If you live in a block of flats, you should know that there are a series of repairs that must be carried out by the Community in order to keep the services and common elements in perfect condition. But, who can request these repairs and what are the common elements? Well, we’ll explain everything here.
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What is considered to be an urgent repair?
All breakdowns and breakages in the building’s common elements that must be repaired immediately are deemed to be urgent repairs. If they are not repaired immediately, these problems could cause serious damage to the Community of Property Owners or the residents who live in the building. This concept has been addressed the case law of the General Council of the Judiciary.
What are the most common types of deteriorations?
- Problems in the electrical system, either due to age, damage, vandalism, etc.;
- Safety elements of the building itself, such as lightning rod earthing or load-bearing walls;
- Lighting of the building;
- Water supply system (burst or broken pipes, cloudy water, etc.).
- Drainage system and condition of downpipes.
How are emergency repairs dealt with?
Article 20 of the Spanish Horizontal Property Law (LPH) indicates that it is not necessary to hold a Meeting of Property Owners to carry out an urgent repair. It is therefore up to the property administrator to take the initiative and hire a professional to fix the problem as soon as possible. All they need to do is inform the community president or the property owners.
In any case, article 7.1 of the aforementioned law makes it very clear that no member of the community can take decisions on his or her own in the face of such events. However, there are some exceptions that we will address in this article. In principle, only the administrator or, in his/her absence, the president of the community, has the power to act in the event of an urgent repair.
What is a common repair or community improvement?
Common repairs or those that improve the condition of the Community of Property Owners are those required for the upkeep of the building. Repair works that help to keep the common services and installations in good condition are also considered as such. The law also covers the construction of new elements, such as swimming pools.
However, in order to carry these out, the approval of a qualified majority (i.e. three fifths of the property owners) is required. Therefore, in order to take these projects forward, you will need to convene a Meeting of Property Owners and present the case.
What about neighbours who disagree?
Under certain circumstances, property owners who do not agree to the works will not be obliged to pay. For example, if the expense is greater than the sum of three monthly common expenses, the dissenting owners will not be obliged to pay. However, they will not be able to benefit from the improvements, unless they cannot be deprived of them for material reasons.
The law also states that if, at a later date, these dissenting property owners wish to benefit from the works (e.g. by using the newly-constructed swimming pool), they would be able to pay the corresponding costs. However, legally-established interests would need to be paid in addition to the amount that corresponds to them.
Obligation to repair common elements
The LPH obliges the Community of Property Owners to carry out certain necessary works without a prior agreement being reached in the Meeting of Property Owners. The law reads as follows:
“The works that are required for the adequate maintenance and compliance with the duty of conservation of the building and its common services and installations, including, in any case, those necessary to satisfy the basic requirements of safety, habitability and universal accessibility, as well as the conditions of ornamentation and any others derived from the imposition, by the Administration, of the legal duty of conservation”.
These mandatory works may arise from the building’s need for maintenance or be imposed by the Public Administration. These works need to be carried out, particularly in the latter case. The administration usually gives a deadline to carry them out. If this deadline is not met, the administration will carry them out anyway and pass the bill on to the Community of Property Owners with the corresponding fine.
Communication and approval of urgent repairs of common elements
As explained above, the LPH states that it is not necessary to call a Meeting of Property Owners in order to carry out urgent repairs. The person responsible for carrying these out is the administrator, who only has to inform the community president. In the absence of an administrator, the president would need to take direct charge of the repair when informed about the requirement by the affected neighbour.
One example of urgent work could be the repair of the roof following a rainy period because there is water leaking or seeping into the flat of the neighbour who lives on the top floor. In such cases, the other owners should be informed a posteriori, not before the project is undertaken.
What if these problems “fall on deaf ears”?
If the affected neighbour reports the problem but nobody takes charge of it, article 7.1 of the LPH does not prevent the property owner from carrying out the work themselves. This eventuality is covered by case law, but only in certain cases:
- If the problem causes significant discomfort and there is the possibility that it gets worse.
- The Community of Property Owners must be informed in advance.
- If those responsible for taking charge of the works display a passive approach for a prolonged period of time (not specifically determined in the law).
In these situations, where it is the property owner himself/herself who takes the initiative, they are entitled to pass on the cost to the Community of Property Owners. This only applies when the work is carried out to address an urgent problem. Using the example above, if the poor state of the roof causes leaks in your flat and the administrator ignores your report(s), you could hire someone to fix it for you. You would then pass on the invoice to the Community of Property Owners. However, if you fix a roof that was already considered to be in a good condition, this would not be considered as urgent work.
In short, the mandatory repairs of the Community of Property Owners can be of an urgent or maintenance nature. Depending on their type, these repairs can be initiated by the administrator, the president or the affected property owner. The Spanish Horizontal Property Law (LPH) sets forth all the legal provisions for dealing with the matter without any conflicts of interest or other problems.