The owner is responsible for paying communal charges to the management committee
The management committee of a building complex is normally responsible for collecting the communal charges from occupants. The obligation of the tenant to pay them may be included in the tenancy agreement by the landlord when they rent a property. In such a case, the tenancy agreement does not bind the management committee, to which the landlord always remains accountable. In the event that the tenant fails to pay either the rent or the communal charges or violates any other of his contractual obligations, the landlord is entitled to claim any amount in arrear through a legal action.
When the rented premises were completed and rented or offered to be rented prior to December 31, 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 agreement. The issue concerning the payment of rents, communal or sewerage charges in arrear 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 is in possession of any residence, shop or office and complies with the terms and conditions of the last tenancy agreement, expired or not, is entitled to the benefits under it, provided the terms are consistent with the law. The definition of the term ‘rent’ in the law includes any amount payable as rent for the premises, but does not include the communal charges.
As regards the terms of the statutory tenancy, the law provides that, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the tenant is obliged to pay communal charges, 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. On the other hand, the tenant is obliged to accept any reasonable repairs, renovations and alterations made by the landlord for the maintenance or improvement of the premises.
The term ‘communal charges’ in the law covers the use of communal areas, the use of communal facilities, water and electricity supply to communal areas and facilitation and provision of services for the cleaning and maintenance of communal areas, as well as other services necessary for the possession and use of the premises by the tenant.
The issue concerning payment of communal charges by a statutory tenant was examined by the Rent Control Court, with it deciding 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 himself. Moreover, the tenant had to register the utility bills in his name, including payment of the refuse, communal and drain-cleaning charges. The court held that the tenant accepted to pay the communal charges to the landlord for the rented premises.
In addition, examining the phrase “cleaning of drains”, the court decided that it did not imposed a duty on the tenant to pay sewerage charges. Therefore, the landlord failed to prove this claim for the payment of the sewerage charges for the premises. It follows that there is a need for parties to include a term in the tenancy agreements referring to the payment of the sewerage charges in order to avoid disputes.
George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and founder of George Coucounis LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, email: [email protected]