Approval VvE required for installation of air-conditioning system

An owner of an apartment who wants to change the appearance of his house, almost always requires prior approval from the VvE (Association of Owners). From a verdict of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal, which concerns the installation of an air conditioning system, it is clear that such approval is also required if the change does not cause any direct nuisance. Robert van Ewijk, an attorney specialised in VvE law, explains.

VvE dispute: air conditioning installation installed without approval

This case involved the replacement of an existing air conditioning system by the owner of one of the apartments. The owner placed the external component of the air conditioning system in the garden cupboard of his own home. Additionally, the garden cupboard was equipped with grates. Nevertheless, the VvE objected. The VvE highlighted the by-laws to the apartment ownerand demanded removal of the installation and returning the garden cupboard to its former state, enforceable with a periodic penalty.

Property division deed sets out VvE approval details

Each apartment owner in a building is associated with a a VvE (Association of Owners) . Its Articles of Associationare set out in the property division deed. This concerns the notarised deed that divides a building into separate apartments. The property division deed almost always refers to model regulations. The VvE looks after the combined interests of all apartment owners. The purpose of the VvE is to manage the joint propertyof the divided building as efficiently as possible; to this end, the VvE often draws up house rules (the internal by-laws). The property division deed, the model regulations and the by-laws set out issues such as any actions of owners that are subject to the VvE’s approval. This may concern issues such as applying items to the external part of the house, such as a satellite dish or a flower box, but also for things inside the house that can cause nuisance, such as the use of air conditioning or keeping pets.

Court: very minor inconvenience caused by air conditioning, yet unlawful installation

The parties do not dispute that the apartment owner installed the air conditioning system and the grates without the VvE’s approval. However, the owner’s attorney states that the placement of the air conditioning in the garden cupboard does not cause any nuisance, or much less nuisance than in the original situation (in which a compressor and a fan were placed in the middle of the garden). However, the Court of Appeal ruled that it is irrelevant whether the owner’s solution seems to cause little or no nuisance. Although in this case, the challenge by the VvE appeared to be somewhat unreasonable, according to the Court, the VvE is nevertheless within its rights. Nuisance or not, according to the Court, the owner has implemented the solution of his personal choice without seeking approval from the VvE. And that is unlawful. The apartment owner may have had good intentions, but even good intentions should be discussed with the VvE in advance.

Changes to the appearance of the apartment? Ask approval!

The ruling shows the importance of requesting prior permission from the VvE for making changes to the appearance of the home or building or for matters that cause nuisance. As an owner, changing anything at your own initiative without requesting the VvE’s permission is always at your own risk. However, if the VvE wrongfully refuses to grant permission, an attorney may file to the court to request surrogate authorisation for an owner.