Adjusting to a multi-person living complex…

Without wanting to kill your neighbours

You’ve made the leap and sold your home in favour of downsizing to a smaller space. But, what do you do when you no longer have neighbours just beside you, but above and below as well. Living in a high-density building can be quite the adjustment if you’re used to the freedom of non-shared walls and common spaces.

Over and above learning how to effectively use your smaller storage space, you now have a plethora of human interactions that will be a part of your daily life. So, how do you keep your interactions pleasant…even when all you want to do is knock some sense through your neighbour’s wall?

What are you now?

When in a house, you are a homeowner, responsible to and for yourself only. As a condo resident, you are so much more than a homeowner. Now, you are a shareholder in a corporation, owning a specific share within a building. With this, come new responsibilities that you wouldn’t have to consider in a single dwelling home.

Your biggest responsibility? NOT lowering the value of the whole building.

For instance:

  • Common areas such as the lobby, rec rooms, even the elevators – when using these be careful not to scuff, scratch or damage property. If you do, let your condo’s maintenance know ASAP so not to make the damage any worse.
  • Air filters within your own unit. Yes, your ventilation system in your unit is yours. BUT, did you know that it’s connected to whole air system within your building. If you don’t actively change your unit air filters, you can cause damage to the whole building’s system, which could cause a hefty fee to update, restore, and fix.
  • Your toilet…but not your pipes. Much like your ventilation, your toilet is your responsibility. But your pipes are connected to the rest of the building as well. Meaning that whatever you flush (that’s not organic…we’ll leave it at that) goes throughout the whole building and can mess with your building’s pipe system. Do you really want to be the cause of a building wide backup? If you do want to be responsible, know that the board may have cause to charge you a fine or ask you to pay for repairs if it’s determined that your flushing fun caused the issue.

If you don’t look after these items, the value of your building may fall OR, your condo fees may increase to keep up with having to restore the building to its value.

Shhh….shared walls and other overlooked hiccups

Having neighbours with shared walls (and floors…and ceilings) can be a whole different set of adjustment. Before buying a condo, understand what types of building materials were used to develop the building. For example a timber built frame will be noisier than a concrete one, units with hardwood or tile flooring will have more echo than those with carpet, and so on.

So, what can you do if you have a noisy neighbour to still keep the peace?

  • Go and talk to them directly before escalating any issues. The noisy neighbour may not be aware that they’re even being heard.
  • Do NOT leave them a note. A person cannot read tone and will see this as a passive aggressive tactic, which may cause them to react in a negative manner. Negative reacting neighbours do not make for good relationships!
  • Try and remove emotions out of the conversation. Don’t attack and be on the offensive when speaking with them, but approach them with an open mind, simply letting them know that there is another person on the other side of the wall.

The condo board is not your parent

All condos have a board to ensure that your building is well maintained, that your condo fees are being invested wisely to keep / increase the value of your building, enforce policy and bylaws, and so forth. What a condo board is not is a parent, meaning that it’s your responsibility to manage your relationships with other condo owners, not the board’s. Before going to the board, try and resolve any interpersonal conflicts with yourself and the other party.

No matter what, you’re invariable going to encounter people who are different from you in your building, such as those who want to smoke pot all day, those who work from home, those who work night shifts (or simply have different hours / schedules than you). The best thing you can do to adjust to condo living is to approach any concerns you have with a sense of empathy and understanding that not everybody lives the same as you do. Ultimately, if you look to engage in an empathetic manner, people are more likely to hear what you are saying, and become more cognizant of the impact they have on their surroundings, creating a more positive living space.

Of course, you may have tried everything to resolve issues (from simple conversations to bribery with chocolate…sometimes it works) without bringing the board into it, but sometime you just need a third-party mediator. This is where you can reach out to the board for some conflict resolution tactics / strategies.

Hello goes a long way

Moving into a condo is a transition, particularly if you’re used to the freedom of having a separate house. And you are going to have your ups and downs as you adjust, after all you may need to downsize the amount of shoes you have simply to accommodate your smaller closet space. The easiest way to minimalize your adjustment period is by proactively building a community. Say hi to your neighbours, create conversations in the elevator or by the mailbox, just get to know who’s now in your life. Once you get to know people, you’ll begin to get a sense of community, creating an empathetic environment of respect, caring, and engagement, making living in a condo everything you hoped it would be.

Curious as to how else you can adjust to living in a condo? Visit Alberta Condo Owners for Change and ask away!