Community bills: Debt and statute of limitations

Community bills: Debt and statute of limitations

Shared expenses are obligatory for every property owner. However, someone in the community may be in arrears with their bill payments. What do you do if this situation arises in your building? We answer this and other questions below.

What happens if I don’t pay my community fees?

Non-payment of community fees is one of the community property issues that creates the most questions. To this end, it is important to know that property charges are the owner’s responsibility. This is supported by Article 9 of the Horizontal Property Act. If an owner fails to pay the relevant charges, the community of owners can take legal action.

But what if I rent my apartment out? Do I still have to pay community fees? It doesn’t matter, for example, if the owner and the tenant have signed a rental agreement under which the tenant is responsible for the payments. This is an agreement between both parties but has no validity against third parties. In other words, if the tenant fails to pay the community bills, the owner remains liable for the debt.

And what happens if the person is no longer owner of the property?

Any fees not paid while the defaulter owned the dwelling can be claimed, as long as they have not lapsed under the law. Or, equally, when the property changes ownership, the community can claim the amounts owed from the new owner. In fact, Article 9, Paragraph 3 of the Horizontal Property Act says that:

“The purchaser of a dwelling or building under the community of property owners regime, even with the title registered on the property registry, is liable for any debts owed to the community of owners in respect of the purchased property, for the general expenses accrued by the previous owners, up to the limit of those resulting from the overdue part of the annual community fee payable for the year in which the purchase was made and for the previous three calendar years”.

Removal of the owner’s right to vote due to non-payment of community fees
This measure is designed to encourage payment of community of owners debts. If an owner does not pay the community fees, the community can deprive the owner of his/her right to vote at owners’ meetings pursuant to Article 15, Clause 2 of the Horizontal Property Act. In this case, the owner has two alternatives:

  • Challenge the unpaid debt through legal action against the community, before the owners’ meeting is held.
  • Deposit with a court or notary of the amounts owed. In this case, the owner may attend the owners’ meeting but under no circumstances exercise his/her right to vote.

When are you considered a defaulter in a community of owners?

In truth, there is no minimum amount of fees that can be claimed from a defaulting owner. This means that it is possible to claim up to the non-payment of a single bill, whatever its amount.

What can the community do with a defaulting owner?

There are a number of steps the owners’ meeting must take to legally claim unpaid community bills. The first is the calculate the full amount of the unpaid fees to ensure there are no errors. The second is to claim the payment from the owner amicably. This initiative must be recorded in the agenda when the meeting is called. The aim is simply to report that claim proceedings have commenced to try to adopt decisions regarding the default situation. Next, the meeting call must be sent to all community residents, including the defaulter, in accordance with the provisions of the Horizontal Property Act.

If the debt cannot be settled amicably, the legal claim must be agreed to at the owners’ meeting. As part of this process, it is important that all unpaid fees be duly detailed in the minutes. Lastly, the community of owners has to submit the claim to the court.

When do community bills lapse?

In 2015, an amendment was made to Article 1964 of the Civil Code governing the statute of limitations for claiming community debts. This period changed from 15 years to just 5. Once this period expires without the community claiming any unpaid debts, they will lapse. It is important to understand that the community of owners can suspend the statute of limitations by sending a Burofax (a method of sending documents securely) to the owner stating the existence of the debt and its total amount.

If you want to be up to date with all your community payments, download the Mediterráneo app. From the app you can contact your property manager directly and keep up to date with your bill payments. You can find out about all the ways to contact your Mediterráneo property manager here.

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