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Windows in an apartment building: a case from our practice

Well-written articles of association of an HOA or housing cooperative are the basis. Otherwise, situations can arise where it is not clear exactly who is in charge of what or who has to pay what. This can lead to unnecessary disputes and strained relations between neighbours. Indeed, something similar happened to our client. In this case, the main role was played by fixed windows and the expense of cleaning them.

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Chapters of the article

Who’s in charge of window cleaning?

A client contacted the Accessible Advocate with a question about the maintenance of windows in an apartment building managed by a unit owners’ association. Specifically, the issue was who should be responsible for cleaning the windows on the outside. These windows could not be opened and therefore had to be cleaned by a professional company. The JVU committee was thus unable to agree on whether the JVU or only the owners of the flats in whose flats the windows were located should pay for the cleaning.

From the SVJ’s point of view, there was a contradiction between the two pieces of information in the Civil Code:

  1. In one part it states that “the unit owner shall manage his apartment as required by the sound condition and good appearance of the building; however, in the case of common areas within the apartment and common areas that serve the exclusive use of the unit owner, he shall only perform and pay for maintenance and minor repairs. ‘ and that ‘the unit owner shall contribute to the management of the house and the land in proportion to his share of the common parts, unless otherwise specified in the declaration, having regard in particular to the nature, dimensions and location of the common part which serves for the exclusive use of a unit owner and the extent of the unit owner’s obligation to manage that part at his own expense.’
  2. Then again, in the next section, one can read that “the management of the house and grounds includes everything not belonging to the unit owner which is necessary or expedient in the interest of all the co-owners for the proper care of the house and grounds as a functional unit and the preservation or improvement of the common areas. The management of the house and land includes activities relating to the maintenance and repair of the common parts, the preparation and implementation of alterations to the common parts of the house by extension, addition, alteration or change of use, and the establishment, maintenance or improvement of facilities in the house or on the land serving all the co-owners of the house. The administration shall be deemed to extend to common parts which are for the exclusive use of a co-owner.’

Tip: Are you a member of the committee of a condominium or the board of directors of a housing cooperative? Do you deal with complex legal situations with owners or members of the cooperative that you do not know how to handle? Or do you believe that someone has taken the wrong legal action against you? Arrange to represent us at a meeting of owners or members of a condominium association.

The client provided us with, among other things, the Articles of Association of the JVU and the Owner’s Declaration, on which we partly relied. The HOA’s bylaws provided that the windows were to be considered a common area of the building, with the interior portion belonging to the unit owners. The Owner’s Declaration of Partition of Title to the Units then stated that the windows, as common parts of the building, were to be vested in the exclusive use of the owners of the units to which they belonged.

How then to deal with this issue?

The intent of the Owner’s Declaration was presumably to leave the exclusive use of the windows within the condominium unit, including their exterior portion and the associated maintenance responsibilities. However, this is questionable as the windows cannot be opened and therefore the external surface cannot be used.

Statutes for HOA or housing cooperatives

We will review your HOA or housing cooperative bylaws or we will write them up for you from scratch. We will always ensure that they comply with current legislation. Our bylaws are always tailored to the needs of the residents of the building. We can also set up your HOA or housing association on a turnkey basis. We will arrange everything quickly, flawlessly and at pre-determined prices. You can pay only after the service has been provided.

Thelaw states that these common parts of the building in exclusive use ( = windows) are the responsibility of the unit owners to maintain. At the same time, the management (as an umbrella term) is still the responsibility of the HOA. This brings the two terms into conflict. It can therefore be inferred that the legislator intended to divide the maintenance of the common parts in exclusive use (and therefore also the windows) between the unit owner concerned (owner of the flat in which the non-opening windows are located) and the JVU. The same is also assumed for the division of the maintenance costs between the unit owners concerned and the JVU. The law provides that the unit owner contributes to the management of the building not only in proportion to his share of the common parts, but also taking into account the nature, size and location of the common parts which are for the exclusive use of a unit owner and the extent of the obligation of such unit owner to “manage” that part at his own expense.

However, the problem is presented by the Owner’s Declaration, which does not define the specific scope of the unit owner’s obligations in relation to the common parts of the building in his exclusive use ( = the windows). Moreover, it is not even specified how the maintenance costs are to be shared. It is therefore quite logical that a dispute can easily arise between the HOA and the unit owners as to who is responsible for maintenance and its financing.

Since both the Owner’s Declaration and the SVJ’s statutes do not address this issue, the general assumption is that the unit owner is responsible for “routine” maintenance and minor repairs of the common parts of the building in exclusive use ( = windows), while the SVJ is responsible for other maintenance that is already related to the functionality of these common parts.

Tip: Do you need a lawyer for your HOA or housing cooperative? We offer long-term cooperation and certainty of solving every legal problem.

What falls under “routine” maintenance is then determined by, for example, the government regulation on the definition of the terms routine maintenance and minor repairs related to the use of the apartment. This considers the nature of the activity carried out in relation to the function of these parts (windows) to be decisive. This can be determined by the subject matter, i.e. by listing specific activities or costs. Thus, according to the list of activities, ‘ordinary’ maintenance generally includes cleaning the flat, painting, repairing plaster, etc.; according to the costs, it includes repairs up to CZK 1 000.

Our recommendation

We recommended to the client that the HOA incorporate these criteria for “routine” maintenance and minor repairs into its own rules for the treatment of the common parts of the house without exclusive use and the associated costs.

Tip: As you can see in this case, it does not pay to underestimate the statute. Let our attorneys help you. We’ll make sure your bylaws are in compliance with the law. We will set up a turnkey unit owners association or condominium for you. We will draw up or check the statutes of your HOA or condominium. We will also take care of the follow-up process for the formation of the HOA or condominium.

The overall conclusion is that while window cleaning can be considered routine maintenance, it should be performed by the unit owner at their own expense. But the assumption is that it is possible to wash this window at all. This is not possible in this case of fixed windows and a professional should be hired to do the job. Therefore, it is no longer routine maintenance. Therefore, the cleaning of the outside part of the windows and the costs for it should be borne by the HOA at its own expense. In addition, the argument of maintaining a uniform appearance of the house and the common interest of all owners to keep the windows clean also contributes to this.

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Statutes for HOA or housing cooperatives

We will review your HOA or housing cooperative bylaws or we will write them up for you from scratch. We will always ensure that they comply with current legislation. Our bylaws are always tailored to the needs of the residents of the building. We can also set up your HOA or housing association on a turnkey basis. We will arrange everything quickly, flawlessly and at pre-determined prices. You can pay only after the service has been provided.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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