Housing Community – How to Lower Monthly Fees
Many people in Spain live in a housing community and pay a monthly fee for shared services. We’ve taken a look at ways to reduce expenditure, get debtors to pay and other measures that could lead to lower costs for all members.
Unfortunately in most housing communities no effort is made to try and reduce outgoings as no one wants to take responsibility. Many service contracts are renewed with the same company year after year as neither the Administrators, nor the Community President, take the time to carry out a simple market survey and price comparison.
We’ve highlighted six ways to check if your housing community could save money. Most of these suggestions won’t take long to check or sort out and the savings will benefit everyone.
Get Debtors To Pay
Due to the recession many people have been unable to pay their monthly community fees, but some more unscrupulous neighbours will use non-payment as a tactic to protest when they’re not happy with a decision taken by the majority.
Unpaid fees soon add up and can lead to some communities not being able to meet their monthly or yearly payment obligations. If gentle persuasion hasn’t worked, it’s probably time to take further action.
Initially the debtor must be sent an official communication regarding their debt (by Burofax) and then if nothing happens it’s necessary to take it to court. This needn’t be expensive – if the debt is under 2000€ only a verbal hearing is necessary and no lawyer is required. A template for verbal hearings can be requested from your local courthouse.
Remember that debtors can attend meetings but they have no right to vote.
Get a Regional Grant
Grants vary from region to region and year to year, but it’s always a good idea to check them out. For example, in Andalucia in 2014 housing communities can get grants for:
- Changing the interior and exterior lighting
- Improving the energy efficiency of lifts
- Renewal of water pumps
- Installation of micro cogeneration (micro-CHP) systems to produce electricity and heat
Without a central online information system your Administrator would have to check locally regarding what’s available in your region.
Is Insurance Necessary?
Depending on where you live in Spain, insurance for housing communities could be mandatory. Even when it’s optional it often makes sense to contract a general policy to cover damages.
The market for insurance has changed considerably over the last few years and several companies offer specific policies such as Mapfre, Ocaso or Santa Lucía. Online comparison sites don’t tend to include housing community insurance, so it might be necessary to carry out an online search by company, then compare rates and coverage with the existing policy.
Consider Changing Cleaning Contractor
This is an area that often causes arguments in housing communities, some would like less areas cleaned to save money or even that every neighbour takes their turn to clean! Of course, the latter solution hardly ever works out well and it’s less hassle to pay a cleaning company that comes with specialist personnel, their own materials and tools and that will substitute personnel during holidays or to cover sick leave.
If your community has been using the same company for some time, it’s a good idea to get a few price quotes from local companies and compare them. Remember that the cleaning company is responsible for having their employees legally employed and insured, so if you see any major differences in price quotes, dig deeper to see why this could be.
What About Maintenance Contracts?
Whether for lifts, swimming pools or gardens, most communities have some installations that will require periodic maintenance. Regular maintenance, although considered an expense, will avoid any major repairs that can lead to additional monthly payments. These additional payments are termed “derramas” and are often the cause of problems in many housing community meetings.
Reduce Electricity Bills
First of all check if a cheaper tariff could be found with the same, or another, energy supplier. Then consider the cost of changing to energy efficient light bulbs, as these would lower consumption and bills. Additional measures to consider include the installation of timers and / or motion sensors, neither of which are costly.
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