Balancing balcony decor and building aesthetics.

Balancing building aesthetics
with personal freedom

Personalising strata balconies in line with by-laws.

Observing the transformation of the apartment building we once called home from aging aesthetics to modern greys and creams was a source of pride. The painting project we undertook as a committee rejuvenated the building’s appearance and instigated a renewed sense of pride among the residents regarding their home’s facade.

Yet, on a recent drive past, it was clear that the initial pride had waned three years on. The once uniform and stylish exterior now sported an array of mismatched privacy screens on each balcony—bamboo structures barely clinging on, makeshift canopies, mismatched security screen doors, and cheap artificial greenery on a poorly hung trellis.

This haphazard approach to individualising balconies detracted significantly from the building’s appearance, making it look dreary compared to its contemporary neighbour and likely diminishing the appeal for potential buyers of a unit.

The shift from a cohesive aesthetic to a fragmented one highlighted the challenges of maintaining a unified look while accommodating personal tastes within communal living spaces. However, as a former committee member of that building, I understand the challenge of playing the ‘bad cop’ role, enforcing by-laws by requesting owners and tenants to remove non-compliant items like privacy screens. It’s a delicate balance between maintaining the building’s uniform appearance and navigating the sensitivities of community living.

Balcony uniformity

Balancing uniformity with personal expression on strata balconies presents a unique challenge for strata committees and owners corporations.

Balconies offer residents a chance to enjoy the outdoors and, for many, to add a touch of personal style to their homes. However, the appearance and use of balconies can raise concerns regarding the overall aesthetic coherence of a building and adherence to strata by-laws.

Most, if not all, strata buildings enforce a by-law concerning the visual appearance of individual lots or have adopted the model by-laws under the Strata Schemes Management Regulations that prohibit owners or occupants from displaying anything within their lot that is visible from the exterior and does not harmonise with the building’s overall appearance, unless they have obtained written permission from the owners corporation.

Therefore, if residents or owners wish to paint window or balcony door trims differently from the rest of the building, grow climbing vines, install plantation shutters, tint windows, cover a balcony with an artificial ivy trellis, install cat netting, they need to check their by-laws first. If permitted, obtain prior approval from the strata committee.

The strata committee’s role in balconies

Strata committees play an important role in balancing the property’s cohesive appearance with allowing individual owners to personalise their balconies. This involves implementing and enforcing by-laws related to balcony use, including decorations and modifications, ensuring they align with the strata community’s collective vision.

One common issue that strata committees face is the request from residents to be exempt from compliance with specific by-laws, such as those banning laundry on balconies.

It is important to note that strata committees or owners corporations do not have the authority to exempt residents from compliance with a by-law on an ad hoc basis. By-laws act as contracts that bind all owners, occupiers, and the owners corporation and cannot be unilaterally disregarded by the strata committee, or individual owners.

Balcony safety and owners corporation liability

Balcony safety is a critical concern, especially in areas prone to strong winds and severe weather conditions. High winds can dislodge furniture, planters, and other objects, posing risks not only to the balcony’s occupants but also to people below. To prevent accidents and ensure safety, it’s crucial for residents and strata committees to take proactive steps. These can include securing outdoor items, choosing wind-resistant furniture, and regularly inspecting the balcony structure for any vulnerabilities. Strata committees might also consider drafting specific by-laws addressing balcony safety in windy conditions, providing clear guidelines for residents to follow.

Creating a balance

The key to finding a balance between uniformity and personal expression lies in developing and enforcing clear, reasonable by-laws that address balcony aesthetics and use. These by-laws should preserve the overall look and feel of the property while providing residents with some flexibility to personalise their outdoor spaces within certain guidelines.

For example, by-laws can specify allowable types of outdoor furniture, plants, decorative items, and permissible colours and sizes. Restrictions on hanging laundry, installing permanent structures, or making alterations that affect the building’s exterior can also be clearly outlined to prevent misunderstandings.

Encouraging dialogue and communicating clear guidelines

To effectively manage the diverse expectations and preferences within a strata community, strata committees should encourage open dialogue and cooperation among residents. This can involve holding meetings to discuss balcony-related by-laws and gather input from owners on proposed changes or clarifications to existing rules.

Sourcing uniform screening

The strata committee might consider consulting with suppliers or designers to inspect the building and advise on suitable privacy screening and recommend options that align well with the building’s aesthetic and architectural style and any safety concerns.

This collective approach helps maintain the building’s aesthetic appeal while allowing individual owners some flexibility within defined guidelines.

If you’re seeking guidance on balancing these elements, we’re here to help, talk to your Strata+ Manager.

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