The Law on Building Occupants’ Organisations and their Administrative Committees No. 55 of 2002 aims at managing common areas in buildings and at enabling occupants to resolve disputes related to the use of these common areas. The organisations mentioned in the law are those established by a building’s occupants but they are not obligatory and many buildings do not have them.
Under Law No. 55, an apartment occupant may be the owner, tenant, person with the right of usufruct, or an investor. Common areas may include the surrounding land, the foundation, entrances, hallways, stairwells, basements, roofs, elevators, pipes, shared lighting, and other features or equipment meant for shared use by all occupants of the building. These common features of the building are treated as commonly owned property.
The 2002 law also allows occupants to form a general organisation if there are more than eight apartments in their building. This body includes a three-member administrative committee that manages affairs related to construction, garbage collection, and maintenance and that publicly represents the occupants of the building.
Based on the bylaws for occupant organisations and administrative committees (issued by the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment under Decree No. 931 of 2002 and later amended by Decree No. 1005 of 2002), each local administrative unit forms an office to supervise the formation of such bodies.
According to these bylaws, an occupant organisation has broad powers to dispose of a building’s financial resources. These are collected by its administrative committee through contributions, i.e. payments made by occupants according to rates determined by the organisation, gifts, donations, rent or sale allowances, and investment in common features of the building.
Article 27 of Decree No. 931 authorises occupant organisations to form financial reserves from the estimated annual costs of maintaining each apartment within the building. These funds are collected in four scenarios, as determined by Decree No. 931: leasing to a Syrian citizen or their legal equivalent, leasing to a non-Syrian citizen or their legal equivalent, selling an apartment, or assessing the damage caused by one of the building occupants to a common feature.
Furthermore, the administrative committee for a building may collect a certain percentage of funds if one of the residents leases or sells their apartment. This percentage varies from one building to another, according to what the occupant organisation sees fit.
If an occupant finds the payment too high, they may raise a complaint with the General Organisation for Building Occupants after paying half of the sum. However, if the General Organisation decides that the occupant must pay, then they must complete the payment immediately, as the decision has immediate effect. Should the occupant fail to pay, then their building’s administrative committee may place a hold on the property’s land record in the Cadastral Affairs, barring that person from disposing of the apartment.
Neither Law No. 55, nor Decree No. 931 specifies the percentage that the administrative committee may demand for such payments. The two laws also fail to mention rules that the committee must follow when determining that percentage. Instead, such decisions are left in the hands of the occupant organisations, which raise housing, land, and property rights issues.
Since the issuance of Real Estate Sales Law No. 15 of 2021, occupant organisations and administrative committees appear to have adopted the current value of real estate when determining the rates to be collected from occupants. Some cases have been recorded where occupant bodies demanded rates that were burdensome and exceeded the real estate sales tax. The semi-official Al-Watan newspaper reported that building occupants in Tartous complained in February 2022 that they had been charged large percentages when selling or renting their apartments. According to news outlet, the Tartous City Council proposed making an amendment to Article 27 of Decree No. 931 in order not to discourage occupants from forming committees.