Obligation of Maintenance in Housing Co-operative

As per the Finnish Housing Co-operatives Act (Asunto-osakeyhtiölaki) the co-operative instead of dwelling unit owners is obliged of maintaining the structures and insulation of the dwelling units. Insides of the structure can be held as being parts of the structure. However, the screed between the structure and wallcovering or other surface material is regarded being a part of the surface material and thus being the obligation of the dwelling unit owner. The co-operative is among other things obliged to maintain utility systems such as heating, electrical outlets, broadband, gas pipes, water pipes, sewers, ventilation and others similar to these. The co-operative, nevertheless, is not responsible for a unit’s sinks nor is it liable for devices the unit owner has attached to the aforementioned utility systems (e.g. refrigerator or washing machine).

The operative must maintain the outer surfaces of the buildings, including balconies occupied by dwelling unit owners. Generally speaking, everything which is not a dwelling unit owner’s ogligation is therefore co-operative’s. For example, common areas, foundations and rood are all maintained by the co-operative.

A Co-operative’s obligation to maintain aforementioned structures, insulations and utility systems applies only to those, which the co-operative implemented or accepted to bear liability for. The co-operative is liable for an installation done or had done by a dwelling unit owner if the installation is parallel to a measure carried out by the co-operative and whose installation the co-operative has been able to supervise.

The co-operative must repair the interiors of the dwelling units, should they become damaged due to a deficiency or reparation in a part of the building, which is under the co-operative’s liability. The interiors must be brought to a condition, which is deemed being an elementary standard within the co-operative as a whole.

This elementary standard of condition is very open to interpretation and changes over time. In the government bill regarding to the Housing Co-operatives Act it is stated that an elementary standard shall be regarded being: “the level deemed ordinary with the regard of the purpose of the unit’ usage as per the articles of the association (yhtiöjärjestys), which the co-operative has chosen to be complied with at the time of repairs”. When determining the elementary standard matters such as previous renovations conducted by the co-op are taken into account. If the elementary standard is wanted to be improved the co-op must take into account the equality of dwelling unit owners. This improvement can be conducted by increasing the management charge or a consent must be acquired from those unit owner negatively affected by the improvement. Oftentimes renovations are conducted in such a manner that the co-op pays for the materials to achieve the elementary standard whereas the dwelling unit owner pays should they want to have better unit interiors than the elementary standard.

A dwelling unit owner must maintain their unit’s interiors. Possible maintenance works must be conducted as per good building practice dictates lest building under co-op’s maintenance suffer no damage. The dwelling unit owner is not liable for abrasion in the unit, which is caused by the normal use of the dwelling. The unit owner is also obliged to notify the co-op for defects and deficiencies that are under the co-ops responsibility. The co-op usually cannot be aware of a deficiency should the unit owner not inform about it. If the unit owner neglects this obligation to inform they might be liable to pay damages.

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