The communities of owners are suffering intensely from the unbridled rise in the price of the fuels they use for their centralized heating systems and from the brutal escalation in the cost of electricity in their common areas. The economic crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine has dealt a new blow -before it was the pandemic- to the neighboring communities, although the cost of natural gas and electricity began to rise months ago.
More and more farms with centralized boilers (also placed in recently built buildings due to their greater energy efficiency) have been left with a completely empty cash register after facing extraordinary bills for heating consumption. “The quotas are absolutely insufficient to cover the real cost, since the forecasts were made for a different scenario,” says Ángel Hernández, president of the College of Property Administrators of Salamanca. And he concludes: “If the community kept a large enough remnant, it could delay the adjustment of the quotas, but it will be inevitable.” There will be no choice but to raise quotas, issue spills or resort to reserve funds.
Pablo Ruiz, from Acerta Management and a member of the Association of Property Administrators in Madrid, explains that there are communities “that have eaten up the treasury”, and tells of the case of a property in Madrid that had 80,000 euros in the box to rehabilitate the facade and has spent it on paying for heating. Miguel Ruiz Lizondo, administrator of estates in Zaragoza and president of the Colegio de Aragón, affirms that “all the communities that did not have a healthy economy have had to approve extraordinary contributions, in some cases quite high and always based on the balances they had in accounts, although in many others the issue has been saved by drastically reducing the heating schedule and lowering the temperature of the boilers”.
All the property managers consulted take for granted a significant increase in delinquencies in the coming months, still difficult to quantify. “It is a limit economic situation”, says Salvador Díaz, president of the General Council of Associations of Property Administrators.
The war economy has reached the communities of owners. Some have turned off the heating this March 31, when it is usual to do so in the second week of May. In others, the concierge has the order to turn it on only half a day (usually in the afternoon). In short, they are trying to “stretch the fuel by cutting heating hours and lowering the temperature of the boiler,” says Hernández. Although the measures are not liking everyone equally. This “considerable reduction in heating hours has led to neighborhood tensions in some communities,” says Nerea García, collegiate property administrator in Madrid, who manages 60 buildings.
The first that has put the neighbors on the ropes is natural gas. It is the great stone in the shoe of the communities. Lorenzo Viñas, manager of the College of Property Administrators of Barcelona-Lleida, gives a very clarifying example: charging a 15,000-liter boiler in January 2021 meant a bill of 12,684 euros. In January 2022, even before the war in Ukraine, it was already 43,113 euros.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
In some farms, natural gas bills have multiplied by three. “Owners who the previous year paid 120 euros a month for natural gas, now it has risen to 360 euros,” says Pablo Ruiz. This administrator says that there are marketers that this winter have broken the gas contracts they had signed with some communities, and he also complains that they have to contract in the free market as if they were a large company and cannot benefit from a regulated rate. . In other communities of owners, the increases have not been so intense: in one of those managed by Nerea García, with 18 homes, the rise in the cost of natural gas between March 2021 and March 2022 has been 40%.
Some managers saw the big wave coming. “During the month of October, some farm managers, seeing that prices could rise further, decided to close fixed prices for one year (from mid-December 2021 to November 2022) at 0.0595 euros/Kwh, which was a great success, since the price of gas for heating is being paid at 0.090 euros/Kwh”, says Viñas.
The second torture for farms with centralized heating is diesel. The president of the Association of Property Administrators of Salamanca returns with an example: the load of a 15,000-liter boiler was paid at 9,300 euros on March 17, 2021. On March 18, 2022 it cost 19,000 euros. “In January 2021, the price per liter of heating oil was 0.50 euros and in March 2022 it was 1.154 euros per liter,” he adds.
But not everything is natural gas or diesel. There are buildings with biomass boilers. Although it is not so bloody, the cost has also skyrocketed because electricity is needed to produce pellets and manufacturers have been producing at extremely high costs. “The pellet has risen around 30% or 40% from September to today and this is what the vast majority of manufacturers are having an impact on the communities,” says Juan Cabello, general director of Calordom, one of the main companies of the sector, which says it is not raising prices thanks to its significant storage capacity. “Many manufacturers are paralyzing production until accounts are cleared,” says Cabello. And he adds: “The pellet is going to rise around 100% next season, next winter.” Olive pits will become between 20% and 30% more expensive, he calculates.
drowned in light
Electricity is another rope around the necks of owners who have an elevator, gardens or simply stair lighting. “The brutal increase in light over the past year has meant approximately 60% more in some communities,” says Ruiz Lizondo. Lorenzo Viñas tells another case: in a building with 26 apartments with an elevator, the increase in the price of electricity has been 120% in the last 15 months. However, for the moment, electricity has not generated spills.
The situation has caused so much concern that some farms have rushed to take action. “They are requesting comparisons from energy saving companies so that they can study the prices,” says Nerea García. Mónica Narro, member of the Communication Commission of the Association of Property Administrators of Madrid, manages 40 buildings. “We are upgrading the lights to LED in all common areas and proposing the reduction and unification of counters. The installation of solar panels and the reduction of service hours (counseling, cleaning, lifeguard) are also being studied”.
In spite of everything, none is considering closing common areas for now. “Not opening swimming pools when more than one family is going to be left without vacations if this continues would be very hard, and disabling the elevators if there are people with reduced mobility is completely unacceptable,” explains the manager of the Association of Property Administrators of Barcelona-Lleida.
The General Council of Associations of Property Administrators has requested the Ministry for the Ecological Transition to apply the much cheaper rate for households to communities of owners. “We request a rate like the one for households and that the same tax advantages be applied, avoiding the discrimination that this different way of preparing the rate entails,” argues Salvador Díez, its president.