Bill aims to protect multi-unit owners


Home owners who live in apartment blocks or in small housing estates will gain substantial improvements in their legal protection as a result of new legislation that has been published today.

The Multi-Unit Developments Bill was announced at a press conference by the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and the Minister for Environment John Gormley at Government Buildings this afternoon.

The legislation will primarily tackle the situation where developers have dragged their heels in handing over common areas of the complexes to the owners collectively. And in some cases, owners have had limited, or no proper, say in the property management companies that manage apartment blocks or estates.

The Government had said it recognises that the current law is inadequate in dealing with these new types of development, which have only become popular in the past two decades. The reforms are based on the recommendations of the Law Reform commission.

The main feature of the legislation is that it will now require ownership of the common areas to be transferred to the property management company before any apartment is sold, and not at the end of the process. This will prevent practices where developers held onto a few apartments or units to retain control of the management company.

Another new requirement will be a minimum contribution of €200 per unit for a sinking fund to meet any large and non-regular costs. The sinking fund makes the financial aspects of maintaining an estate smoother and easier, said Mr Ahern yesterday.

The third major feature of the legislation is an emphasis on mediation to resolve any dispute over service charges or other costs.

¿Many people who have purchased apartments may not have fully realised the type of ownership arrangement into which they were entering and the responsibilities involved,¿ said Mr Ahern.

¿In some cases, developers have been slow to transfer ownership of the common areas to the property management company and these delays have caused frustration,¿ he added.

Mr Gormley said: ¿In June 2008, I launched the Law Reform commission¿s Report on Multi-Unit Developments and I am very pleased that this Government has been able to make such significant progress in meeting the time frame we set ourselves a year ago.¿

The new standards will apply to both completed developments and to those under construction. Conceivably, they can be applied to complexes built 20 years ago, where the status of the property management company is unsatisfactory. Multi-unit envisages five units or more, but the legislation also provides for buildings where there are as few as two units.