The neighbor in advance divided the apartment into three studios with three bathrooms, two of which are located above the rooms of the apartment below, informed Kontakt 24, a resident of Białystok, who now hears noises from these bathrooms in her living room. The construction supervision took care of the matter. The neighbor is to restore the apartment to its original condition. Because while the law does not explicitly prohibit sharing apartments, according to the supervision, it is impossible in practice in prefabricated blocks. Among other things, because new bathrooms and kitchens cannot be properly ventilated. What should we do if we find ourselves in a similar situation? Can a neighbor divide his apartment as he wants and no one has the right to interfere?
– Two years ago, my neighbor from above died, who – like me – lived here since the block was put into use, i.e. since 1977. Later, her daughter lived there for a while, who eventually decided to sell the property. Renovations began in September last year. From the beginning, it was suspiciously loud and inconvenient – says Elżbieta Sidor, a resident of an over 72-meter apartment in an 11-storey block of prefabricated panels at ul. Washington in Białystok, who reported her problem to us on Contact 24.
A woman lives with her blind 33-year-old son, who has autism and is very intolerant of noise.
Noises, cracks in the walls, stain on the ceiling
– In addition to the fact that it was very noisy, cracks in the walls began to appear in my apartment. I then went upstairs and told the workers to be more careful. I was surprised that when I went inside, there were no walls, just one big room.
She was also talking to workers in December 2022 when a stain appeared on her ceiling.
– They offered me painting, even though it was necessary to remove the plaster. I was angry, I recently did a renovation myself. The owner of the apartment from above never showed up, even though I told the builders to inform him about my problem and losses – the woman reports.
There was one apartment, there are three studios
The management of the housing association was first informed about the matter. – After I received an answer that the cooperative could not control renovations in apartments, I notified the building supervision. When the inspectors appeared upstairs at the end of February and later came down to me, I was speechless. It turned out that there was an unauthorized construction and one large apartment was turned into three independent ones, two of which have new bathrooms and new kitchenettes, located above my rooms – says Sidor.
She didn’t want the apartments to be occupied
When she found out from the inspectors that the matter would be clarified and administrative proceedings would be initiated, she applied to both the cooperative and the building supervision with a request that the rooms above her apartment should not be occupied.
“Renovation has already been completed and the apartments have been retrofitted. I saw washing machines and stoves brought in. Later – very quickly – the tenants moved in to the three apartments. Sitting in the living room, I hear what is happening in the bathrooms upstairs – that someone, for example, at five o’clock in the morning flushes the water. My son hears everything too. One night someone dropped the shower head. The roar was so big that the son woke up and it was impossible to calm him down until the morning. To this day, he is very restless when he hears someone pouring water upstairs. Later, I found out that the cooperative had agreed to occupy these flats. I was shocked by it,” says Ms.
Cooperative: appropriate steps can be taken by the building supervision
Wojciech Sykała, deputy president of the Piaski Housing Cooperative, claims that the cooperative did not consent to the settlement, because there is no basis to issue one.
– We also had no legal possibilities to stop the renovation or control its progress. The owner of the apartment only reported to us that he intended to make minor changes to the installation, and it turned out what it turned out to be. The institution that can take appropriate steps in such situations is the building supervision – he points out.
The building supervision found irregularities
At the end of May, building supervision ordered to restore the apartment upstairs to its original condition, finding a number of irregularities. According to the letter received by Ms. that, according to the law, individual apartments in multi-family housing should not have a usable area less than 25 square meters, and two of them do not meet this condition. After dividing the over 72-square-meter apartment into three, studios were created, which each have: 25.13 sq m, 23 sq m and 19.09 sq m of usable space.
The letter shows that new sanitary and electrical installations have been made, and two new bathrooms and two new kitchenettes have been built. The supervision found that they do not have the required ventilation.
New kitchenettes and bathrooms to be liquidated
The supervision also pointed out that the cracks in Ms. Elżbieta’s apartment were probably the result of using excessively powerful devices during the renovation, but the extent of these damages did not affect the structure of the building. The stains on the ceilings, on the other hand, were due to leaks in the new sanitary installation.
The owner of the apartment does not agree with the decision of the officials. – He appealed to the Provincial Building Supervision Inspector. Its decision can be appealed to the administrative court – says Monika Barszczewska, the poviat construction supervision inspector of the municipal poviat in Białystok.
If the court’s decision becomes final and the owner still does not want to restore the apartment to its original condition, the last resort will be to launch the administrative enforcement procedure, which may even end in the so-called substitute performance, i.e. restoring the apartment to its original condition by the administrative body. At the owner’s expense.
– I hope that this last resort will not come to that and these bathrooms will be dismantled as soon as possible. The alternative is to sell my apartment – says Sidor.
She also described the problems she talks about on a group for residents of the cooperative in social media. As he reports, it turned out that neighbors from other blocks are also struggling with similar situations.
“We haven’t had any other signals on this so far.” We can initiate an inspection when someone reports to us – emphasizes the building supervision inspector.
Tomek’s freedom in his house, but only for a while
So what should we do if we find ourselves in a similar situation? Can a neighbor divide his apartment as he wants and no one has the right to interfere?
– The law does not prohibit redevelopment of apartments. However, the regulations regarding technical matters cannot be violated, stresses Barszczewska. He explains: – Kitchens and bathrooms must have ventilation, and in prefabricated blocks it is not possible to legally connect to the only ventilation shaft. This is not in accordance with the regulations, because in such a ventilation system there would be no draft, i.e. it would not work. The vertical does not have any additional channels. While the regulations do not explicitly prohibit locating bathrooms, for example above someone’s living room, in practice it is impossible in the case of prefabricated blocks. Due to the regulations on the design of sanitary installations, and in this case, non-compliance with them was found – he adds.
– The maximum distance of the toilet from the sewage riser depends on the type of sewage disposal system used in a given property. Certainly it cannot be that someone puts a new installation across the whole room and thus connects to the riser. In order to legalize the location and connection to the riser, the owner of such an apartment would have to submit to the owner of the common areas – in this case the cooperative – an installation project that would not violate the regulations. If the cooperative has doubts, it can ask our supervision to check these issues – says Barszczewska.
He emphasizes that locating bathrooms and kitchens above someone’s room or living room may violate the rules of sound insulation applicable in multi-family housing. – The point is that such a change in the purpose of individual rooms does not worsen the acoustic insulation. So that – even by using soundproofing elements (such as putting polystyrene foam or acoustic mats on the walls – editor’s note) – the sounds coming from the neighboring apartment will not be audible more than before the reconstruction – explains the inspector.
What’s more, according to the law, from 2018 – from the amendment of the regulation on the technical conditions to be met by buildings and their location – all newly built apartments must have a minimum of 25 meters of usable floor space.
The owner of the apartment upstairs declined to comment.
Main photo source: TVN24