My Rights as a Condo Owner
Condominium owners always have their annual meeting during the first quarter or first semester of the year. This meeting serves as a platform for making all of their important decisions and questions. The condo owners' meeting is also a good exercise in living out and participating in democracy in action.
Meetings start to break down at some point during an evening because, for example, Meier complains because Müller charges his e-bike every Saturday at the socket in the underground car park—at everyone else’s expense. Müller in turn calls these parties on the carpet for making noise past 10 pm every night, which prevents him from getting his well-deserved sleep.
It is just how life is, that at these condo owners’ meetings, important and less-important questions come up. But one crucial point must be kept in mind: This statutory annual meeting is the most important decision-making body or the "highest body" governing the condominium community. The owners' meeting has to make the following types of decisions:
- Appoint and electing a manager
- Approve annual accounts, budget estimates and decide how to spread costs among the individual owners.
- Make decisions regarding structural measures such as renovation, conversions, major repairs, etc.
- Decide how to proceed with implementing measures for normal property maintenance
- Create a voluntary renewal fund (not legally required, but highly recommended) and decide on its amount.
- Elect a committee that would, for example, more precisely clarify a renewal project or some other type of reconstruction.
- Make decisions regarding insurance regulations involving the building (many types of insurance that cover fire, water, etc. are usually mandatory—but it often makes a lot of sense to take out supplementary insurance).
Know your rights!
The annual or owner meeting is invaluable, if only because you as a condominium owner can get directly involved! There is no doubt that creative and committed people have the advantage—under certain conditions you can put forward your own ideas and have them voted on.
Putting Forward Proposals at the Owners’ Meeting
The law does not explicitly regulate exactly who has to put various proposals forward or in which way this must be done. In general, the administrator is responsible for setting the date, drawing up the agenda and sending out the invitations and all related documents in a timely manner. The condominium regulations govern the invitation period that must be observed, which is usually 10 or 14 days before the meeting.
The law provides that one-fifth of condominium owners can request a meeting to be convened. Michel de Roche, attorney and president of the Professional Chamber of Condominium Owners, who works for the industry association SVIT, says: “Of course, I am of the opinion that each condominium owner also has the individual right to bring proposals to the attention of those attending the meeting.” That, moreover, corresponds to the prevailing doctrine. This is also confirmed by taking a look at a few sample regulations: According to the standard model regulations, every condo owner is entitled to become an active member at any meeting and to submit proposals.
Let's take a simple example: Condominium owner Sommer has worked extensively on heating and energy systems. Now he wants to hold a vote on converting a heat pump and constructing a photovoltaic system. Co-owner Sommer is most likely to reach his goal if he submits his petition or agenda item via the administrator. Sommer can comment on all written listed agenda items (e.g. heating renovation or heating replacement) and put forward specific petitions—even on the evening of the meeting. The important thing is to avoid voting decisions on things that are not listed on the agenda.
Who Does the Inviting? Who Does the Voting?
Can all of the co-owners in a particular apartment house attend a condo owners’ meeting? Properly preparing for and conducting a properly held annual meeting is part of the management’s responsibility. In principle, of course, all condo owners have the right to participate in a meeting and exercise their rights of participation. If an apartment belongs to several owners, then they may all attend the meeting—but they only have one vote.