As of 10 April 2022, new legislation came into force which aims to make condominium management in Portugal more transparent.
Some of the most important changes introduced by Law 8/2022 include new rules, that make living in a condominium safer and easier:
Anyone buying a second-hand property in a condominium must now receive a document that states any withstanding debts that the seller may have in condominium fees. For the deed to legally proceed, this written document, issued by the building manager and provided by the seller of the fraction, must be presented at the time of sale. This new rule protects the buyer from accepting, without prior knowledge, responsibility for any debt that the seller may have and which would become their responsibility after the sale. If you buy a new build property in a condominium, this is obviously something you do not have to worry about!
This new law also clarifies which type of repair work can be considered essential and urgent, and as such can be carried out by the initiative of a unit owner (in the absence or impediment of the building administrator). This includes urgent repairs necessary to fix problems in common parts of the building, which may cause or worsen damage to the building or put the safety of people at risk.
Other major innovations include the possibility of sending condominium meeting notices by email or holding condominium meetings virtually by videoconference, whenever this option is requested by the majority of the owners.
These new rules must be incorporated into all existing condominium regulations, known as “regulamentos do condomínio”. Regardless of whether your property in Portugal is for personal use or holiday rentals.
What is the purpose of a condominium regulation?
In simple terms, a condominium regulation in Portugal describes all the rules of a specific condominium — also known as "horizontal ownership”, or "propriedade horizontal" in Portuguese. In other words, it contains all the information for unit-holders of a building to know their rights and duties regarding the use and management of the building and its common areas.
These regulations are binding for all those who use a fraction of the building, regardless of whether they are owners or renters.
What information should be included in the condominium regulation?
A condominium regulation should contain the following information:
Rights and duties of the apartment owners;
Rules for the building manager and the unit-holders;
Other important information related to the building's management.
To fully comprehend these rules, it is important to understand all the technical terms that may appear in a condominium regulation. Below are some of the most important:
- Horizontal property
In a horizontal property regime, a property's article is divided into several independent units.
According to the Portuguese Civil Code, each independent unit is distinct and isolated from others, with its own exit to a common part of the building or to a public road.
Although each fraction is separately registered and owned, it is part of a unitary structure in which there are areas common to all owners. Basically, there are two horizontal property rights:
Individual ownership rights, which constitutes your rights as the owner of your apartment;
Co-ownership rights, which concerns the rights of all residents to the common parts of the building.
- Common areas of a building
A horizontal property includes privately-owned spaces (independent fractions) as well as common areas with shared ownership.
The common areas of a building include:
Soil, foundations, columns, pillars, load-bearing walls and all parts that constitute the structure of the building;
The building's facade;
Roof/roof terraces (even if there are specific areas intended for the exclusive use of one or more fractions);
General installations of water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, gas, communications and similar utility installations;
Entrances, vestibules, stairways and corridors that allow a common passageway to two or more joint owners;
Communal leisure areas, such as gardens, pools, children’s playgrounds, fitness rooms/areas, terraces, etc;
Communal parking spaces;
In some situations, these areas may not be shared but have exclusive rights of usage by a specific fraction in the building’s constitutive title.
“It is important to know which areas of the building are common and which belong to a specific unit, as this impacts maintenance costs, shared management responsibility as well as the overall value of your property.”
- Permilage value of each fraction
Each unit in a building has a specific value, expressed as permilage, which is a percentage or fraction of the total value of the global building.
This value, established in the horizontal property’s constitutive title, is used to calculate the unit's share of condominium fees. These expenses are necessary for general maintenance and use of the common parts of the building, as well as payment of common services such as water, electricity, elevators, cleaning, etc.
- Fraction areas
For the Portuguese Tax Administration, the total area of a fraction of a building includes:
the residential area of the fraction (private gross area);
and areas destined for other purposes, such as storage, parking/garages, etc. (dependent gross area).
Both of these areas are used to calculate the taxable patrimonial value.
In the same manner, the permilage of an autonomous fraction includes its residential area, as well as other elements commonly identified as major components of quality and comfort, including common parts of exclusive use (for example, private garage or parking space, storage, pool, terraces, roof-top terraces, etc.).
General rules of cohabitation
Other important information included in condominium regulations in Portugal covers cohabitation rules between the apartment owners:
Noise - Each apartment owner is allowed to make (tolerable) noise in his home until 10 p.m. (during working days) and until midnight (at weekends). In the case of construction works, the noise is limited to the period between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. on weekdays. Whenever a unit-holder feels aggrieved by noise outside this period and cannot reach an agreement, he/she can complain to the authorities.
Animals - It is also important to check the regulations of your condominium regarding the presence of animals. If the regulation prohibits animals from entering the building, it must be displayed on the property and cannot be retroactively changed.
Condominium fees - These payments, due by all residents/owners, are used to fund necessary expenses with the building's management and maintenance. For example, lift maintenance, cleaning of common areas, and security, among other costs involved in maintaining the quality of the building's common areas. Condominium fees are paid according to the value of each fraction permilage (except if agreed differently between owners). It is the condominium assembly’s responsibility to decide how and when the condominium fees are due. These can be paid monthly, quarterly or half-yearly, by deposit or bank transfer. It is also the condominium assembly’s responsibility to determine the building’s annual budget and analyse its accounts. If a unit-holder does not pay their condominium fee within the deadline agreed upon, there are penalties. To avoid such situations, there is specific legislation that simplifies the debt collection process. Legal action to collect debts owed to the condominium is dealt with through Portuguese courts.
Condominium bank account - This option is popular among building managers in a horizontal property regime. Among its benefits, a common bank account makes it easier to manage the funds necessary to carry out regular maintenance works in common parts of the building.
Condominium insurance - Fire insurance in a building is mandatory in Portugal, both for private units and in communal areas. To facilitate the process (and also because it allows a greater range of coverage, for a lower cost), most condominiums in Portugal opt for a collective insurance policy, with a multi-risk coverage which simultaneously safeguards all the common parts and each of the units in the condominium.
Construction work in condominiums
Construction work is one of the most discussed issues in condominiums. Here, you should consider the difference between two types of building work:
Construction work in common areas: these works are considered mandatory and include conservation, maintenance or improvement works to the building. In the case of works in communal areas, these must be approved by at least two-thirds of the building owners (in urgent cases, the building administrator or unit owner can order these works). Construction work should always be done every 8 years, or whenever necessary, in order to safeguard the proper state of conservation of the building. Works in common parts of the building are paid by each owner according to their quotas, and all are responsible for its maintenance. If a unit owner disagrees with the renovation works, he/she can go to court to be exempted from the payment (only a court can exempt a unit owner from this payment).
Construction work in individual units: these works are the responsibility of each unit owner. Before starting any type of construction work, the unit owner must notify the building manager of the works and inform their expected duration. As these works may affect the rights of other owners/residents in the building, they must also comply with noise laws in Portugal. Owners should carry out the work within the hours permitted by law (from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays) and strive to disturb the other tenants as little as possible. If these works involve altering the architectural or aesthetic design of the building, the condominium assembly must also have the approval of 2/3 of the votes of joint unit-holders. In the case of the work carried out in private building units, the owner is obviously responsible for all costs involved.
As you can see, for everything to run smoothly in a horizontal property regime, there is an important job to be done by both the unit-holders and the building manager. In addition, so that all matters are unanimously decided and all owners are aware of the problems and needs of the property, it is essential to attend condominium meetings, which will help you clarify any doubts and make decisions aimed at the common good of all residents.
"If you are absent from Portugal or do not want to be present, you can appoint someone to represent you in condominium meetings. This can be a relative, a neighbour, a property management company or the building administrator himself.”
Author: Tânia Leal - Simple Life Home Pack Specialist (Logistic Support), at Leisure Launch Property Group