Friday, April 17, 2009

The Highrise, the good and the bad

The good are fairly obvious, I guess, and I will be brief. Everything is done for you. A tree encroaching on a neighbour or a tree encroaching on your property is not your business. Fence falling down, not your problem. Leaking roof tile or sheet of tin, not your problem. Holidays, shut your door and forget. Hot water stops, not your problem. Emergency system will kick in and it will only be off briefly. Rubbish bins, nah, chuck it down the chute. Problem with neighbours, call the building manager. Like in a house or a private flat, your home is still your castle. You can lock yourself away from the world.

The cost, about AU$3500 per year. This price maintains a sauna, pool, gym, tennis court, public barbecue and sitting area, gardens, cleaning, inaccessible window cleaning, building staff from 07.00 to 19.00, a shared guard three nights a week and a good cctv system and operation of public door locks monitoring. If anti social types are in the building and they aren't caught or stopped red handed, they can be tracked.

The price also includes, as is now legislated for, a substantial contribution to a sinking fund which is there for improvements and large maintenance matters, such as repainting the building.

The bad.

You do get to know those who live in your building, usually in bouts of seconds up to about 20 in our case, which is the time the lift takes to reach lower levels from our floor. Sometimes you really really want to chat to someone for longer, but unless you know them, it seems inappropriate to step out of the lift if it is not where you want to go. A bit like Twitter I suppose. You try to fit a lot into a tight space.

However, large residential buildings like ours can be very isolating. You really do have to make an effort. Getting onto the Owner's Corporation committee is a very helpful way to get to know people. Taking an interest in the local area and lobbying council for improvements is good and connects you with other people. Chatting to tradesmen within the building is a good way to find out some behind the scenes knowledge.

Also in the lift, there are those who make you feel, not uncomfortable, but holding your gaze on the floor level lights. They clearly do not want to speak. There is the odd one who will stand in the corner of the lift and stare into it. Not speaking is fine, but I am not keen on people who get into the lift and don't even look at another person in the lift, especially if it is only you and them.

All tradesmen who work on common areas within the building charge mega dollars. Get as many quotes as you like, doesn't matter. The price will be very high. The work is organised by the Owner's Corporation management company and there are many theories about kick backs etc. I doubt there would be an OC who has fought harder against overcharging than ours, but with very limited success.

We have never suffered from any neighbour's noise, except for one year when the tenants above us had a young family and a polished timber floor and the kids uses to run around, as kids do, and make some noise.

Car parking is a problem in any area where parking is limited. You own your car parking space and feel very proprietorial about it. While no one has for a couple of years, woe betide anyone who parks in our spaces. I become a very nasty person. Considering the number of people in the building, perhaps three hundred, it is rare for anyone to have a problem. Most car park breach notices go out to occupants for oil stains in their spaces.

With some inside knowledge

Ha, co-incidentally as I am writing this, the fire alarm has just gone off and three fire trucks have arrived. No one is standing around in front of the building. Residents are pretty well ignoring it. I investigated to make sure it was a false alarm. I was pretty sure anyway as half an hour earlier, I could feel the vibrations from the fire pump while it was being tested. The testers have mucked up again. Now, it is important to establish who caused the false alarm because the fire brigade will try to charge the building $3000 for attending. Usually upon appeal the charge is waived, but we have had to pay once at least.

With some inside knowledge what frustrates me the most is the time it takes to get anything done.

Here is an example. A pool light went out more than six months ago. It's wires needed replacing. Then another suffered the same fault. The remaining one broke free from it's mooring and was floating. At one monthly committee meeting, it was indicated the pool water level needed dropping to replace them with better and newer items. At the next meeting, the morals of wasting water were water were discussed and the need for an exemption to be obtained from the water authority. Quotes were obtained. Finally it was decided to proceed with the work, but it has been on work order for over a month and nothing has happened.

You want another? Perhaps not, but tough. Did I mention about the lamb chop being thrown up onto a light shelf fitting in the lift. After a few days the inevitable happened. The lift stank. I took some time for the chop to be located, but it eventually was. Meanwhile, the guard thought he could cure the lift problem and doused the carpet with some overpowering scent, perhaps Nil Odour. The cure was worse than the disease. The guard is confident in his ability to cure lift smell problems. Over easter, someone threw up in the lift. The guard cleaned it up, not his job, and again doused the lift with some sickly overpowering scent that is only just disappearing now, one week later. No one seems prepared to tell him, cease and desist.

Here is another. I am on a roll. There is a high canopy at the front of the building, higher than two metres, so the building manager cannot replace the failed lights. It must be done by an electrician. Our usual electician is often in the building, but never replaces these lights. It will be a separate call out when someone notices that half the lights aren't working.

We had this Earth Hour thing in Australia, where you are supposed to sit in darkness for an hour to prove you care about the enviroment. Some of our public lighting was switched off for the occasion, including the lighting on the bollards in front of the building. No one has thought to turn them back on, some weeks later.

Spent enough time on this. I could go on. Publish.


  1. "I am not keen on people who get into the lift and don't even look at another person in the lift, especially if it is only you and them."

    It's even worse if they break wind.

  2. Ewwwwwwww dead lamb chop mouldering away in the lift.... Colonel Mustard with the candlestick again?

  3. My Body Corporate soundes smaller than yours. Ours is 36 owners.

    The Committee is pretty effective partly because the Secretary is a robust older woman who is always around and makes sure things get followed through.

    On the downside she knows everyone's business but thankfully doesn't gossip. The building is well maintained because of her vigilence.

  4. Big problem Brian. Someone does that, gets out, you get in a floor later, then someone on the next floor gets in. Who gets the blame?

    I always took the same character in that game Jayne. I can't remember what it was. A spinster librarian?

    Victor, people like her are so important in a block and we are fortunate to have some too. Ours is over three times as many owners as yours. One benefit of there being so many is that it keeps costs down as they are divided into many more people. But really, ours is just too big I sometimes think.

  5. Brian is a hoot...but farty smell has to be better than the stink of chemicals...with unknown toxicity. Its like another daughter's block has car lifts which means that instead of driving round and round up and down ramps to your alloted car space...the cars drive into a lift and are taken there ...sometimes...she spent some time stuck in a broken down life in her car, the doors couldn't be opened because of the lift width. She had to squeeze herself out a window so as to reach the alarm button. She always takes a bottle of water with her now. they break down a lot and the building ia only about 5 years old...

  6. That's interesting MC. I have heard of these lifts, but never seen them in action. But not so good if they are not reliable and you get stuck.