Last Updated on September 28, 2023
When you buy an apartment in a residential complex, especially a new one, all sorts of surprises and interesting things pop up. A homeowners association in Germany is a terrible force and means a lot of nerves in the struggle for ideal housing.
If you rent an apartment in such a complex, you need to ask in advance what restrictions the homeowners association imposes on residents and what expenses the owner transfers to the tenant.
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Some surprises of homeowners associations are unexpected even for the Germans, so the annual meetings turn into hours of theater with a furious discussion of the frequency of mowing the lawn, the need for its scarifying, the color of the awnings and finding out why gas is so expensive and why the hell is the housemaster drinking coffee for 2 hours when he got money are paid for work. At the end, it’s not uncommon for someone to storm out in rage and slam the door, muttering, “Never again… this madhouse…”
Homeowners association in Germany. Pitfalls and special features
1. German is important
The first thing you need to be prepared for: the need to understand and speak German will not end with conversations with builders and lawyers, but will continue in annual meetings, which you need not only to attend, but also to respond by voting. However, you can entrust your vote to some neighbor.
2. All depends on property management company
The complexes are usually managed by a property management – Hausverwaltung. It organizes cleaning, repairs, heating, etc., presents proposals from various service companies, from which the owners choose one and approve it.
3. Property management is controlled by selected owners
In each house, people are selected for each year who control the accounts and activities of the properety management company.
4. Documents about the past year and plans for the next year should be read in advance, before meeting
Every year the report for the past year is approved at the meeting, as well as all planned expenses. For preparation, residents are sent in advance a report on the past year and a plan for the next year.
5. Decisions are made by voting
All proposals received from residents are put to a vote. Different questions require different numbers of affirmative votes.
For example, recently there was a slight easement regarding significant changes in the building structure.
A person wants to add a glass roof over a balcony to a penthouse. This is a significant change in the building structure. Previously, all owners had to confirm this significant change. It is clear that this is practically unrealistic. Now the rules have become simpler, but it is still very difficult to get consent to anything.
But questions about the quality of bookkeeping are resolved by a simple majority of votes.
6. More unwanted expenses
Much depends on the contingent: rich retirees and singles can make a more economical minority pay more with their desire for grandeur. They will only expensive devices for caretaker, unnecessary repair or design features and so on.
7. The city and the homeowners association may restrict owners and tenants in their rights
For example, in our residential complex, awnings can only be chosen by one company, type and color – all should be the same. They almost banned umbrellas on the balconies, but those who are not ready to give a couple of thousand for awnings defended them. But the mandatory color scheme was determined (gray, white, brown – in the color of the house). Various protective panels and mats are banned, and only natural decorations are allowed.
The homeowners association may not allow you to connect other TV (or Internet) cable and choose a TV company you like. And flower pots can be obligated to hang only on the inside of the balcony railing.
8. A lot of duty around lawns and shrubs
The owners of the first floors with lawns may not rejoice too early: they can even put up a garden house only after asking permission from the homeowners association.
Our ground floor owners this year suddenly found themselves tending their lawns, cutting them, scarifying and watering them with water and manure, and cutting bushes in accordance with city and house regulations, because the majority living upstairs want to save money on a gardener.
When choosing an apartment, keep in mind that lawn care is difficult, especially if it is located above the underground car park (Insufficient depth leads to a rapid deterioration in the quality of the soil). With improper care, it quickly dries out or disappears.
The urban gardener also limits the types of shrubs and trees that can be planted on a seemingly “own” lawn.
In the summer, freshly planted trees of the wrong variety were unexpectedly dug up. The planter was on vacation and found on his return that the “offenders” had already been removed (and I’m sure he was billed for the removal).
What does it mean to care for a green area in a residential complex that you use, but that is in reality in common ownership:
- mowing the lawn in the amount recommended by the homeowners association, at hours that do not disturb the peace of the residents.
- scarifying, if required
- cutting bushes according to the rules of the house (the height of the bushes is important) and according to the rules of the city (the bushes should not interfere with pedestrians)
- trees only of those varieties that are approved by the city and the meeting of residents (it is better to ask in advance),
- pruning trees within the permitted time frame (late autumn and winter),
- leaf cleaning. Imagine that an old woman slipped on wet leaves and ended up in the hospital. You, too, will end up in financial trouble.
Reminders and rules are printed in the local newspapers, especially in the spring and autumn periods.
9. Housing costs will not be limited to heating, water, electricity and tax alone
On your bills, you may find items like this (not counting smaller sums for insurance or maintenance of the doors or fire extinguishers and so on):
– care of green areas (around the house) – approx. 60 euros per year
– cleaning around the house – approx. 40 euros per year
– winter service – approx. 15 euros per year
– analysis of drinking water – 25 euros (not every year)
– house cleaning – approx. 100 euros per year
– garbage disposal in the complex is more expensive than in those houses where you have your own box – 240 euros per year
– the lift is, of course, a pleasant pleasure, but it costs approx. 170 euros per year
– property management company fee – approx. 220 euros per year
– for future repairs, money is collected in advance so that in five years, when for example the heating boiler needs to be repaired, you do not have to pay too much at a time
– there are also various one-time expenses – for cleaning the roof, for the purchase of a lawn mower and other tools, etc. Over time, as the builder’s warranty runs out, there will be repair and maintenance costs.
In total, for a three-room apartment, heating, water, additional costs will amount to at least 250 euros per month (plus 80-90 euros for electricity per month and approx. 350 euro tax). Depending on the type of heating, the city, the age of the houses and the ideas of beauty of the majority of residents, the amount may be more.
10. Opportunity to save on own specialists
If the residential complex has owners-specialists, they usually offer their services, which allows savings. For example, we have our own architect, accountant and heating specialist.
11. Playground costs
A cheerful picture of a playground, which is shown when advertising a home for sale, is a mirage. In fact, builders are not required to install slides and ladders, they only leave space for the site and cover it with sand or sawdust. The residential complex itself must equip the site at its own expense, to which most owners must agree. In addition to these costs, each year you will have to pay for site inspection, maintenance and liability insurance.
We have been procrastinating on the topic for three years, because there are only about 7 apartments with children out of 80 in the complex, and no one wanted to pay for children from the neighboring area to play on the site. As a result, the developer himself put up a simple playground from a slide and a house for kids, since he had an obligation to the city. Let’s see who will bear the cost of maintenance as a result.
12. Alternative services
If the owner wants another firm to service or install/repair something, he himself must obtain an Angebot (proposal) from the desired firm before the meeting and offer it at the meeting.
13. Unwanted costs because of other owners or tenants
The weight of votes during voting is distributed according to different principles: by the number of residents or by the area of housing. This can lead to the fact that if someone rents out a large area in your house, for example, for a store, this “someone” will have a predominant voice in all decisions. This question needs to be considered at the very beginning, at the first meeting of owners, when basic decisions are made about the house.
For example, we had problems with garbage disposal: the tenats of the apartment rooms throw away what needs to be sorted, so the dustbin is overflowing. Because of this, the management company threatens to make garbage disposal more expensive – and we already pay 100 euros more than a regular household with its own dustbins, and sort everything ourselves. But all attempts to solve the problem through separate dustbins for “permanent” and “temporary” residents are blocked by the one, who has a larger area of rented apartments.
14. Examination of construction works
One of the questions caused a real hour-long battle at the meeting: the guarantee for construction work is being completed, is it necessary to carry out an external examination or is an internal one enough?
It is surprising that relatively wealthy people, who can easily afford not so much expenses for external expertise, dispute on this issue for so long and as a result, it all ended in a roll call (usually a superficial count of raised hands is enough). Apparently, it was more of a matter of principle: is TÜV worthy of receiving an order for an external examination, will it make a full-fledged check, or will it be just a superficial examination based on pieces of paper. As evidence, a lot of examples were cited from own experience and with reference to distant and close friends and relatives of the Rabbit.
The decision, in fact, depended mainly on the holder of most of the leased area – the construction company itself. Since it positions itself as striving for quality, and not for profit, the result was in favor of external expertise.
In the end, after receiving a report from TÜV, it was fully justified: more than 150 places were found that needed improvement. The builders themselves would not have found so many problems. Places were found up to thin cracks on the walls, unsuccessful pipe insulation, beaten corners. Everything is very objective – every time I myself thought “this is not good”, when my eye noticed it. Therefore, it is impossible to say that TÜV conducts a purely superficial inspection and checks only papers. In addition, the owners were able to present to the experts controversial defects that were not recognized by the builders as being subject to warranty repairs. And already external experts decided who was right in this matter.
Thus, if you must participate in a meeting that discusses the end of the warranty period, I would recommend supporting the external review option. It is also advisable to inspect your home and ask all questions about potential and real flaws – with photos of suspicious places on your phone.
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