Living in a condominium? Your voice is important

The Planning Authority approved a whopping 84,836 flats, apartments, and penthouses for construction over a 15-year period. As the number of people living in flats continues to rise in a nation experiencing rapidly changing demographics, the government has published a White Paper and is inviting public input on proposed changes to the Condominium Act.

Disputes with neighbours are as old as the concept of people living in settlements and ditching the nomad lifestyle. Many will agree that there’s nothing quite as stressful.

A significant number of you reading this call a block of flats home. Not only do you have neighbours, but you probably have ultra-nieghbours, living right across you, beneath you, above you, and above the ones above you, in the same building. The number of things that could go wrong in this scenario is pretty daunting, although there are plenty of success stories too, where people become family thanks to the proximity of their homes.

The word “condominium” (or ‘condo’ for short) has become commonplace in Malta since the passage of a law a quarter of a century ago that defined and regulated the ownership and management of complexes of buildings containing a number of individually-owned flats or houses.

The common factor in modern-day living is that no-man’s land – or every man’s land – that is home to issues of cleanliness, insurance, and maintenance, to name a few. In a world that’s always changing, it’s only fair that our rules and regulations evolve too, even when it comes to condominiums.

A (very) brief history

The Condominium Act was enacted in 1997 and was subsequently amended by two legislative acts, in 2001 and 2004. A lot has changed in Malta since then. To name a few obvious changes: the number of people living in flats has increased, as has the cultural diversity within our communities. That’s why the Condominium Act is about to undergo a comprehensive review.

In 2021, a call was made to collect feedback from the public, and the responses further confirmed the need for updating the law. The goal is to bring in fresh legal ideas that match the modern condominium lifestyle and improve the framework that governs condos.

A White Paper is waiting for your feedback

In this light, a White Paper has been published, and the public is being invited to contribute with its input on the proposed changes to the Condominium Act. Within this document, a range of suggestions and observations are presented with the primary objective of enhancing the legal framework that governs condominiums.

WHAT ARE THE PROPOSED CHANGES?

Meet the Condominium Regulator

The first major proposal involves the establishment of a Condominium Regulator. This new regulatory body will be responsible for setting and maintaining the necessary standards in the condominium sector. The Condominium Regulator will create a Register of Administrators, a task that will necessitate the appointment of a dedicated registrar and supporting staff.

A court for condominium issues

A new Tribunal for Condominium Affairs is another critical proposal. This tribunal will be made of legal and technical professionals, and it will ensure the practicality of procedures and remedies, especially in cases of disputes among condominium residents, administrators, and third parties.

Co-owners’ association with legal personality

The third proposal involves establishing a Condominium Owners’ Association without share capital. This Association would be made up of different condominiums endowed with legal personality. This means that the Association will be capable of having legal rights and duties within the legal system.

This change is particularly beneficial for large complexes or condominiums. The legally recognised entity can have a committee of representatives chosen annually during the General Meeting of the condominiums, to act as a connection between the condominiums and the Administrator of the Association.

Distinguishing between administrators

To better address the roles of Administrators, an amendment to the Condominium Act will differentiate between professional service providers and individuals offering Administrator services on a non-professional basis.

Both professional service providers and non-professional providers will have to satisfy a set of criteria to be able to carry out their role.

Mandatory insurance coverage

Another proposed change involves making professional insurance coverage for Administrators and property insurance for common areas mandatory. This is to ensure that common areas are adequately protected, especially in cases involving third parties.

Shaping the rules that impact you

It is not yet clear what would happen should the law be disregarded, and how the law will be enforced.  Regrettably, these proposals have come at a time when the numbr of people living in condos has increased drastically. The Journal has learnt that the Planning Authority approved a whopping 84,836 flats, apartments, and penthouses for construction over a 15-year period.

Of course, it would have been better to set the rules and have people abide by them from the get-go, rather than allow more than two decades to pass by without ensuring that the law is updated at par with the flat living trend.

Having said that, this is definitely a step in the right direction, and the changes in the Condominium Act are all about making life in condos better. The intention is to ensure that residents and those involved in condo management have a say in shaping the rules that impact them.

The process is driven by a commitment to involve everyone in shaping the future of flat or apartment living. If you live in one, you surely have something to say.

The White Paper and details about the submission of feedback can be obtained here.

This period of public consultation is open until the 6th December 2023

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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