Navigating unpaid bills when buying an apartment in Belgium: What you need to know

When you’re buying an apartment, the last thing you want is to inherit the previous owner’s debts. But what happens if the former owner still owes money to the homeowners’ association? Can the property manager (syndic) ask you to settle the outstanding bills? Let’s delve into this complex issue.
Unpaid bills

Are you responsible for the previous owner’s debts?

If the seller of the apartment has not paid the bills received from the syndic for the costs and maintenance of common areas, you, as the buyer, are not responsible for these bills. The syndic will have to recover these bills from the former owner. Moreover, during the sale of the apartment, the syndic can request the notary to transfer the remaining balance from the purchase price. However, all of this is subject to a strict timeline. If the syndic has not met these conditions, it’s not your responsibility.

What about special agreements?

It is possible to make other arrangements in the purchase agreement between you and the seller. For example, the agreement could state that you commit to paying all the unpaid bills that the seller received from the syndic. Such a clause is perfectly valid! Therefore, it’s crucial to check for the absence of this type of clause in the purchase agreement and/or the deed of sale.

What do the building’s bylaws say?

If the building’s regulations contain a clause stating that the buyer of a property within the building must pay the seller’s arrears, you don’t necessarily have to worry. Such a clause is simply not legal.

Why this matters

Understanding the legal landscape around unpaid bills and property transactions is crucial for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, it’s about avoiding unexpected financial burdens that could turn a dream home into a nightmare. For sellers, it’s about understanding their obligations and ensuring a smooth transition of property ownership.

How to protect yourself as a buyer

Due diligence is key when purchasing an apartment. Always consult with a legal advisor to review the purchase agreement and the building’s bylaws. Make sure you understand all the clauses and their implications.

Communication with the syndic can also provide valuable insights. They can inform you about the financial health of the homeowners’ association, which can be a good indicator of whether or not you’re walking into a problematic situation.

What sellers need to know

If you’re a seller with unpaid bills, it’s in your best interest to settle them before the sale. Unpaid bills can complicate the transaction and even reduce the property’s value. If you can’t pay off the debts before selling, be transparent with the buyer and consider negotiating these points into the sale price or terms.


Buying an apartment comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities. One of these is understanding who is responsible for unpaid bills related to the property. In Belgium, the law is clear: the new owner is not responsible for the previous owner’s debts to the homeowners’ association, unless otherwise agreed upon. Always consult the purchase agreement and building bylaws, and seek legal advice to ensure you’re making a well-informed decision.