When is a general meeting (GM) valid?

The general meeting is valid if, at the start of the meeting, more than half of the owners are present or legally represented and they hold at least half of the shares in the co-ownership. There is an exception to this rule which states that the general meeting can also be valid if, at the start of the meeting, the co-owners who are present or represented hold more than three-quarters of the shares in the common parts.

When is a decision valid?

Every co-owner has a number of votes that corresponds to his shares in the common parts. 
General rule: decisions will be taken with an absolute majority (half of the votes present plus one). Deviations: in order to avoid abusive practice in the case of decisions that extend further than the ordinary preservation of the common good, the legislator has qualified majorities (3/4 majority, 4/5 majority or unanimity). For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that any other stricter majorities – specified in the rules on co-ownership – will not (or no longer) apply.

What is the co-ownership council and what is the task of the auditor of the accounts?

It is obligatory for a co-ownership council (COC) to be set up if there are 20 lots (excluding garages, parking spaces and basements). The co-ownership council has the task of supervising the property administration management. The members of the co-ownership council will be chosen by the general meeting. One or more members will generally take on the task of auditor of the accounts: inspecting the property administrator's accounts and reporting at the annual general meeting. Other members will then take care of the daily management of co-ownership (carrying out minor repairs themselves, following up minor works, etc...). Finally, the Council must submit a half-yearly report on its activities to the other co-owners.

What is the current situation with regard to the compulsory modernisation of lifts?

  • Lifts installed after 01/04/1984: modernisation to be carried out by 31/12/2014 at the latest

  • Lifts installed between 01/01/1958 and 01/04/1984: modernisation to be carried out by 31/12/2016 at the latest

  • Lifts installed before 01/01/1958: modernisation to be carried out by 31/12/2022 at the latest

Therefore owners of older lifts have more time to make them compliant while for more recent lifts, the deadline has either already passed or is fast approaching! The FPS for Economic Affairs may impose severe penalties, after drawing up an official report, if regulations are breached.  

What are "property administration costs"?

The wildest rumours can sometimes circulate regarding "property administration costs". One person may tell you that he has a cheap property administrator and somebody else may claim to have an expensive one, whereas the case may very well be that they pay their property administrators the exact same fee. Why this confusion? In one case, property administration costs may refer to all common expenses whereas in the other case, they may only refer to the property administrator’s fee, which is only one part of the common expenses of "compulsory" co-ownership.

What are voluntary and compulsory co-ownership?

If several people have the right to ownership of an immovable property, property rights are shared. We therefore refer to co-ownership as soon as there are several owners of one and the same property. This co-ownership can be voluntary, for instance if a number of hunters jointly purchase a number of areas of land on which to hunt. This co-ownership can also be "compulsory" if, "by their nature" as it were, certain immovable properties serve the common use for two or more separate immovable properties belonging to different owners, e.g. the common entrance that provides access to various private apartments.

When does the Law on co-ownership apply?

The Law applies whenever a building is subject to the system of compulsory co-ownership (except when exceptional treatment of buildings is justified because of their nature and construction – in this case buildings without any common parts – and when all owners agree to it). As far as classic co-ownerships are concerned, the law applies when:

  • the construction of the building has been completed;

  • it belongs to several natural or legal persons;

  • a co-ownership charter and rules of co-ownership have been drawn up;

  • the rights of ownership of the building are subdivided into several lots that each contain a private built-up part and a share in common immovable parts.

Does the Law on co-ownership apply to movable property?

No, the law on co-ownership only applies to immovable property, i.e. land and buildings.

What is a co-ownership charter?

This is an authentic deed that is drawn up by a civil-law notary, at the request of a person or a company erecting an apartment building or a group of buildings. The construction is divided into private parts (apartment, basement, parking space, garage, etc.) to which a number of shares in the co-ownership are assigned and into common parts (such as the land on which the building has been constructed).  

What are the rules of co-ownership?

These rules regulate everything related to the division of the property, its upkeep, its maintenance and the reconstruction of the building. They also cover the operation of the general meeting and of the co-ownership council (if there is one) and provisions concerning the property administrator (such as his title, competences, the duration of his or her mandate, etc.).
The rules of co-ownership should not be confused with any "house rules" which primarily determine the way in which residents live with each other (e.g. bans on some shops or professions, regulations regarding the construction of terraces, bans on keeping pets, etc.) and which are mostly not established by authentic deed but by private deed.  

What are the articles of association of the building?

Generally, the civil-law notary records one deed incorporating both the co-ownership charter and the rules of co-ownership. These two documents are jointly referred to as the "articles of association of the building". 

What is common and what is private?

The principle is: parts serving one co-owner are private. Parts that are or can be used by everybody are common. The relevant description can be found in the co-ownership charter and/or the rules of co-ownership. If there is any doubt, those parts of the building or the grounds that are intended to be used by all the owners or by some of them are considered as common.

What is the association of co-owners?

The association is legally made up of all the co-owners who jointly form a community that acquires legal personality as soon as three conditions have been met, namely:

  • The law on co-ownership must apply;

  • At least one lot is sold;

  • The co-ownership charter and the rules of co-ownership are transferred to the land and mortgage registry.

The association is given its own name, a (registered) office, an enterprise number and its own capital. It is the association (and not the joint co-owners) that opens a bank account; letters (e.g. from suppliers) are addressed to the association and not to its members, etc..  

What is a general meeting (GM)?

Every co-owner of a lot (apartment, basement, garage, parking space, etc.) is a member of the GM and takes part in discussions. This meeting is therefore made up of co-owners and the property administrator who, referring to one of his legal responsibilities, has the task of taking minutes of the GM's decisions. The statutory GM usually takes place once a year; the modalities of convocation are described in the Law on Co-ownership. The general meeting must set the 15-day period within which the statutory annual meetings will always take place.
This GM discusses all matters of common interest (calculation of the common expenses from the past year of activity, maintenance and/or renovation work, appointment or dismissal of the property administrator, appointment of a co-ownership council, etc.).

In addition to the statutory annual GM, special or extraordinary general meetings can be convened on the initiative of one or more of the co-owners, if the co-owner(s) in question possess(es) at least 20% of the shares in the common parts. If the matter is urgent, the property administrator or Justice of the Peace can also convene an extraordinary GM (or have one convened). The Law on Co-ownership provides strict regulations on this which the property administrator must follow.  

When is a proxy valid?

The Law of 02/06/2010 states that in order to be valid, a proxy

  • must specify the name of the proxy holder (who may or may not be a co-owner!); the choice of representative person is unlimited, regardless of the fact that some previous articles of association still state that a proxy cannot be granted to a tenant; therefore these provisions are to be regarded as non-existent;

  • may be general or specific (in other words, valid for one or more or all of the items on the agenda);

  • is only valid for one general meeting, unless a general or specific notarised proxy is used; therefore a normal proxy cannot be reused for a resumed general meeting if the first meeting is unable to go ahead because there are insufficient people present!

The proxies that can be used effectively during the decision-making process are also regulated by law and can be found in the FAQ section. Therefore it is best for an owner who wishes to represent other owners at a general meeting to start "thinking about things" beforehand in order to avoid difficulties during the general meeting. Being aware of his duties, he should be able to refuse one or more proxies beforehand, knowing that it will not be possible to use them during the meeting. However, proxies that were forwarded to the property administrator or are granted at the meeting and the proxy holders were not aware of them beforehand remain a sticking point. A proposal to change the law submitted should provide more clarity regarding this issue.  

Who determines the language in which general meetings are to be conducted?

The new Law states that any co-owner can obtain a translation, on request, of any document relating to the co-ownership issued by the association of co-owners if the said translation is to be into the language or one of the languages of the language area in which the building is situated. The language in which the general meeting will be conducted and the language in which the "official" minutes will be drawn up will be decided on by the general meeting, at the start of the (first) meeting, with an absolute majority (½ + 1) of the votes. A free or literal translation of these official minutes may be produced by the office of the property administrator; the minutes in the "chosen" language will be regarded as the official minutes. 

Who can chair the general meeting and what are the competencies of the Chairperson?

The Law on co-ownership states that the general meeting must be chaired by a co-owner. Therefore any co-owner present can put himself or herself forward for the position of Chairperson, regardless of the number of shares in the co-ownership held by the co-owner.
Older articles of association sometimes contained rules to be followed if there were no candidates. It was then provided for that in the absence of candidates, the co-owner with the largest number of shares and, in the event of co-owners holding the same number of shares, the oldest person would be elected as the Chairperson.

Today, the Chairperson is elected from the co-owners present at the start of the general meeting, on the decision of the general meeting which requires ½ + 1 of the votes present or represented. Therefore if there are several candidates, a vote will have to be taken.
The tasks of the Chairperson include the following: opening and closing the meeting, maintaining order and discipline during the general meeting, being able to suspend the meeting temporarily, putting items on the agenda, deciding on whether or not to let co-owners take the floor, notifying the co-owners of voting results, etc..

Finally, the Law of 02/06/2010 assigns another important task, namely taking receipt of the complete file from the previous property administrator within 30 days of the end of the property administrator's mandate, in the absence of the newly appointed property administrator.

Why am I always sent an invitation to the GM by registered letter?

The Law on co-ownership states that the meeting shall be convened by registered letter unless the addressees have individually and expressly agreed in writing to receive notice of convocation via another means of communication. Notices of convocation that are sent to the address last known by the property administrator on the date of posting are deemed to be valid.
In other words, unless you have expressly notified the property administrator in writing that you wish to receive your invitation by ordinary post (or e-mail), the property administrator is obliged to send you the documents by registered letter.

Therefore in order to avoid the inconvenience of a registered letter, the best thing to do is to formally notify your property administrator regarding your preference.

Within Syncura, we have developed a tool – our "information sheet" – that gives the co-owner the opportunity to indicate his preferred method of dispatch by simply inserting a tick, thereby notifying the property administrator.  

What if the majorities stipulated in the articles of association are stricter than those in the Law on co-ownership?

One of the positive things that we can take from the Law on co-ownership of 02/06/2010 is that it put an end to discussions regarding the majority rules to be applied.

For old co-ownership charters often contained provisions stipulating, particularly with regard to works on the structure or the stability of the building, that – by way of example – 80% of the owners needed to be present and 80% of those owners needed to agree. This quorum was often not achieved which made things difficult for management.

In the new Law, the phrase "except for stricter provisions in the co-ownership charter" was wisely deleted so that today only ½+1, ¾, 4/5 and unanimity remain.

What should you do with abstentions, blank and/or invalid votes during a vote?

The Law of 02/06/2010 is clear on this matter: decisions by the general meeting shall be taken with an absolute majority of votes cast by the co-owners who are present or represented at the time of voting – unless the Law requires a qualified majority. When calculating the majority required, abstentions and blank and invalid votes will not be regarded as votes cast.

In other words, abstentions and blank and invalid votes will not be counted towards the votes cast for the purpose of determining whether or not the current proposal has achieved the majority required (by law).

Therefore a co-owner should think carefully before casting his or her vote as just a few abstentions can influence the outcome of a vote.

Is unanimity of votes always required for changes to the shares in Co-Ownership?

No; a new provision was included in the Law on co-ownership of 02/06/2010 that makes it possible to change the shareholding composition within the co-ownership, with a majority of 4/5 of the votes. This represents a positive development as it is clear from day-to-day practice that unanimity is very often impossible to achieve.

This can be clarified sufficiently by means of an example:

Let us suppose that an apartment building contains a caretaker's apartment that, over the years, has come to stand empty on account of there being no caretaker. The community is perfectly entitled to rent it out to a third party but it would also be possible for this apartment to be sold and for the proceeds to be used to invest in the building or increase the reserve capital. However, the problem is that no shares in the co-ownership are allocated to that apartment, shares that form the basis for sharing costs and having a say in the management of the co-ownership.

Therefore the general meeting is perfectly entitled to decide to sell the caretaker's apartment, with a majority of 4/5 of the votes present or represented and, with the same majority, to arrange for the necessary change to be made to the shareholding composition.

What if co-owners leave the room during the meeting?

As a rule(*), it has applied and still does apply that the composition of the general meeting is only valid if more than half of the co-owners are present or represented and insofar as they possess at least half of the shares in the common parts. However, the Law of 02/06/2010 added a new provision, namely that these two conditions (only) need to be met at the start of the general meeting.

Therefore co-owners who leave the meeting for various reasons (family, professional or – more commonly – due to dissatisfaction with progress during the general meeting) cannot boycott the (further) decision-making process at the current general meeting. The property administrator will simply record the departure of one (or more) owner(s) and reduce the number of votes to the co-owners still present or represented at that time.

(*): There is an exception to this rule in the form of the new statutory provision stating that the general meeting can also be valid if, at the start of the general meeting, the co-owners who are present or represented represent more than three-quarters of the shares in the common parts. Therefore the number of co-owners present or represented will then no longer be important.

Can the costs of the resumed general meeting be passed on to the persons not present at the first meeting?

The answer is clearly no. The extra costs of a second resumed general meeting are to be charged to all the co-owners, according to their respective shares in the co-ownership (or according to a different distribution key in the articles of association).

For there are many reasons why someone may not be able to attend a general meeting including work, private appointments, illness, leave, time spent abroad, etc..

It is the fundamental right of every co-owner to decide whether or not to attend the general meeting; it is a right that cannot be encumbered with a financial sanction involving the charging of extra costs for a resumed general meeting.

What must the minutes of a general meeting contain?

The Law of 02/06/2010 states that the property administrator will draw up the minutes of the decisions made by the general meeting, specifying the majorities achieved and the name of the co-owners who voted against the resolution or abstained.

It is logical that decisions that are legally relevant have to be included in the minutes. It is therefore not necessary for every intervention by any co-owner to be recorded in the minutes.

In order to safeguard the rights of co-owners, it is essential for the names of the co-owners who abstained or voted against the resolution to be mentioned "by name" as only these owners have the interest required in order to be able to challenge these decisions made by the general meeting before the Justice of the Peace later on.

In addition, the minutes should at least contain the following: the observation that the composition of the general meeting is valid, the name of the elected Chairperson and secretary and reports on the various items on the agenda, specifying the voting results for each item, the majorities achieved and the decisions made.

At the end of the meeting, these minutes will be signed by the Chairperson, by the secretary appointed when the meeting was opened and by all co-owners or their proxy holders still present at that time.

A number of co-owners have left the general meeting early on several occasions: you can read about the fact that this does not affect the validity of the general meeting in the FAQ section under "What if co-owners leave the room during a meeting?".

What if a number of people fail to turn up to the scheduled GM?

In the "FAQ" section, we point out the two conditions (at the start of the general meeting) that must be met in order for a meeting to be valid (and naturally as long as all other statutory form requirements have been met).

According to the law, if these two conditions are not met, a second general meeting shall be convened, after the expiry of a period of at least fifteen days, that shall deliberate regardless of the number of members present or represented and shares that they hold in the co-ownership.

What that means in practice:

  • A clause in the notice of convocation stating that a second meeting will be held, e.g. one hour after the start date of the scheduled (first) general meeting, will therefore be invalid;

  • All decisions made at that "first" general meeting will be null and void!;

Therefore the notice of convocation for the second general meeting cannot be sent out until it has been established that the first general meeting has not been able to go ahead;

However, there is no reason why the persons present cannot fix the date for the new general meeting by means of mutual consultation.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that a proxy granted is only valid for one general meeting and therefore the principal will have to sign a new proxy for the new general meeting.

You can read about whether the persons not present will have to pay for the extra costs of this new general meeting, if appropriate, under "FAQ".  

How or where can a co-owner view the documents relating to the items on the agenda for a general meeting?

The law states that the letter of invitation to the general meeting needs to contain further rules regarding the way in which the documents linked to certain points on the agenda can be viewed. Within Syncura, the arrangement is that these documents can be viewed at the office of the property administrator during office hours and only by appointment.

A Justice of the Peace from St Truiden was recently required to pass judgement on a complaint made by a co-owner who invoked the invalidity of the general meeting because the relevant documents had not been enclosed with the invitation and neither could they be accessed via the Internet. In this file, the property administrator, in the notice of convocation, had also referred to the possibility to inspect documents at his office.

The Justice of the Peace deemed – quite rightly – that the property administrator had satisfied the statutory inspection requirement by allowing documents to be viewed at his office. In addition, the plaintiff was unable to show that he had been refused that right of inspection or prevented from inspecting the documents in practice.

What happens to the lift if there is a power outage?

Following recent reports in the media regarding possible future power outages announced, we wish to inform you regarding the use of your lift installation(s) in the event of a power outage. For all information regarding possible power outages, go to www.offon.be or download the "Elia4cast" app. Remember: the 4 colours on the indicator – green, orange, red and black – correspond to four different risk levels.

Green: normal situation: there is sufficient power available for normal consumption. There is no cause for concern!

Orange: risk of power shortage: there is a risk of insufficient power being available for normal consumption. Everyone should reduce their consumption, especially during the peak period (in principle between 17.00 and 20.00 hours) in order to avoid interruption!

Red: Risk of interruption

Black: Interruption announced!

Just like any other electrical device, a lift needs power and it will stop as soon as there is a power outage, regardless of its location at the time!

Therefore there is a real risk of lift users getting stuck in the lift. Thanks to direct communication (via the emergency telephone), users will still be able to contact the maintenance company although this means of communication may also be affected or lost over time. In addition, these services will probably be inundated with calls so that a person who is stuck will need to be extremely patient.

Therefore do not use the lift if the indicator is black!

After a power outage, the lift will normally start working again automatically. As a precaution and in order to verify that the lift is working properly, it is recommended for the lift to be sent to another floor "empty" first of all. In case of problems, contact your file manager or, in cases of extreme urgency, call the Syncura emergency helpline on 0490/57 66 57.

Other useful addresses/links/telephone numbers:

0800 120 33