First it was known as the solidarity tax. Then it became the property tax. Now, with salary cuts and higher taxes, many Greek apartment tenants are unable to afford fees to pay for monthly building upkeep.
With the majority of the population residing in urban apartment buildings, it is common practice for each homeowner to take over superintendent responsibilities for a year.
The superintendent is responsible for building repairs, maintenance, security, cleaning, landscaping, elevator maintenance, pest control, electricity and water bills and collecting money to buy winter heating oil. Now, no one wants the responsibility because many owners and tenants refuse, or are unable, pay up.
If owners don't pay for heating oil, even those who do pay will at some point have no heat once the oil runs out.
"There's no point," said Halandri resident Ioannis Zaharopoulos. "I just don't have the time to chase after people to get them to pay, or to deal with all the complaints. And by no means am I going to pay out of my own pocket."
In the past, building caretakers would get a small salary in exchange for their services. Today, in most buildings it's agreed on that everyone will take a turn.
One building owner who gave her name as Elena H, said she lost one tenant because no other residents paid their maintenance fees or heating bills. The owner of the Palio Faliro seaside building wondered how she could rent out an apartment with no heat.
Another current superintendent, Katherine, lamented paying out-of-pocket for her building's heating fees. "Even if you do know who hasn't paid but is using the heat, what will you do, take them to court and end up paying even more?"
In efforts to cut costs, owners in one central Athens building decided to do the cleaning themselves.
"There are six apartments in the building," said Sofia, a 32-year-old architect who took her turn as super last year. "Each one of us can clean the areas outside the door, and every week, one of us can clean the entrance. This will save us 100 euros a month."
Kostas Stratis, sales manager at Dixon's Southeast Europe tells SETimes that there's been a considerable increase in sales of air conditioning units, ranging between 20% to 100% in some cases.
Stratis, who represents retailer Kotsovolos with 102 stores in Greece, stresses that customers are more interested in alternative heating solutions, which prove to be cost-effective.
"For example, with an inverter type air conditioner, consumers can achieve considerable savings compared to a conventional heating system."
"Buyers are turning to alternative forms of heating," adds Dimitris Mamalis, a mechanical engineer at Kokotas, one of the country's largest Mitsubishi heating and cooling dealers.
"People are seriously considering replacing their old gas-run heaters with pellet heating systems which are more cost efficient."
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