Buying an apartment in Germany is an experience all in itself. Once the contract is signed, there’s an extra special perk: membership in the German home owner’s association for your particular building. You might know it as the “body corporate”, “condominium corporation”, “strata council” or “commonhold” in other countries. Once you’ve bought an apartment in Germany, you’ll come to know it fondly as the “WEG”, that is, the “Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft”. So… what exactly will you be getting yourself into? How does it work? And will you ever get out alive?
The Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft is made up of all the owners of units in a residential building and handles the administration of the building. Administration includes things like repairs, renovations, and maintenance to common parts of the building – lawns, facades, load-bearing walls, roofing, etc., as well as financial matters: the housing allowance (Hausgeld), the maintenance reserve and how this gets spent.
Membership comes with the sale of the property and is not separable – this means you can’t avoid being a member. Most WEGs elect an administrator to coordinate the maintenance, getting quotes, meetings etc, and then they meet at least once a year at the Annual General Meeting (the Wohnungseigentümerversammlung).
What can I expect at an annual general meeting (Wohnungseigentümerversammlung)?
Formalities, formalities, formalities. These typically include:
- Reminding you that the administrator did everything right in calling the meeting and sending you all information in advance, including budget reports, plans, quotes, agenda.
- Accepting the agenda as it currently stands.
- Commercial and technical reports from the administration – information about things that affected the financial status of the building, maintenance work that was carried out, resolutions that were implemented, etc.
- The annual statement from the previous calendar year
- Approval of the annual statement from two calendar years ago
- The economic plan for the coming calendar year
- Any other topics for which resolutions must be passed.
- Miscellaneous: general discussion about concerns
Do I have to go to the meetings?
No, but you probably should. Your association can make resolutions about the building if more than half the owners are present, and the resolutions they make without you might affect you or cost you money. If you can’t make it but still want to vote, you can also get someone to represent you. If not enough people show up on the day to allow the group to pass resolutions, the administrator has to cancel the meeting and call a new one. If it’s unbearable and you want out, you could talk to a lawyer specialized in apartment ownership law for some sort of tricky loophole, or sell your property and pass on the rights and responsibilities to your legal successor.
I don’t speak German. How am I supposed to vote?
Take a translator. OK, technically, an interpreter. Send Red Tape Translation the agenda points and I’ll come along, sit behind you, and interpret simultaneously (whisper). It’s a special type of interpreting that involves advance preparation, so get in touch for a quote.