THE management committee of a building complex is responsible for imposing communal charges on the owners of the units. The landlord, being the owner of a unit, is obliged to pay the communal charges and this obligation is transferable to his tenant. The landlord may impose an obligation upon his tenant to pay the communal charges to him, by including it as a term in the tenancy agreement. In such a case, the tenancy agreement does not bind the management committee, to which the landlord remains accountable and if the tenant fails to pay either the rent or the communal charges or violates any other contractual obligation, the landlord is entitled to claim the amounts due through a legal action.
Where the rented premises were completed prior to 31.12.1999 and are situated in an area controlled by the Rent Control Law, the tenancy becomes statutory upon its expiration or its termination and the Rent Control Court has jurisdiction on any matter related to the tenancy. The issue concerning the payment of rents in arrears, communal and sewage charges owed by a statutory tenant is an ‘incidental’ matter and consequently falls under the jurisdiction of the said court.
The law relating to statutory tenancies states that the tenant who remains in possession of any residence or shop and complies with the terms and conditions of the last tenancy agreement, is entitled to the benefits under it, provided the terms of the said tenancy agreement are consistent with the provisions of the law. Moreover, according to the law, if any rent or communal charges are in arrears, they are considered an incidental or supplementary matter which falls under the jurisdiction of the court.
The definition of the term ‘rent’ in the law includes any amount payable as rent for the premises and the furniture if the property is furnished, but it does not include the communal charges. As regards a statutory tenancy, the law provides that, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the tenant is obliged to pay the communal charges corresponding to the premises, including minor expenses for the maintenance of the communal areas and facilities. However, the tenant has no obligation to pay serious expenses for the maintenance, alteration or replacement of the communal areas and facilities.
The term ‘communal charges’ in the law means the use of the communal areas of the premises by the tenant, the use of the communal facilities, water and electricity supply to them for the tenant’s use and the provision of services for the cleaning and maintenance of the communal areas, as well as other services necessary. The issue concerning the payment of communal charges by a statutory tenant was dealt with by the court, whereby it was decided that the claim was one of special damages and the landlord had to prove them strictly. A term was included in the tenancy agreement imposing an obligation upon the tenant to arrange the supply of water and electricity and the payment of the relevant charges. Moreover, the tenant had to register the utility bills in his name, including the payment of the refuse, communal and drain-cleaning charges.
The court interpreted that the tenant had accepted to pay the landlord the communal charges for the rented premises. In addition, it examined the phrase “cleaning of drains” and decided that in no event the aforesaid term imposed a duty to the tenant to pay the sewerage charges. Therefore, the landlord failed to prove the claim for the payment of the sewerage charges of the premises, so a term in tenancy agreements referring to who will to pay sewerage charges is advisable to avoid any future disputes.
George Coucounis is a lawyer specialising in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca, Tel: 24 818288,,