collecting condominium maintenance feesHoliday apartment owners find themselves in the gray area of Condominium regulation. Most of the holiday apartments are located in the so called closed complexes (also called gated apartment complexes or aparthotels), but the Condominium Ownership Management Act (COMA) dedicates only one article to those kind of buildings. This is quite insufficient, having in mind the big amount of such buildings across Bulgaria – mostly located in Black Sea resorts and the ski resorts.

The problem with condominium common parts maintenance fees

COMA has been drafted mainly to regulate residential condominium buildings, where residents live permanently in the building throughout the whole year. Therefore payment of common parts maintenance is not an issue since all residents are using the common parts of the building e.g. staircase, lifts etc. The Act provides an exception for those owners who don’t normally inhabit their apartments. Pursuant Art. 51 they have the options to pay less or even not pay at all any common parts maintenance fees.

The situation with the holiday apartment buildings is quite the opposite. These buildings are mostly uninhabited during the year and owners are either renting out or using the premises themselves only in the high holiday season – in the summer for Black Sea properties and in the winter for mountain properties.

This of course creates the problem about who should pay for maintenance of the common parts in case no one is living there permanently. The loophole of Art 51 COMA creates the option of ALL apartment owners to claim the exception and not pay their common parts maintenance fees. The moral dilemma is if no one pays, then how the building should be maintained and stay in proper condition? Surely all owners would like the building to be attractive so they can rent out their premises. Moreover, if most of the apartment owners decide to pay, even if they don’t reside there permanently, there will be always owners who would not pay. This of course could be legal, but not moral, as the other apartment owners are not obliged to bears other owners’ financial liabilities.

Collection of unpaid condominium maintenance fees

Whether non-paying owners claim the exception or not, the management body of the Condominium Owners Association (or Condominium, depending on the structure) can enforce the payment obligation of every owner. COMA provides the right of the chairman of the management committee (or the manager) of the condominium to apply for payment order in the local District court for collection all outstanding maintenance fees. The court can issue the payment order approximately within a month and the order can be enforced through a state or private enforcement agent.

Despite some of the owners can claim the non-payment exception in Art. 51, there is a legal way to enforce collection of maintenance fees from such apartment owners. The fact that they are not living permanently in Bulgaria is not a problem as the court order can be enforced in all European Union member states. All legal expenses the Condominium makes will be accounted on the name of the debtor and will be collected from him – including the fees you will be paying to your solicitor.

Instructing your solicitor to initiate court debt collection

Before you instruct your Condominium solicitor, you should have prepared all relevant documentation, including the minutes from the General Meeting, where the amount of the common parts maintenance fees are set. This amount of the maintenance fees has to be set by a decision of the General Meeting of the condominium. If the GM hasn’t set a fees maturity date, the condominium manager should send a notice to all non-paying apartment owners. These are just preparatory proceedings, so the actual court proceedings are successful. If the preliminary actions haven’t been done or haven’t been done properly, the court proceedings will not be successful. Again, you should pass all relevant documentation to your solicitor who would advices you both on the preliminary work that needs to be completed and on the following court case legal work.

If you require a legal consultation on condominium legal case, feel free to contact our solicitors team.

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11 comments

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  • Steve 8 April 2013 Reply

    How would you define a closed-type complex (Art. 2)? If there is only 1 building on a dedicated land plot, with security personnel and cameras, legally speaking, would this be seen as a closed-type complex? Or is it necessary to have multiple buildings on a dedicated land plot?

    • Milen Hristov 11 April 2013 Reply

      The definition is in the Act. Generally said it’s any condominium building having a restricted access to it – divided by barrier, security personnel etc.

  • Derek 8 April 2013 Reply

    My maintenance company – the developer – owns the swimming pool, located within our building. The maintenance agreement includes the pool as well (heating, labor, water, electricity and all associated costs for running the pool). I was told that private property cannot be included within the maintenance agreement of the common areas. We do not have individual contract, but a collective agreement instead. Many owners are refusing to pay. Can we still collect the fees, even though maintenance of the private property is included as mandatory?!?

    • Milen Hristov 9 April 2013 Reply

      If the pool is a privately owned, any money collected for maintenance of common parts and used for maintaining the pool will be illegally used for this purpose. Of course your collective agreement may include specific clauses describing this service and how the money is distributed. But generally the Condominium Ownership Management Act bans using common parts maintenance money for private properties.

  • Derek 9 April 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the info. One more question. If a right was given to people by the state, then any attempt to take away this particular right – in the form of override, for example – would be unconstitutional. So even if the District court decides that an owner is obliged to pay per Article 51, higher instances would easily overrule such a decision. Am I right here, or not…? The management body can enforce decisions in accordance with the law, but enforcing a decision that collides with the law (such as overriding Article 51), should not be permitted, even through loopholes…?

    • Milen Hristov 15 April 2013 Reply

      The questions you are asking are too general, therefore any legal statement can be false unless I review the documents and decisions you are referring to.

  • Shirlee Sandling 30 April 2013 Reply

    In a townhouse complex, multiple physical houses are combined into a single architectural building. Each unit owner owns an identified plot of land and the building affixed to it, but that building is physically part of a larger building that spans lots. There is a continuous roof and foundation and a single wall divides adjacent townhouses. If there is an apartment below not owned by owner of townhouse it is not a townhouse just a bi-level apartment, condominium. Legally, this is very similar to detached houses, but because of the intertwining of interests in the single architectural building, a homeowner’s association is required.^;

  • Norman barron 4 June 2015 Reply

    We have purchased apartments in Bansko which is operating as a hotel. We purchased before Bulgaria was part of th EU. Due to low holiday rentals being low we decided to close our apartments till climate gets better so we do not use the apartments at all. Do we still have to legally pay maintenance fees thanks norman

  • Alana Collins 22 September 2015 Reply

    Hi there

    Just querying about these maintenance fees and the non-payment exception. You say that “despite some of the owners can claim the non-payment exception in Art. 51, there is a legal way to enforce collection of maintenance fees from such apartment owners”.

    I am wondering what legal way is there to enforce this? If the Act says there is an exception, then surely that stands. What legal basis is there to enforce the collection of fees?
    Thanks, Alana

  • steve 15 September 2016 Reply

    The complex my questions relate to started as one building with amenities and was subsequently extended to include many buildings with amenities, which are considered as one entity: owners and users of apartments in any of the buildings have access to all the amenities. Not coincidentally, whereas the first buildings had a lower unit density and very spacious amenities (especially pools), the latest ones are crammed with studios and have rather less generous amenities. It may be worth adding that despite all owners having access to all amenities, the later developments are managed separately and actually have one service (internet) that is NOT accessible to owners of the earlier developments. Another particular invention is that one recent building is completely closed, but is marketed as enjoying access to all the amenities of the complex. Finally, the complex is gated and has security, but there are several entrances that are not closed by any gates and the security just waves anyone through. I was wondering if this type of complex would qualify as a closed-type complex and whether the owners of apartments in one of the earlier buildings can do anything about the developer “sell” their amenities to buyers of apartments in the later developments, diminishing the value of their property in the process.

  • Peter Leonard 25 April 2017 Reply

    Hi

    I am involved with a holiday complex in Pamporovo. A number of the owners have not paid their annual maintenance fees, some covering several years. What would be the likely cost of you handling these cases?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Peter

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