Our Property Management Company has recently started turning off heating in communal areas

December 2013

Question

We are living in a ground-floor apartment in Dublin 4. While the building was built within the past six years, with the cold weather approaching our heating bills have increased while the apartment still feels cold.

We recently noticed that the property management company has turned off the heating to the communal areas to reduce their bills. However, as the internal walls of our apartment are uninsulated our heating is essentially leaking out leaving us with a cold apartment and high energy bills.

Is it legal for the property management company to turn off heating like this? As the building was designed to have these areas heated we cannot heat our home to any bearable living standard.

Answer

The Lessor/Owners’ Management Company (OMC) covenants are noted in the lease agreement binding it to its members. You will be able to ascertain the specific obligations the OMC has to you and your fellow members in this section which will then permit you to clarify whether or not a breach of contract occurred. The OMC’s contractual obligations to deliver such services are almost always subject to the service charge being paid.

The plaster board in your apartment is yours and the space and structure of the building thereafter is the common area and the property of the OMC. There are many options to consider regarding the improvement of heat retention in residential properties. One option you have as an apartment owner is to increase the depth of the plaster board in your property which in turn will improve the heat retention but you will have a lower ceiling and less internal floor area if you do this.

Another downside to this choice is that you will need to redecorate. Other costs to consider are the refinishing of sockets, switches, sensors and careful consideration must be given to potentially replacing large furnishings that may no longer fit in any given room. The positive of this remedy is that you may undertake the works with little interference to other OMC members in the process. Another positive to doing this is that the sound transfer to and from other areas of the building, if done correctly, will be reduced.

The Home Renovation Incentive contained in Budget 2014 allows taxpayers to recover 13.5 per cent of qualifying home improvements outlay that exceeds €5,000 — this is capped at €30,000.

SEAI grants are available to buildings constructed before 2006, so unfortunately you do not qualify for those.

Alternatively, the majority of the OMC voting members must agree to the capital investment in the building at a general meeting. It would be worthwhile asking the board of directors of the OMC to place this issue on the general meeting agenda and to be supported with market quotations for improvements prior to making any improvements yourself.