Building maintenance. Who pays what?

Have you ever wonder if your own Owners Community is charging you a reasonable cost for maintenance and conservation?


The law requires all owners to contribute towards the services to maintain and preserve the building so it is habitable, safe and accessible, as well as to deal with a long list of common costs. But what services are payable by the Owners community and what are payable by each individual owner?


When a person buys an apartment, a commercial unit, a parking space or individual villa within an urbanization, also acquired part of the building or the infrastructure or both in which it is located.

As owner, you are entitled to enjoy the communal areas such as the staircase, lift, pools or roof terraces but at the same time there is a commitment to compensate for the maintenance and repair expenses concerning these areas. The so called (Comunidad de Propietarios) Community of Owners, is therefore, a group of owners of a building who, share the responsibility and the benefits of that property as a whole, even though they do not use all of its dependencies and even if they do not use it for a long time.

This so obvious explanation is necessary because often there are doubts that may give rise to discussions and tensions among owners, making the coexistence difficult and sometimes have resulted in some bitter economic surprises.

Who pays what.

Last week I did show a long list of what I considered to be the most usual common spaces.

To find out what common services, are mandatory to be maintained by all, or who pays what, it must be taken into account that most doubts could be clarified by reading the (La Ley de la Propiedad Horizontal) Horizontal Property Law, a lengthy and detailed text which regulates this subject. As a general rule, the Community of Owners should deal with the upkeep and preservation of the property’s communal areas and its services including the building outer shell waterproofing, habitability, accessibility and security. As well as the cost of cleaning, housekeeper if there is one, the electricity bill for common areas etc.

It must be remember that each community has its own idiosyncrasies so there may some differences and additional items may have been included as communal expenses in an Annual General Meeting.

Not all buildings are the same

As I have mentioned above, not all buildings are the same, its antiquity, its architecture, the extent of its outdoor spaces, the number of owners and its location will make a difference. Consequently, the so called common services also will vary. There are other spaces, such as technical installations rooms for lifts, the engagement of an administrator or not. In most buildings the lift maintenance is perhaps one of the most expensive services for the community, since it may cost about 700 Euros per quarter, although now the community can negotiate with any lift company even if it is not the one that installed it initially.

There are very small communities, and its biggest expense is the payment for a few hours a week for a local gardener, and other large urbanization, where the services and maintenance costs could soar up a considerable lot. It is the case, for example, of old buildings with door keeper, communal central heating system service etc; as could also be the case of a new housing developments that have extensive garden areas, surveillance and more than one lift often have swimming pools, sports courts and exotic gardens. The maintenance of the latter, in fact, could implies a high cost which can be around 800 Euros a month or more.

Any contingencies in the building are borne by the community, although there are some insurance companies that may offer packages for these occasional incidents.

All residents pay the same?

The common costs of a building are taken care with a money account funded proportionally by all owners. In some properties, revenues for the fund can come, for example, from the rental of premises or the placement of billboards or mobile phones antennas on the roof. However, most common revenues come directly from payments by owners, who usually paid on a monthly basis.

The interesting thing is that not all residents have to pay the same amount. In fact, the amount depends on the share of each property or commercial units, as a percentage of the total area of the building in the community, which normally is a percentage reflected on the property deeds.

The law provides various parameters, to calculate this overall percentage specially the net covered area for each apartment or premises in connection with the total of the property, its location i.e. if outside the main building such as commercial units that may not make use of the lifts for example. It is not the same an apartment located on the sixth floor which make use of two lifts, stairs entrance hall and gardens than a commercial unit which only has access directly from the road.

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