As an apartment owner, you are part of a homeowners' association. This meets regularly to discuss various projects and running costs around the common property. What can be discussed and decided in the owners' meeting, what formalities must be observed and what you should also know, we explain in the following paragraphs.
What the owners' meeting is about
The German Condominium Act (Wohnungseigentumsgesetz, WEG) and § 24 and 25 respectively stipulate that all owners of a property must meet at least once a year in order to clarify important decisions relating to the common property. This includes issues relating to the maintenance and repair of jointly used areas, but also decisions on work to be carried out on the apartments themselves, such as painting the facade or renovating the balconies. In addition, the house rules, rights of use and other topics relating to communal living can be topics of the owners' meeting. In addition, the manager presents the annual statement of accounts for property management and other measures, and prepares a business plan for the coming accounting year, which shows what expenses each owner can expect to incur.
Good to know: Each owner has the opportunity to introduce his or her own topics and wishes, on which the owners' meeting can vote.
How often does an owner's meeting take place?
According to the Condominium Act, a meeting must be held once a year. According to this law, the manager also has the duty to call a so-called extraordinary owners' meeting if at least a quarter of the owners request it – this is what the minority right prescribes. The community is free to set a lower threshold in the declaration of division or in the community rules, for example, that already one fifth or one sixth is enough to call a meeting. Reasons for an extraordinary owners' meeting can be, for example, repairs that are necessary at short notice or the levying of a special charge. If the manager himself and/or his activities are the reason for an extraordinary owners' meeting – for example, because he is not fulfilling his duties and is to be dismissed – an owners' meeting can be convened without a manager. This follows the same rules as a meeting organized by the administrator.
Things to know about the invitation and the deadline
An invitation period of two weeks applies to the convening of an owners' meeting, unless the community has specified a different period in the management agreement or another official document. The administrator is obliged to issue a textual invitation which, in addition to the place, date and time of the meeting, above all contains all the items on the agenda. This ensures that every owner has sufficient time to prepare for the meeting and individual topics.
Worth knowing: "Textual" as opposed to "written" means that the invitation is valid even without a manual signature of the administrator. This means that an invitation can also be sent by fax or e-mail, whereby it must be ensured that all owners listed in the land register at the time of the invitation are invited by name.
If you are unable or do not wish to attend the owners' meeting yourself, you can send a representative with voting rights by proxy. It is also customary to assign the right to vote to another co-owner or the administrator by proxy. By the way, there is no obligation to be present at the owners' meeting: If you simply do not appear and do not issue a power of attorney to any other person, your vote simply lapses.
Voting rights and quorum at the owners' meeting
If it comes to the tuning of one or several points, the head principle seizes with each decision by law. This means that each owner (or his representative) has one vote and each vote is given equal weight. Alternatives to the distribution and weighting of votes are the value principle, in which the votes are distributed according to the co-ownership shares entered in the land register, or the object principle, in which the votes are distributed according to the number of residential units. Thus, if an owner owns the largest or several apartments on a pro rata basis, he or she would be entitled to more votes than owners of a small or only a single apartment.
In order for an owners' meeting to have a quorum – i.e. for decisions to be binding on all owners – the WEG stipulates that at least as many owners must be present as is necessary to reach 50 percent of the co-ownership shares. Theoretically, it is possible that a decision is made by less than half of the owners. In practice, however, other agreements can be made in the community rules. For example, that at least half of the owners must be present for a decision to be made.
The minutes of the owners' meeting
According to the WEG, the administrator is obliged to draw up the minutes of the owners' meeting. All owners usually receive these, including all other important documents relating to any resolutions, a few days or weeks after the meeting – however, there is no legal deadline or obligation for the manager to hand them out. However, resolutions recorded in the minutes (even if they contain errors) are permanently valid after one month, which is why you as the owner should always request to view them or have them sent to you in good time. If you wish to contest a recorded resolution of the owners' meeting, you have a one-month statutory period for contesting it.
The following items should be documented in the minutes of an owners' association:
- Place, date and time of the meeting
- Determination of the proper invitation, the members present and represented and the shares as well as the quorum
- All of the agenda items and a brief outline of the discussion that took place on them
- Voting results with number of votes in favor, votes against and votes included
- Signatures of the administrator, the chairman of the advisory board and an apartment owner
Good to know: If discussions and arguments on the individual points are documented, it is a progress report. Since it can quickly happen, especially in heated discussions, that the minute-taker does not exactly grasp all the arguments, it is worthwhile here to explicitly point out important statements again at the end of an item on the agenda. In a simpler resolution protocol, only the voting results per agenda item are recorded.