Condominium chaos

y Dr. Eduardo Serra Jorge [email protected]

In his column, Lawyer Eduardo Serra Jorge from lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., will be addressing legal issues affecting foreign residents in Portugal.

Considering the well structured and implemented legislation on horizontal property and, subsequently condominiums, it could be expected that these laws would translate easily, when applicable to everyday life.

However, the fact is that most of the time this does not necessarily happen.

Nowadays, one of the main issues regarding condominiums is related to the non-contribution of the individual owners to their share of expenses for the maintenance of the common parts of the building.

In the Portuguese legal regime, the individual and independent fractions of a specific building can belong to different owners, in the regime of horizontal property.

Therefore, each property owner (condómino) is the exclusive proprietor of the fraction that belongs to him/her and co-proprietor of the common parts of the building.

These two rights are inseparable, and neither of them can be sold separately. It is therefore illegal to renounce the common part as a way for the proprietor to escape his/her liability relating to the expenses necessary for the common areas.

Accordingly, the common parts of a building are normally the following:

• The land, as well as foundations, columns, pillars, walls and master walls and all the remaining parts that form the structure of the building;

• The roof or roof terraces;

• Entrances, lobbies, stairways and corridors common to two or more joint owners;

• General water facilities, electricity, heating, air conditioning, gas, communications and similar;

Furthermore it is presumed that the following are also common parts:

• Courtyards and gardens attached to the building;

• Lifts and dependencies for the use and habitation of the concierge;

• Garages and other parking spaces;

• In general, all things that are not allocated to the exclusive use of an individual owner.

Consequently, the expenses related with the abovementioned are paid by all the individual owners in the proportion of the value of their individual fractions.

Its administration is the responsibility of a general assembly and the administrator of the condominium. Each proprietor is required to maintain the common parts of the building and, therefore, it is important that everyone contributes.

However, this does not necessarily happen, as there are certain owners who do not participate in their share of expenses, which can hinder the maintenance of a building and can lead to its degradation because of the lack of common funds.

There is a method available to facilitate the recovery of amounts owed to the condominium.

It is possible, in a general assembly, to decide that a certain owner is in debt.

If the minutes of the assembly record this situation, including the amounts owed, legal action can be taken by the administrator of the condominium to force payment. This includes the seizure of the amounts needed in order to pay the debt.

However, the minute is only applicable in law when it contains the decision that determines the owed amounts, which are easily calculated in accordance with the owner’s share of expenses.