Outdoor space with boundaries – what’s allowed on your balcony, and what’s not

A balcony is a little piece of freedom outside your own four walls. However, this space also has to be shared with your neighbours. Conflicts of interest are practically a given, but they can be solved – as long as you stick to a few rules and use a healthy dose of common sense.

People have enjoyed their holidays on their balconies for a while – not just since the outbreak of coronavirus. But what happens if the holiday feeling is somewhat dampened by Ivan in the flat downstairs grumbling about you blasting your favourite Bob Marley tunes from your speakers? Or what about when the endless dark cloud of barbecue smoke wafts over from the Schmid’s flat next door just as you’ve opened your favourite magazine? Or if Sara’s geraniums on the balcony above are leaving a nice blanket of petals on your balcony furniture? Annoyances lurk in every corner of the balcony – not dissimilar to holiday resorts in the Algarve.

Does the balcony count as an extra room?

Generally speaking, the law protects tenants from other tenants’ lack of consideration. However, every tenant is still required to use their balcony in a considerate manner. Landlords can supplement the current tenancy law by issuing a set of house rules. Condominium owners are also bound to the rules agreed upon by the community of co-owners.

Roughly speaking, the things that cause irritation can be split into two groups: behaviour and furnishings. The balcony is part of the property, just like the rooms inside the apartment – but only up to the railings and when taking into account the house rules.

Glazing on the balcony is a no, but you can leave your clothes horse out

Glazing, antennas, curtains, privacy screens or installing a permanent washing line: fixtures such as these should always be discussed with the landlord. Tenants are generally allowed to furnish their balcony how they see fit to reflect their style, and can leave laundry to dry on a clothes horse out there.

Window boxes and trellises are also allowed, as long as these are not on the front of the balcony. This is to prevent climbing plants from taking over the entire front of the building, or pieces of plants and puddles of water from falling onto the balcony below. These rules are also in place to help protect against bad weather. Some house rules also stipulate that shaking out brooms or beating rugs is not permitted. After all, it’s not the Middle Ages.

Partying on the balcony – yes and no

Time to get the party started? Yes and no. You are actually allowed to have a party on the balcony – but only a small one. Smoking is generally allowed, as long as the ashes aren’t flicked off the balcony.

And it’s lights out at 10 pm. The party and music system will have to make their way inside – or be very quiet outside. The amount of tolerance you can expect from your neighbours depends on where you live. An all-nighter probably isn’t the best idea in a regular neighbourhood. In student accommodation, you will probably be living with people who, in case of doubt, will turn a blind eye. If you’re lucky.

Hot topic: barbecuing on the balcony

Barbecuing on the balcony has been a hot topic of conversation ever since the barbeque was invented. You are actually allowed have a barbecue on the balcony, but in a way that doesn’t disturb anyone – which is naturally a very subjective matter. This means conflicts are practically a given. Too much smoke, noise, smells and barbequing too often could cause angry neighbours to take action.

No one should have problem with the Schmid family having the occasional weekend barbeque, but if it’s happening every single evening, things could get problematic. The question of when it should stop is also debated. At least the answer to this is clear and simple: the barbeque needs to be packed up by 10 pm.

Fresh or treated wood creates a lot of smoke and unpleasant fumes, so it’s best to stay away from it. Make sure that fat and marinades don’t drip into the embers. Many people swear by barbecuing on coals. However, a gas barbeque causes less problems when barbecuing on the balcony.

Law and order on the balcony

Blasting Bob Marley tunes, serial barbecuing and a sea of flowers: generally speaking, these things are not allowed. At least now you know the law and order of the balcony. And while you could always talk to the landlord if such things are bothering you, it’s better not to go straight to them, but rather clear the air with any troublemakers first.

Because who knows, maybe the barbecue-loving Schmid family will invite you over for a sausage, you might bond with Ivan over other Caribbean rhythms, and you and Sara might enjoy a coffee together among the sea of petals.