Vertical Village Idiots

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If apartment blocks truly are vertical villages, writes Jimmy Thomson, then, just like the old-fashioned horizontal hamlets, they’ll have their fair share of “characters”.

The most confronting aspect of living in strata is dealing with other people. There are no rules about how your neighbours will behave or, indeed, how they will react to your behaviour. However, when you get enough people living literally on top of each other, it’s going to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. Here at Title we call them Vertical Village Idiots, and this is how to deal with them.

THE STRATA FASCIST: Some people just love a set of dos and don’ts and there’s nothing quite like your strata by-laws or rules to get them puffed up and strutting their stuff. Expect every minor infringement to be met with a flurry of threats and “no-no” notes. Then there’s the first, final and “We really mean it this time!” official warnings, as well as lectures on being a good citizen.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM: Assuming you aren’t breaching every by-law you encounter, the simplest thing to do (although not always the easiest) is to ignore them. Or you could tell them there is a process for complaints and their home-made socalled “official warnings” are not part of it. In which case, this is a personal attack and you will be filing all their notes until such times as you can show someone in real authority how much you have been harassed. NB: If you are breaking the rules, the easiest way to stop people hassling you is to stop breaking them.

THE WHINGER: Constantly complains about everyone and everything but would never dream of doing anything about them. Write a letter? Raise an official complaint? Join the strata committee? “Oh, I don’t want to cause any trouble,” they say. But they DO want to cause trouble, or they wouldn’t be talking to you. They just don’t want to be held responsible for the consequences.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM: Look at your watch and say “I’m terribly sorry but I have to go,” adding a different exotic reason each time like, you have an appointment at the STD clinic, or you are on trial for assault, or you have to be at the airport to make sure your boogie board clears customs.

Your thinking time while you invent a new excuse will give the impression you are really listening.

SERGEANT SCHULTZ: Remember Hogan’s Heroes and the guard whose catch phrase was “I see nothing … NOTHING!”? Get one of those as chairman of your strata committee and watch your community turn into a first-come, first served free-for-all “Live and let live,” he or she will say as short-term lets spread through the building like rabbits on Viagra. “It’s all about give and take,” they’ll intone as one of their mates annexes a slice of common property as their private garden.

“We’re all one big family,” they smirk … even if it’s more like the Sopranos and the Medicis than the Brady Bunch.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM: Make a note of all the bits of common property that have been purloined for personal use then put a motion to your Executive Committee or your next AGM saying that now you have pointed out the problems, anyone who decides to do nothing is personally responsible for any loss to the owners corporation. That should get their attention.

KING OF MY CASTLE: There are still people who think that ownership of a strata home brings with it all sorts of rights but no responsibilities.

The ‘rights’ range from being allowed to play their surround sound at floortrembling volumes at any hour of the day or night, to being able to use visitor parking whenever they want “because I own it”.

Their responsibilities do not include attending meetings, reading (let alone abiding by) rules or by-laws or making sure there is enough money in the maintenance funds for the upkeep of the building. They certainly don’t involve even a second’s thought for the welfare or contentment of their neighbours.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM: You really, really don’t want to get involved in the kind of psychological warfare it might take to convince these people that they don’t belong in strata. However, you could start by putting together a newsletter that explains what being part of a community involves and then using every various infraction of the rules to reinforce the message – in a positive way, if possible. With any luck, you will have a Strata Fascist in your scheme too and you can just point them at each other and let them go for it.

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