System to encourage rebuilding, repair must be established

How to proceed with the restoration of aging condominium buildings with units for sale has become a major issue. The government must take measures to facilitate reconstruction and other steps.

Under the current Condominium Unit Ownership Law, the consent of four-fifths of the owners is required to rebuild a condominium building, and the consent of three-fourths is required to make changes to common areas.

However, there have been many cases in which residents and others have been unable to reach a consensus and have had difficulty in proceeding with the work. This is due to the increasing number of large condominium buildings with many households in urban areas, as well as the fact that some owners live elsewhere and cannot be contacted.

In order to correct this situation, the Legislative Council, an advisory body for the justice minister, has begun discussions on easing the requirements for residents’ consent.

Of the 6.86 million condominiums across the nation, 1.16 million are in buildings that are at least 40 years old. The number is expected to double in 10 years.

If left unchecked, these condominium buildings are at risk of collapsing or having their exterior walls peel off in the event of an earthquake or typhoon. It will be important to promote the smooth restoration of such buildings.

It is envisioned that owners or other individuals concerned who cannot be contacted will be excluded from resolutions for rebuilding or other measures, to make it easier to obtain agreement.

However, condominiums are very important assets for their owners. If they are to be excluded from resolutions, it is necessary to consider the establishment of a system in which a public body certifies that their whereabouts are unknown even after thorough searches. It is hoped that the council will proceed with careful and attentive discussions.

According to a government survey, half of the people living in condominium buildings built more than 40 years ago are in their 70s or older. More than 30% of the buildings have inadequate reserve funds for repairs.

It is understandable that some elderly people, with little income or assets, are reluctant to rebuild or repair their condominium buildings because of the high costs involved. Another issue that needs to be considered is how to protect the rights of those who oppose such work.

In order to extend the life of buildings as much as possible, it is important to make efforts to repair them bit by bit on a regular basis. Although maintenance is essentially the responsibility of the owners, residents in some condominium buildings are so indifferent that they do not have the opportunity to talk to each other, and some buildings have no management association.

In 2020, the Yasu city government in Shiga Prefecture spent about ¥100 million to demolish a nearly 50-year-old three-story condominium building because the walls of the uninhabited building collapsed. Buildings that are not sufficiently managed tend to fall into ruin. They may also spoil the local landscape and worsen public safety.

In April, the revised Law on Advancement of Proper Condominium Management went into effect, and a system was started for local governments to certify condominium buildings with appropriate management plans. Local governments must grasp how buildings are managed and strengthen their support such as by proactively providing advice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 31, 2022)