The urbanization trend that is spurring Canada’s condo boom may also be redefining what it means to be a good neighbour. Here’s why. Millenials (the children of boomers, born 1980 – 2000) are leaving their parents’ basements and buying condos, their first affordable piece of real estate. Boomers are downsizing, leaving the suburbs for smaller city spaces in the sky. Newcomers to Canada are buying or renting condos, and they’re faced with learning an entire new culture, not just the condo culture. Everything a person in any of these groups has ever experienced in regards to being a “good neighbour” may no longer apply.
A recent McLean’s article revealed just how serious disputes between condo neighbours can get, citing several cases that landed in court and resulted in one party or another being forced to sell. A recent BC radio station recently reported that a noisy neighbour is the number one complaint for 4 in 10 Canadians.
Here are 7 important steps to help ensure YOU aren’t going to cause the first disagreement with your neighbour.
Remember Where You Are
Everything inside the walls of your suite is yours. Everything else is shared, including your balcony. Shared with every other owner/resident, and owned, operated and managed by the condominium or strata corporation.
Depending on the construction of your condo, a certain amount of the sound you generate in your suite will be audible to your neighbour. All the noise you generate in the hallways and other common areas will be audible to those nearby, even if they’re on the other side of the door to their suite. Keep your voices down, be reasonable with your stereo and surround sound volume, and if you’re socializing out on your balcony, keep the group small and go inside when it is still early.
Many more condos and strata buildings are allowing dogs. This is wonderful for the urban animal lover! Be conscientious with your pooch’s bathroom habits. Regular potty runs to the nearby off-leash park will help keep your dog happy and avoid nasty accidents. Don’t ever let your dog use the balcony for his bathroom. Brush your dog often – but do it inside, throwing the excess fur in the garbage and not over the balcony. And for your both your dog and your neighbour’s sake, don’t leave your dog home alone all day. This could result in excessive barking that you may hear about by way of a complaint to your condo board.
Keep TV and Speakers Away From Adjoining Walls
Even in the most sound-proof concrete condos, vibrating bass from television and stereo speakers can reverberate to neighbouring suites. When you meet your neighbours in the hallway or elevator, check in to see if they’re disturbed by your sound. Proactively opening the lines of communication will make it easier for your neighbours to come to you – and not the condo board – if they wish to ask you to keep it down.
Hardwood Floors? Take Off Your Shoes Please
Hardwood or engineered hardwood floors are all the rage these days, but they do a poor job of absorbing sound. Your condo likely has rules around the sub-floor specs to mitigate against sound transmission, but if you walk through your condo in street shoes (especially stilettos) there’s a very good chance your neighbour below will hear every step.
Second-hand smoke is insidious: it can slither from the confines of your unit through walls, plumbing, heating and air conditioning ducts, and of course by way of balcony doors.
It’s true that in most provinces it’s against the law to smoke in public or workplaces, There is not yet a law preventing you from smoking in your own home. But according to Smoke-Free Housing Canada, it’s important to remember that you don’t, in fact, have a right to smoke whenever and wherever you choose. Your neighbours, on the other hand, have a right to “quiet enjoyment” of their home. They also have – protected by law – a right not to be exposed to second-hand smoke.
Landlords, condo owners and condo corporations are free to enact smoke-free policies, as well, so if you haven’t already, check your bylaws to see what, if any, reference there is to smoking within the building.
Your best bet is likely to take your smoke-break outside. Not to the balcony, but right outside the building. If you must sneak a puff on the balcony, don’t throw the butts off the balcony, as they will almost certainly land on someone else’s. And if your balcony is in a windy spot, take care not to leave any uncovered ashtrays outside unless they’re empty.
Garbage Chute Etiquette
Many condos have garbage and recycling chutes on every floor. Can’t argue with the convenience of that, right? If you have items that are too big to fit down the chute, don’t leave them on the floor for someone else to take care of. If it isn’t going to fit, take it down to the loading dock or garbage room and put it in the bins provided. And if you make the mistake of shoving something into the chute that you thought was going to fit… only to find out it doesn’t, and it’s now firmly lodged in the chute just out of your reach… make the effort to call the property manager or the concierge to let me know. Your neighbours will thank you.
Entertaining? Keep It Small, and Short
Of course you want to show off your gorgeous new condo, including the beautified balcony and its new outdoor flooring. By all means invite friends over, and have a good time, but do keep your neighbours in mind as you play host. Don’t invite everyone you know over all at the same time – break it up a bit! A smaller group will be easier to manage, and won’t get as loud. Watch the alcohol intake and offer plenty of alcohol-free beverage options. Show off your balcony, of course, but plan the outdoor portion of your evening to be the early half, and take it inside before it gets too late. Check your condo by-laws, but it’s typical for “quiet hours” to start between 10 and 11 pm.
Condo living is touted as being “worry free”, sometimes even “responsibility-free” because you don’t have to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway. However, there are other responsibilities that come into play in a way never contemplated in the suburbs. Being a good condo neighbour is just one of them.