Don't leave homes unheated this winter, warns apartment association union

Apartment buildings with hundreds of units each on Mõisa tänav in Narva.
Apartment buildings with hundreds of units each on Mõisa tänav in Narva. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Below-freezing temperatures and snow have arrived across Estonia, and amid an ongoing crisis of soaring energy costs, the Estonian Union of Cooperative Housing Associations (EKÜL) is reminding apartment owners that they cannot leave their homes unheated in winter, even if they are unoccupied.

"Either out of fear of the bills or for some other reason, owners don't want to heat their apartment, especially if they themselves don't live in it," EKÜL board member Urmas Mardi said according to a press release. "Apartment buildings relying on wood heating are in the worst trouble."

According to Mardi, who is also director of the union's legal department, apartment associations are already contacting them with concerns about apartments in their buildings that have been left unheated. He stressed that leaving apartments unheated ends up damaging not only the owner's own property, but also that of the owners of the other units in the building.

"Maintaining a reasonable temperature in the apartment is also required by the Apartment Ownership and Apartment Associations Act," he highlighted, quoting the relevant provision of the aforementioned law, according to which the apartment owner is, inter alia, required to keep the temperature and air humidity within the apartment at a level which ensures the preservation of the building and the use of other units according to their intended purpose and without excessive expenses.

"A temperature of no less than 18 degrees Celsius is considered a reasonable temperature, but specialists involved daily with living spaces believe that figure should be closer to 20-21 degrees," he added.

Mardi stressed to apartment owners that they need to take good care to avoid damages that could risk devolving into more expensive problems.

"Pipes can end up damaged or burst altogether in unheated apartments; they can trap humidity, leading to extensive water damage and mold on the walls," he cited as examples, adding that fixing such damage later can end up costing significantly more than simply maintaining a reasonable temperature in the apartment during the colder months.

He noted that a more beneficial approach would be to look into options for updating apartment buildings and making them more energy efficient, which would ultimately reduce heating bills.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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