-term letting and disputes between neighbours, but noted that even renovation rules that would seem straightforward could be a challenge.
“People think they can do what they like, they renovate the bathroom without getting approval, don’t waterproof the floor properly, so then you’ve got water coming through the ceiling of the downstairs apartment,” she said.
“At one event I went to a resident thought she could just knock down an internal wall.”
She said people needed to be informed to make sure strata committee members, who may have joined for their own self interest, acted in the best interest of the majority of residents. She added it was madness that no formal training was required for strata committee members.
“We’ve got $1 trillion in assets, being managed by unskilled volunteers, that’s madness.”
Michael Magnan, chairman of the strata committee for Stamford on Kent, said while the workshops run by the City of Sydney were a great step in the right direction, there needed to be more training.
“It’s fairly common that people will put their hand up to join the committee, they may end up in an executive position, with no training at all,” he said.
“General training [provided at workshops] is quite useful,” he said. “But we need more accessible training for people across the city and state, something online … that could be supported by the state government, by Fair Trading.