Condominiums and new technologies
New technologies are rarely used to manage or make decisions within condominiums. They are only mentioned as a way to call or to attend the condominium meetings in the Catalan civil law, but are not mandated by condominium law for the rest of Spain. Most respondents in the 2017 survey state they desire more technologies to run their condominituns, hi particular, they seek to be able to view the statement of accounts (46.1%);30 to register incidents (43.5%); to raise complaints and doubts (40%); to obtain the minutes and allow digital opposition to the agreements (37.2%);31 to be electronically summoned to the meetings (29.9%);32 to attend meetings (21%)33 by electronic means; to submit expert video reports (14%); or to book conununity spaces electronically (7.3%). A draft project to reform the Ley de Propiedad Horizontal (LPH) prepared by CGCAFE in 2020 follows the steps of the Catalan Civil Code (CCC) in these and other aspects.34
Challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030
Universal accessibility35 (for the elderly or the disabled) to a home should be considered an essential and indispensable requirement for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Inclusive Cities and Communities), which consists of making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Thus, it should be treated as a priority in governments’ agendas. However, two reports authored by the UNESCO Housing Chair URV in 201836 revealed that this is far from a reality in, at least, Spain, Germany and Sweden. Although the details of this research are explained extensively elsewhere,37 its two main findings are (1) in Spain, only 0.6% of those surveyed (equivalent to 58,888 dwellings) declare that their condominium is universally accessible. Germany and Sweden are not much better in this regard: only 1.5% of multi-family buildings in Germany and 2.5% of those in Sweden are universally accessible. (2) In each of the three countries, there are some mechanisms to improve accessibility: in Spam, the elderly and people with
New challenges to Spanish condominiums 165 disabilities can unilaterally force the condominium to undertake accommodation work, although this is not widely known by those that could benefit, and it has cost limitations (art. 10.1 LPH); in Sweden, there is an extensive public aid program for rehabilitation; and Germany's constitution expressly provides for the prohibition of discrimination based on disability. These mechanisms, however, are wholly insufficient to facilitate the widespread adoption of accessibility standards. It can be concluded that condominium buildings are far from reaching universal accessibility in Spam as well as in other European countries, revealing that the challenge of universal accessibility to housing has a European dimension and should be an urgent pari of the UN agenda.
In terms of energy efficiency, the European Union has a 2030 climate and energy framework (established by the European Council in 2014), which includes as a key target for that year at least a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency (revised upwards in 2018 from the original target of 27%). Given that the European Council conclusions on the 2011 Energy Efficiency Plan stressed that commercial and residential buildings represent 40% of the EU's final energy consumption and that in 2017, 41.9% of people within the EU lived in apartments, condominiums are expected to play a significant role in achieving this target, as it is expressly stated in art. 19(l)(a) of EU Directive 2012/27/EU.
Despite this, several banders have been identified in some EU member states,38 which are related to grey areas in the legal structure of apartment ownership (e.g., an inexistent or weak homeowners’ association or community), including a high percentage majority required hi decision-making processes, the lack of legal status of the homeowner association, energy performance certificates (EPC) produced only at the unit level, lack of technical knowledge/skills of co-owners, and a lack of flexibility in lease contracts that would allow tenants/landlords to align incentives.
Some aspects of the Spanish condominium legal framework are barriers to overcoming these challenges too, in a context in which only 7% of housing stock was built in line with the energy saving requirements established in the Building Technical Code (CTE) 2006.39 For example, Spanish LPH requires 60% of the votes and shares (art. 17.3 LPH), while Catalan law requires only a simple majority (51%) of the votes and shares represented by the people who attend (553-25 CCC). Thus, proposals to introduce energy efficient upgrades fail because the requirement to pass is too high and apathy, coupled with a lack of resources, often precludes many well-intentioned proposals, hi addition, although a reserve fund exists in every condominium (art. 9.1 .f LPH) to which every owner must contribute in proportion to their share, the amount accumulated is usually not enough for improvements. Indeed, the reserve fund amount is often barely enough to keep the condominium running. While bank loans are available to finance energy improvements (art. 9.5 RDL 7/2015), their efficacy is constrained due to the lack of legal status of condominiums where owners are personally and jointly liable for the debt. Whereas if condominiums were considered legal entities (i.e., corporations), they would have their own patrimony providing a clearer lending situation for banks and condominiums would be able to fund upgrades through loans (i.e., limited liability) without risks to owners’ assets.
However, some progress has been made to date regarding these challenges. For example, plugs for electric cars are incentivized (art. 17.5 LPH), as owners can unilaterally install one in parking spaces even if this alters common elements, with the single requirement of giving notice to the condominium management body. Additionally, since 2013 (RD 235/2013), it is compulsory to provide the energy certificate of the unit to a prospective buyer or tenant; if it is not delivered, the seller or the landlord can be fined. And finally, the State Housing Plan 2018— 2021 specifies that condominiums built earlier than 1996, and those with more than 50% of residential units, can apply for public subsidies to improve energy efficiency. There is a limitation of €8,000 per dwelling, not exceeding 40% of the cost of planned works. The subsidy should lead to energy improvements up to 35%. Regions and local governments of Spam may also increase these subsidies in the future.