This week, I read an article in the paper about a mum who received a by-law breach notice from her strata manager because her toddler was creating “excessive noise, in the form of…shouting and screaming…from early in the morning to very late at night on a regular basis”.

The notice asked her to “Please refrain from allowing your child to create excessive noise immediately and into the future.”

I read this article with three different hats on: (1) mum to a toddler (2) strata lawyer (3) human being.

As a mum, I know that little ones make noise. Usually a lot of it. As for “refraining from allowing” your child to be noisy, please give me that super power.

As a strata lawyer, I see how the use of a template letter in a situation that is outside of the norm has resulted in a bizarre direction, in my view near impossible for the tenant to comply with and just as impossible for the owners corporation in question to enforce.

As a human being, I wonder where the empathy is. I wonder whether any one in that building knocked on this mum’s door when her child was shouting and screaming “from early in the morning to very late at night” and asked her if she was ok. I wonder if anyone asked her if she needed help, or if she knew where to go to find help. I wonder if the building’s strata manager recommended any of these steps, or suggested that a phone call at least be made, before following the committee’s instruction and issuing the breach notice.

One of the great benefits of community living is the community part: feeling the security of others in close proximity if you are home alone; being able to knock on your neighbour’s door to borrow tools or ingredients; contributing to and enjoying the shared vegie garden; summer BBQs in the back yard where everyone brings a plate. Unfortunately, many fail to understand or experience such benefits.

I believe that strata managers are uniquely placed to guide their buildings about the importance and benefits of a strong community. I know many of you have seen first-hand how it can be done, and done well. Some of you even have programs in place to encourage it. Kudos to you and please spread the word about what you’re doing.

Letters like the one this mum received do nothing to enhance the image of strata living or strata managers – both of which already receive more than their fair share of bad press. Whilst I accept that you are under instruction from your committees, it is the uninformed committee, disconnected from their community, that instructs you to issue this kind of letter. I don’t know what, if any, alternatives were tried before this by-law breach notice was issued, but there were a number of better ways to approach this situation.

As a strata manager, do your best to ensure the committees you are working with don’t forget that they are people, dealing with people. Lead by example. If you aren’t sure how, speak to your colleagues, in and outside of your office, who are managing communities that are welcoming and relatively harmonious places and see if you can steal some of the secret sauce.

I would love to have your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. Let’s share learn and grow.

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