Collecting outstanding maintenance fees from Condominium owners

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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