If you are buying a property abroad which is in a complex then the likelihood is that there will be some form of Community of Owners. You will own your property and also a share of the communal areas – after all somebody has to own them. This is similar to the concept of Commonhold property in the UK
Because of this it is important to make sure that you understand how the Community of Owners works.
In Italy, for example, the share of the Community of Owners that corresponds to your property is worked out as a percentage of the total complex. They will take the square area of your property and work this out as a percentage of the total square area of all the properties and then you will be responsible for that same percentage share of the communal area. On smaller communities you may own several percent. On a much larger community it may only be a fraction of a percent.
As an owner of a property and a member of the Community of Owners you have certain rights and obligations;
You are obliged to pay your share of the community fees. These are normally set out in the annual budget at the General Meeting. You will pay your share of the total cost according to your percentage of the Community of Owners. Therefore if the share that corresponds to your ownership is 1% of the total then you will also be responsible for 1% of the total costs.
The Community costs include things such as insurance, gardeners, swimming pool cleaning, lift maintenance, general maintenance, cleaning and general administration costs such as the fees for the Condominium Administrator who is a professional figure. The insurance will normally cover the buildings as a whole but it is still worth double checking this rather than taking this for granted.
If you do not pay the community fees then the Community can register a charge against your property and ultimately can force the sale of it at auction to recover the money due.
You have the right to attend any meetings that happen during your ownership. The voting at the meetings normally follows the percentage principal – i.e. if you have 1% of the Community of Owners then you also have 1% of the votes at meetings.
At the meetings you have the right to raise issues that affect the Community of Owners and to vote on the appointment of officers. You have the right to put yourself forward for a position that becomes available.
You have the right to be informed of when the meetings are to take place in advance.
Some of the resolutions which need to be passed at the meetings will require differing percentages of votes to approve. Votes to sell some communal areas or to change the table of thousands, for example, require unanimity whereas other votes will require just a majority of the shares.
You have the obligation to follow the Community Rules. The Community will have a set of rules which are designed to maximise the enjoyment and safety of the owners in general. Normally they are quite sensible things such as no swimming in the pool after dark or no loud music after a certain point of the day.
In theory the running of a Community of Owners should be quite a democratic process. However, what you tend to find is that the majority of owners do not get involved in meetings and then a small number of owners take charge and run the community themselves. Sometimes this works and other times it can cause problems. It is worth asking how much the community fees are each year as well as identifying what percentage corresponds to your property – 5% of a small amount may be less than 1% of a large amount!
Your lawyer or solicitor should identify whether the Community Fees have been brought up to date during the purchase process and make sure that everything is paid before the signing of the title deed. This will ensure that there are no outstanding debts for which you may become liable.
If you would like to know more about how a Community of Owners for properties abroad functions then you can contact our international conveyancing team
Disclaimer – International legal issues are a complex area of law and this information is no substitute for independent legal advice on an individual basis taking into consideration your personal circumstances and legal requirements. This information is provided to provide general information only and was correct at the time of publishing. The legal position in relation to international transactions can change frequently and this page may not have been updated following any changes in the law. You should therefore not rely on this information and should seek legal advice in relation to your personal circumstances.