A tenant’s obligation to pay communal charges

The management committee of a building complex is normally responsible to impose communal charges to the owners of the units, apartments, shops, offices or houses. The owner is under a legal duty to pay the communal charges and these are transferable to his tenant if the correct procedure is followed.

In the event he rents his premises, he 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 always remains accountable.

When the tenant fails to pay either the rent or the communal charges or violates any other of his contractual obligations, the owner is entitled to claim any amount in arrear 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 obtains jurisdiction on any matter related to the agreement. The issue concerning the payment of rents in arrear, 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, expired or not, is entitled to the benefits under it, provided the terms of the said tenancy agreement are consistent with the provisions of the law.

Therefore, the owner-and-tenant relations are still governed by the tenancy agreement despite its expiration. Moreover, according to the law, the rents or communal charges in arrear are considered an incidental or supplementary matter which lies in the jurisdiction of the Court. The issue concerning the payment of communal charges by a statutory tenant was recently dealt by the Court, whereby it was decided that the claim was one of special damages the landlord had to prove strictly.

The facts at issue were (a) whether the tenant was bound to pay for the communal and sewage charges and (b) the extent of such charges. A term was included in the tenancy agreement imposing an obligation upon the tenant to undertake the supply of water and electricity and the payment of the relevant charges. Moreover, the tenant had to register the utility bills into his name, including the payment of the refuse, communal and drain-cleaning charges. The Court, interpreting the aforesaid term, held that the tenant accepted to pay the owner the communal charges for the rented premises. In addition, examining the phrase “cleaning of drains”, it decided that in no event the aforesaid term imposed such a duty to the tenant. Therefore, the landlord failed to prove this claim for the payment of the sewage charges of the premises.

With regard to the amount of the communal charges, the landlord submitted only a receipt which was issued by the management committee and he relied on it. The receipt was for the amount of €3.157,57 and the owner claimed it as communal charges. It concerned the period from 1.7.2009 until 31.7.2009, a charge for €39,44 as communal charges and the other amount was for other charges such as general repairs, insurance cover, including interest added by the owner. The owner omitted to produce admissible evidence and a break-down of the various amounts included in the receipt, as well as how the communal charges for the premises were calculated. He only submitted the receipt as evidence resulting from the search and calculations of third parties who never appeared as witnesses.

Therefore, the Court considered the evidence as hearsay and the landlord’s claim for communal charges failed with costs.

About the author

George Coucounis

George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus. Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.

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