Claiming back maintenance fee in cases where you are not using your apartment
January 11, 2017
The Bulgarian Condominium Law enables establishing of a Condominium (also known as “General meetings of apartment owners”) and forming an entity which to deal with the maintenance of the common parts of the building with payment of maintenance fee, instead of signing direct maintenance contracts with Maintenance Company.
It’s a common situation in these complexes where the developer of the complex still owns apartments within the building, to use this for putting a hand over the formed Condominium. By controlling the Condominium, the developer /or his third related parties and companies/ is in leading position for determining the decisions, which will be made by the General Meeting of owners, including decisions for amounts and payment of the maintenance fees.
It is extremely often met to see individual apartment owners – foreign citizens, being asked to pay sums of 10-12 Euro per sq. m. each year or 1000-and-over Euro in total for maintenance. The most common case where Condominiums have been formed in a holiday or residential complex in Bulgaria is asking an apartment owner who lives permanently abroad and respectively does not use his apartment for more than thirty days through the year, to pay a maintenance fee.
Although the Bulgarian Condominium Law says that such owners should be released from payment of maintenance fee. This is a common situation in many holiday complexes in Bulgaria, which apartments have been sold to foreign buyers and it increases the financial burden especially on these apartment owners who own more than one flat within the complex.
Owners who are trying to escape from any payments are even threatened by the local maintenance companies that they will be prohibited from entering their properties if no payment has been made. And here is where we step in and assist apartment owners for solving this unpleasant situation. Our practice allows us to have a clear view on the actions needed for preventing unreasonable payments of maintenance fees.
There are actually two alternative actions to be done in regards to payment of maintenance fee if an apartment owner is using their own properties for less than 30 days in a year. They could inform in advance the manager of the Condominium that they are not using the property for more than 30 days in the year so respectively they should be excluded from the list of paying owners. And if you have already been instructed by the maintenance company to pay the annual maintenance fee for the previous years, you can ask the company to refund you with the paid amount.
If the company denies doing so, your option is to lodge then a court claim against the Condominium for a refund. According to the local court practice on lawsuits for refund of maintenance on the above condition, even if the fee has been paid in advance for the particular (or the upcoming) year on valid legal reason (a decision by the Condominium), where the apartment owner still has no idea if they will use their own apartment or not, then later, once the year period is over if they meet the legal requirement for less-than-30-days stay, these owners are entitled to claim for refund of the paid maintenance fee.
This legal right expires in five-year deadline. So with the above detailed simple steps, you can cut your expenses for the properties owned in Bulgaria and even get part /or all/ of the amounts already paid back.
In some cases, apartment owners may not be happy with the maintenance provided by the maintenance company, or they just want to amend the payment conditions. In our practice in such cases, we assist the apartment owners in the complex by organizing and performing a new General Meeting of owners, where new decisions for the maintenance of the complex will be taken to suit best owner’s interests. Organizing such a meeting of owners is not a simple process as there are strict procedures and deadlines to be followed, but our experience in relation to summoning General Meeting of owners allows them to save time and money, as well to discipline the maintenance companies in their activities.
If you need more information about our legal services please visit the related page “Condominium Law”