Most of the apartments complexes here in Chile charge a monthly “gastos comunes” (common expenses) fee. The fee is generally in the $100-200/mo range. Ours, being a large complex, is on the lower end, since the expenses are divided among so many units.

This monthly fee covers many things, including security (there are probably 5-8 “conserjes” or “guardias” on the premises at all times), maintenance and cleaning of the common areas, the upkeep of the gardens, the fountains, common electricity and water usage, office & managerial expenses, etc….

Each month a statement details the price of each item from staff pension contributions, to the secretary’s salary, to the uniforms for the personnel (Chileans love uniforms), to the maintenance of the elevators and fountains, any repairs, common water/gas/electric services, to photocopies. We get all the details.

Also in our monthly statement, they list the apartment numbers of those delinquent in paying their gastos – and by how much. An attempt at public shaming, I guess.

Finally, on the same monthly statement, we’re also charged for the use of the workout room. Carman is the only one of us who uses the machines. The charge is $2/month/person for unlimited usage. An excellent deal, if you’re into that sort of exercise – exercise bikes, stair-stepper, free weights, etc.

The gastos comunes system works fairly well, I suppose. But it’s far from perfect. Sometimes kids break things, and instead of their families being charged, the cost of the repair is divided among everyone. And unfortunately, the kids know this. When they break things, they shrug it off. There is not a sense of responsibility/ownership being cultivated.

Just a couple of days ago, one of Carman’s chums belted a soccer ball, even though playing soccer is against the rules for kids over 12 years of age. A guardia saw him and reminded him that he cannot do that on the premises. He did it again anyway within site of one of the many security cameras. The ball hit a pipe that was hidden in some bushes, broke it, and water came gushing out. It took 30 minutes for maintenance to get the water turned off. Then there will be repairs to be made, etc. But there were no consequences to the boy and/or his family. Instead, we’ll all be paying for it. And the carelessness, disobedience, and shrugging continues.

To be fair, not all kids are “bad” in this way. But there do seem to be some repeat offenders who just don’t care, and the current system just reinforces that attitude.