- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 13, 2002 

Self-sustained Living: Building managers meet to discuss concepts of condominium life

Kamo Khachatryan: "Decision and initiative should come from the residents.About 150 representatives of multi apartment building management attended a Conference Wednesday (December 11) at Hotel Armenia to learn about the requirements of the new Apartment Building Management Law and to ask questions and discuss issues about the law.

Condominiums, functioning effectively in the western world and offering services such as pools, gyms and parking, are far from being established so far in Armenia (See related story: Rain Buckets and Sky Lights).

The concept of multi-apartment management emerged in Armenia in 1997. The recently revised Law on Multi Apartment Building Management (June, 2002) allows residents of the residential buildings to form a mini government to take care of the infrastructure of their building, its nearby land and property (entries, lighting, elevator, roofs).

Representatives from the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Justice and Yerevan Municipality presented the new requirements and related it to apartment building management.

"Apartments and the building itself belong to the residents of that building, and they are solely responsible for this property," said Kamo Khachatryan, from the Ministry of Urban Development.

"The government may facilitate some of their operation, but the decisions and initiative should come from the residents themselves," Khachatryan added.

The need to transfer from "all-government-care" of former Soviet management to "your-own-headache" concept of condominiums does not seem clear yet. Some of the organizational and legal framework has yet to be delivered to the management of the multi apartment buildings and residents in general.

The apartment building management representatives were largely concerned with the legal aspect of their operation, particularly the rights to appeal the municipality's decision to allow entrepreneurship on the apartment building site without consulting with the residents. "Some of the residents significantly changed the interface of the building by opening up commercial activity in the first floor, or basement", said Gevorg Malkhasyan, Deputy Minister of Justice.

Malkhasyan explained the condominiums may legally appeal the municipality's decisions and act as a legal entity in pursuing the rights and interests of the building's residents.

About 150 met to discuss condo lawThe residents of the building will give their permission to place advertisement placards or written ads on the building's walls, and charge for it. To start commercial activity or change the interface of the building the entrepreneur will have to get at least 51 percent approval votes of the residential building depending on the type of project. Otherwise, the court may find the entrepreneur's action illegal and demand reimbursement.

According to Malkhasyan, if a resident received permission to dig up the basement of the floor for his personal activity, business or otherwise, the apartment building governing board has a legal right to appeal this action and demand reimbursement of the cost for fixing the damage.

The idea to take care of the building with its own resources may not seem appealing to many residents. Some condominiums' heads expressed concerns about the financial sustainability and effectiveness of the new form of management considering the large number of low-income families residing in the buildings.

"This was our major concern when we were drafting the law," says Malkhasyan. "That is why we minimized the mandatory responsibilities of the management type, so that their responsibilities matched with their financial capacities."

The mandatory powers defined in the Law included sanitary, fire and construction norms that must be met by the apartment management bodies.

The sources of funding of the condominium's operation is to be received from residents, as service fee. The service fee is calculated based on the cost of the building, minus depreciation, its square meters, and number of residents. Typically it may cost a family 1000 drams (less than $2) a month.

The buildings that do not form their own governance will still be under direct jurisdiction of the local community (municipality). However, this does not automatically mean that cities will take better care of apartment buildings.

According to the procedures of allocation of resources, the Community Council decides on financing each individual building in the budget draft. However, considering the scarce resources of the local budgets, the chances to get funding from municipality to upgrade the building's infrastructure and utility services are very limited.


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