Who owns the view?

There are few sights more chilling to an apartment owner that the appearance of a construction crane somewhere between you and your view, for which you have paid handsomely.

We recently heard about a professional woman, Anne, who bought an apartment on a lower floor of an iconic high rise, believing she couldn’t be built out by developments on adjacent land.

However, a new hotel a couple of streets away has done just as effective a job of taking a slice out of her city skyline views.

Could Anne have prevented that (ignoring the irony that her building had done exactly the same thing to 50 or so apartments behind it)? Had she known about the plan – and councils these days don’t do blanket notifications of planning applications, especially not to people a couple of streets away – she could have organised her neighbours to fight the proposal.

An apartment block like Anne’s will be full of lawyers, planners, journalists and even politicians who could all help formulate an objection that would have carried considerable weight. Even if individuals weren’t directly affected by this particular development, they might have been persuaded by arguments that this was the thin end of a wedge that would one day obscure their views.

The Executive Committee (EC) of our building recently helped a nearby block fight a development that was going to block the harbour views of about 40 percent of their residents. The developers called this “view sharing” which we took to mean “you can look at us while we look at the view you used to enjoy”.

The building’s own EC refused to do anything – none of its members would have been affected – but we got involved because the proposed development would have set a precedent that could easily have led to our own views eventually being built out.

We helped them print up leaflets going to all residents and neighbours in the streets around urging them to protest to the council, and the proposal was withdrawn and eventually, abandoned

By the way, it looks like the new umbrella plans for the harbour foreshore will include restrictions to prevent a wall of waterfront apartment buildings blocking everyone else’s views – so maybe in the future you will own your view after all.

Jimmy Thomson is co-author (with Sue Williams) of Apartment Living: The complete guide to buying, selling, surviving and thriving in apartments, ABC Books. $29.95
Q: I have just moved into a new apartment and my bedroom backs on to my neighbours’. They enjoy a very healthy and extremely noisy sex life which is beginning to wear thin for me. Is there anything I can do?

A: If you are in a brand new apartment, this would be considered a defect that the developer has to rectify at his expense. And since you are probably not alone in having inadequate sound insulation, you should get your Owners Corporation’s support.

If it’s an older apartment, just one layer of plasterboard added to your existing wall will make a huge difference. In fact, Gyprock manufacture a product called Soundchek (corr) which is designed to do exactly that. There are other products on the market for different circumstances, including a wall filler from the people who make loft insulation batts.

Given that the noise issue is a two-way thing, your neighbours may be prepared to split the cost of cutting down the sound. And, hey, just asking them might embarrass them into curbing their audible excesses.

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