Unsightly Balconies – Is Stricter Control the Answer?

An interesting article in a Melbourne newspaper recently raised an issue that has probably caused problems in the majority of bodies corporate all over Australia.

A residents’ group in Melbourne is calling on the state government to step in and implement legislation to help clean up the mess caused by occupiers using balconies to dry clothes and store items. From drying clothes on balconies to hanging towels over balcony rails, if not controlled can lead to complexes looking very untidy and cause confrontation and disharmony within a strata-titled building.

With the demand for inner-city living increasing and units being smaller than perhaps what was on offer 10-15 years ago, storage space in apartments is limited, leaving occupiers with little option but to use their balconies to store items. While practical, this can lead to conflicts because on occasions storing items on balconies and where those items can be seen from other units and from the street, can conflict with the schemes by-laws.

In Queensland, body corporate legislation allows that a schemes by-laws (the rules by which occupiers must abide) may provide for the control of common property. The by-laws of most schemes in Queensland will include a by-law that controls the aesthetic standards of a building which of course must be maintained to retain and increase values as well as providing a neat and tidy building to occupiers, whether they are owner occupiers or holiday guests. Some examples where by-laws may restrict peoples actions include prohibiting washing, towels or other items being hung where the item is visible, the type of furniture placed on balconies, items being stored on balconies and the colour of window dressings.

While these by-laws are much easier to enforce in permanently occupied units because of the transient nature of guests in a large number of unit complexes in Queensland the ability of the body corporate to control and issue by-law breach notices becomes much harder.

Is stricter government control the answer?

While all body corporate managers will tell you that having clear and concise rules will improve how they are able to handle almost every situation, the enforcement of the rules can still be a problem. If people simply aren’t willing to cooperate, or the person offending is only in the building for a short amount of time the body corporate needs to evaluate the problem being experienced and its affect on the building and how far they want to take the by-law enforcement process as outlined in the Body Corporate and Community Management Act.

Are you going to be able to change a person’s attitude that their balcony is part of their unit and they will use it how they see fit regardless of the affect on other occupiers? Perhaps not but all occupiers in a body corporate need to realise that the essence of successful unit life is consideration and respect for others and living in a community situation does require some compromise and restraints.

The use and enforcement of correct and detailed by-laws that are easily understood by all occupiers is one of the most effective ways of controlling behaviour in bodies corporate. If you live in a scheme that has experienced these or indeed any other problems, carry out a review of your by-laws.

Andrew Staehr
Archers Body Corporate Management

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