Communal living isn’t for everyone. For some, it is the stuff of nightmares. For others, it is a joy to live so close to strangers who may become friends. Yet, for most, it’s just convenient. However, no matter your attitude towards living in flats or apartments, you can make your and everyone else’s life a little easier with some general health & safety, and wellbeing tips.
Get to Know Your Neighbours
You may be the kind of person who goes out of their way to be everyone’s friend. If that’s you, then you probably don’t need to read this bit. But for most, the idea of getting to know strangers is a little off-putting, even if we live in the same building. This isn’t really anyone’s fault. It’s just that we live in a dangerous world, we never really know people, and for the most part, we have other issues to attend to. Such as raising the kids, working and getting meals ready.
But if you live in a flat, taking the time to get to know your neighbours can go a long way. Of course, you don’t need to make friends with everyone. But it really helps if you are friendly with your immediate neighbours such as those above, below and adjacent. This way, any problems such as loud music can be sensibly and amicably resolved with minimal chance of something becoming a problem.
Safeguard Your Property
Although most flats and apartment buildings are closed spaces with controlled access, they aren’t impervious to criminal behaviour such as theft. Unless it’s part of your rental agreement, you should install a burglar alarm, and other smart devices, like smart locks or a Ring video doorbell for some protection. A fire alarm is required by law, so speak to your landlord if you don’t have one.
You could even go a step further and protect against theft with an insurance policy or a home warranty agreement. Insurance will protect against fire, theft and flood. While a warranty covers your appliances such as your washing machine or fridge if they need replacing or repairing. Warranty cover acts as an excellent supplement to home insurance as insurance doesn’t always cover certain things.
Understand Your Rights as a Tenant
If you rent your property, you are subject to certain rights. Some are health and hazard-related, and some refer to the quality of life. For example, in the UK, environmental issues such as mould and dampness are the landlord’s responsibility. As such, you are given the right to reside in a non-toxic abode. Should your flat be covered in mould or damp, you can call authorities such as the local council and report your landlord if they refuse to take care of it.
Additionally, certain necessary appliances such as the boiler, plumbing and electrical work are not your responsibility, and maintenance of this nature falls upon your landlord. You also have the right to reasonable safety. Therefore, locks, building access control and dealing with anti-social behaviour are the domain of your landlord, and they are required to rectify these situations. Finally, your landlord is required by law to reasonably inform you of any rent increase, charges or pending eviction.
Get Friendly with Your Landlord
Given that flats and apartment buildings are prone to specific problems, you should get friendly with your landlord. Landlords are people too, and just like you, they are very busy. This can sometimes make them feel a little impersonal. But in most cases, it’s nothing personal against you. They just have stuff to do. Becoming friendly with your landlord makes them more likely to recognize the urgency of specific issues if they think of you as a friend.
This can be especially helpful if you rent from a housing association or something similar. Many of these organizations like to have a man on the inside, as it were. You could be the person who informs them of specific issues such as anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and safety concerns. Of course, you should be in good standing with your landlord before considering this.
Practice Common Courtesy
Living in an apartment building or a block of flats can be a great experience, and it isn’t as terrible as some people think. But, of course, living so close to others does bring its own issues. For example, a tenant who smokes is very likely to infringe on your air. You will breathe in their smoke and possibly smell it. Especially if it’s the green kind. However, issues like this can be rectified by either talking to them or your landlord.
But if you want to live in a courteous environment, you also need to practice common courtesy. You can’t have it both ways. If you experience something like a neighbour playing loud music and complain about it, you cannot play loud music. Should a neighbour have a bathroom window on the ground floor, don’t stand next to it while you pop out for a smoke. This is a terrible invasion of privacy.
Of course, more people means more problems. Yet, most can be remedied with a bit of proactive conversation and working together. There are many responsibilities of a home, and when you reside in flats, those responsibilities can become communal in nature. For example, taking trash bins to the street so they can be emptied by refuse collectors. Typically, people won’t bother doing this in a shared environment because they think, “Oh well, someone else will do it.”
This becomes a considerable problem when everyone has that same thought. And would you have guessed it? The trash overflows, and you get rats and cockroaches all over the communal yard. If you are the kind of person who has no problem taking out the garbage, then that’s fine. But there will be an occasion when you forget or aren’t available, and the problem happens again. You should work with your neighbours to find a way to share the responsibilities of communal living.
Manage Your Pets Responsibly
Pet peeves, literally. Many apartments and flats don’t allow pets as part of their rental agreements. However, some do. And living so close to each other, one person’s cute and loving pet can be someone else’s nightmare. For example, you might work a 9 to 5 at a city-centre office. Do you know what your dog is doing? Well, it could be howling and crying for the whole 10 or so hours per day that you are away from home.
If this is the case, your neighbours will surely tell you. And it is your responsibility to rectify the situation by training your animal. Additionally, dogs and cats aren’t exactly known for using the toilet. So, you need to let them outside to take care of business. Finally, clean up after your animals using appropriate disposal methods like pet bags. No one should have to dodge mines as they work their way to their bin or vehicle in the morning.
Plan for Emergencies
The tragedy of Grenfell Tower highlighted the many failings and safety issues associated with apartment buildings. Like any other living space, flats are prone to safety problems such as fire and flooding. In the UK, there are around 5,000 fires per year in purpose-built flats. Fortunately, in most countries, smoke alarms are mandated by law in rented accommodation. So, your landlord should have installed one. They are also usually required to carry out alarm checks and gas safety or boiler servicing.
But your landlord can only go so far. You share the responsibility of safety. First, don’t put yourself in danger by blocking your exits both inside or outside your flat. Second, plan for emergencies accordingly. You can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury if you know what to do and where to go when the building is on fire. If someone blocks exits, with a bike, for example, ask them to cease or report them to your building manager or landlord if necessary.