There’s a lot to be said for living in a ‘community of owners’. Communal costs are shared so you get to enjoy facilities like gardens, pools, and tennis courts for a fraction of the cost. But at times like this, when the economic going gets tough, many we spoke to at the last forum told us that their most pressing issue was the shortfall in community fees.

The number of homeowners in arrears on their community fees rose 31% last year, according to new research from the Professional College of Property Administrators in Madrid. That means bigger bills for those who do pay.

In fact the value of unpaid community fees rose to 1.3 billion Euros by the end of 2012, up from 1 billion a year earlier.  The outlook for 2013 doesn’t look any better. “There are no signs to expect any change in the trend, which means the total debt will rise to 1.6 billion euros at the end of this year,” says Muñoz, Director of the College.

Increasing non-payments are not the only problem that community administrators face.
Community members that do pay their bills are taking longer than ever to do so,
with the average payment time up to between 90 and 180 days. That makes it
difficult for communities to pay their bills on time.

“These figures are a direct consequence of the economic situation, whose deterioration appears to have no end, which will only make the bad debts problem worse,” said
Muñoz.  Many communities have already reduced their budgets for 2013, whilst maintaining or raising community fees to cover the increasing level of bad debts. Owners who do pay the community fee end up paying for those who don’t.  22% of
owners in arrears are classified as “professional non-payers” – a cynical group
with a history of non-payment who are taking advantage of the situation and a further 12% of those in arrears are banks and developers.

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