High-rise living appeals to many people for the wealth of amenities, concierge-level services, convenient location and unique culture. But with this lifestyle comes unique challenges. Close quarters and the need for residents to exercise mutual respect can sometimes lead to friction and conflict. This is when formal policies need to come into play.
“Part of the draw for high-rise living is the diverse cultural experience of an urban neighborhood,” said Andrew Schlegel, CMCA, EVP at FirstService Residential Urban Management Division. “But bringing together a diverse group of people introduces an array of varying opinions, lifestyles and ways of conducting oneself. This can be a great thing, but to prevent the potential negative effects of natural differences, specific policies are a necessity for the association.”
Well-crafted community rules are a tool for creating harmony among residents. The challenge is creating policies and enforcing them in a fair and polite way. Many of the major issues residents face in a diverse high-rise community are complex. Your association may benefit from the help of a good high-rise management company in dealing with many of them. A solid company not only has experience, but also a vast knowledge of the law and a sense for what works best for residents.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the areas where concrete policies can help create order within a high-rise building.
1. Smoking – Yes? No? Restricted?
The hazards of smoking are undeniable. It’s the leading cause of preventable death throughout the U.S. and Canada. But increased fire risks create even more immediate danger for residents living in a high-rise building. That, among other reasons, is why so many buildings are going smoke free…a step you may want to consider if you haven’t already done so.
But how do you get there without potentially upsetting residents? Just take it step-by-step:
A) Form a committee to explore the issue (include owners and board members), and review public health data and research from medical professionals.
B) Seek feedback from your residents via a simple online survey. Ask them how they feel about a smoke-free environment and if they’ve experienced second-hand smoke. Ask them if they’ve seen cigarette butts or burn marks in common areas.
C) Review your governing documents to see what it takes to officially implement this policy, and communicate it clearly to your residents. You can read more tips on how to implement this type of policy here.
2. Pets – Yes or No? Some? What kinds? How big?
There’s a pet for every kind of person, but not every pet is viable for high-rise living. If there are no pet guidelines in your governing documents, draft clear policies that define what types of pets are acceptable, including animal types, size and weight.
The key here is communication – you’ll want to ensure all residents know the rules so they can comply. Remember that there will be common-sense exceptions, such as grandfathering in non-compliant pets. Also, keep in mind that federal law requires that all service animals be accommodated, at no cost to the owner. For a full discussion, read our pet policy article.
3. Flooring – No one wants to hear their neighbors.
Most problems with a neighbor probably boil down to a single word: noise. While you can address this issue with ordinances regarding quiet hours and music/television volumes, real conflicts arise when the problem is the flooring itself.
Some flooring materials make every step sound like a thunderclap, which can make life unbearable for people living downstairs. So what to do? If your governing documents or architectural guidelines don’t already address this, draft a policy that clearly outlines which types of flooring are acceptable and which ones aren’t.
Board members who would like to establish an effective flooring policy should lean on the expertise of architects and acousticians who can go beyond defining acceptable flooring types. These experts lend real knowledge in terms of how the floor should be constructed to minimize sound. Additionally, your new policy should include details about the construction approval process and who can complete the work. Most associations require that unit modifications be performed by a licensed and insured contractor. (Refer to your association’s governing documents for specifics.)
Clearly communicate the new rules to your residents, and you’re on your way to having a flooring policy that keeps the building quiet and fellow neighbors happy. For a deeper dive into how to implement a comprehensive flooring policy, check out this article.
4. Short-Term Rentals – Yes? No? On a limited basis?
The “sharing” economy is growing, but allowing owners to rent their units on a daily or weekly basis through online sites like Airbnb might not always be a good fit for your high-rise community.
Short-term renters are not subject to the vetting that long-term residents of the community undergo. They may be unaware of fire safety codes and other rules in the community that keep everyone safe, and that can be dangerous in an emergency. On the other hand, unit owners living in popular vacation areas might want to have the option to rent their space while they’re not at home. Not only can this generate extra income for the unit owner, but it can also increase property values by making the property more marketable to those looking to make income from their unit. Consider surveying your residents and then implementing the right short-term rental policy for your community.
If your community chooses to ban short-term rentals, don’t be afraid to enforce compliance with penalties. Likewise, create procedures that prevent unauthorized people from entering the premises, and document those instances when they occur. As with all policies, open communication with residents is the key to successful implementation. You can find out more about the sharing economy and how to address this growing trend by downloading our white paper.