What’s more important – being environmentally friendly or our apartment blocks looking less messy?
While we are witnessing the devastating effects of extreme weather condition across Australia presently, one debate continues to produce a lot of hot air, and that is whether apartment dwellers can dry their washing on their own balcony.
Using a clothes dryer three times a week can create much as 600 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions each year and cost more than $1200.
So what can you do in your state when it comes to getting your clothes dry? Can you hang it out and dry your clothes for free or are you forced indoors?
According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as at October 2009, 58% or 957,800 Queensland households had a clothes dryer.
While it’s not known what proportion of these are apartments, the bad news is that it is likely to be high, as legislation governing body corporates, the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 provides model by-laws which prohibits the hanging of washing, bedding or another cloth article if the article is visible from another lot, the common property or from outside the property - unless the body corporate has provided written approval.
At present there does not appear to be any move to change this and it remains up to the individual body corporates to determine if hanging on balconies is acceptable.
Changes to by-laws however are not permitted if they do not comply with the legislation.
New South Wales
It is estimated that almost 60 per cent of households in NSW have an electric clothes dryer. Using it just once a week in a two bedroom flat can account for 10 percent of an annual power bill.
The NSW Department of Fair Trading strata by-laws prohibit washing from being hung on anything except designated clotheslines, without the specific permission of the owners' corporation - a measure many believe has contributed to high use of greenhouse gas-producing clothes dryers.
The new Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2010, which took effect from 1 September 2010, does allow apartment residents to dry their washing on balconies, provided it is not visible from street level and only with written approval of the owners corporation. However, this does not override existing by-laws which were in place prior to September 1 2010.
In NSW, strata by-laws are not mandatory for all buildings, but have been adopted by about 90 per cent of owners' corporations and can be overturned only by a 75 per cent majority of votes at an owners' meeting. So the majority of those living in a strata apartment will have to adhere to the by-laws on clothes drying on balconies.
Just over half of all Victorian households have clothes dryers as at October 2009, according to the ABS. This is less than households in both NSW and Queensland.
The model rules for owners corporations, which are set out under the Owners Corporation Regulations 2007, provides a blueprint for the by-laws governing community living in Victoria.
Consumer Affairs Victoria advises that where the owners corporation has not made a model rule covering any item in the model rules, then the model rule applies. There is no model rule regarding washing on balconies.
However, it is open to owners corporations to impose a by-law that prohibits the drying of laundry on common property, balconies or where it is visible externally.
What is being done to change this?
Currently the various strata and community industry associations in each state – Community Titles Institute of Queensland, Institute of Strata Title Management (NSW) and Owners Corporations Victoria – are looking at ways to assist body’s corporate and owners corporations to reduce their energy consumption and therefore their greenhouse gas emissions. In NSW, the ISTM is keen to work with developers at the planning stages to address the issue of screening washing on balconies so that it is not visible from the street.
Energy Australia has recently released a Clothes Dryer Discussion Paper, which aims to encourage less use of clothes dryers and greater focus on finding alternative solutions.
Energy Australia says that a 10% reduction of the use of clothes dryers in apartments in NSW could result in reduction of energy use of over 4,100MWh per year. This would equate to greenhouse reduction of 4,400 tonnes of CO2 equivalent – the same as taking over 1,300 cars off the road for one year.
This same reduction in energy use could also save apartment dwellers as much as $615,000 in annual electricity costs.
A more dramatic cut of 50% of dryer use in apartments would result in energy reductions of 20,800 MWh per year, greenhouse reductions of 22,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is equivalent to taking 6,600 cars of the road for a year. This reduction in energy use could result in collective savings of more than $3m.
If clothes dryer use could be eliminated completely, the potential savings are over $7m.
What can you do?
The answer is, if you want to be more energy efficient and use the abundance of Australian sun to dry your clothes on your own balcony, check the body corporate or strata by-laws set by your own building and then discuss with the body corporate or owners corporation.
The cost of electricity is rising and you can be sure you’re the neighbours in your block are also having to pay higher costs, so now may be the time to come together and find a cheaper solution.
Until there are changes, its best to remember that strata living is community living, and the majority of those living in your apartment block will need to agree on any stipulations regarding the use of balconies for drying washing.
For more information contact the relevant organisation in your state. Visit Energy Australia at www.energyaustralia.com.au where a copy of the discussion paper is available for download.
Disclaimer: The information provided above is a general guide only and not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The company disclaims all responsibility and all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information provided by the company in this article.