Atelier or Apartment?

A few particularities that should be taken into account before purchasing an atelier.

The purchase of an abode is an important event both in life and in economic aspect. In order to prevent unwanted surprises, purchasers should do a careful research on the ownership of the property, they should find out whether there are foreclosures, mortgages or other land charges, pending proceedings and etc. The property status is something else which should be considered. During the so-called “construction boom” in in the first decade of the century, many properties were built which are “ateliers” by documents. There is a difference between an atelier and an abode (apartment) not only in their price but also in a number of other aspects.

What are the differences between an atelier and an abode (apartment)?

The brief answer is: the difference between an abode and an atelier is in the requirements which a property has to cover in order for it to be an abode. Among them are: having at least one room; one bathroom-toilet; a storage room – closet; an attic or basement which can be outside the outlines of the building; the rooms and kitchens have to be with windows; at least one of the rooms must not face North, North-West or North-East; the light height has to be at least 2.60 m and etc.

There is only one requirement for an atelier: a separate lavatory (toilet with a sink). This is because an atelier is a non-residential room which serves for individual creative activities.

Why have so many properties with an atelier status appeared?

During the years of the “construction boom” an obligation for the atelier to have a parking space or a garage did not exist, as opposed to the abodes (apartments). This, combined with the search for smaller properties (most frequently two-room abodes), as well as with the investor’s commercial interest to gain more from the newly constructed building, led to the distinguishment of many properties as ateliers. This way every property that does not cover the abode requirements, is offered as an atelier. Thus the investors distinguished more properties in one building without violating the requirements for a parking space or a garage for each one of them. This led to numerous housing cooperatives where there is nowhere to park a car, even around them, and to the bizarre forms on the last floors which signalize the investor’s desire to utilize every square meter.

The normative amendments in 2017 envisaged that every atelier in the building has to be provided with a garage or a parking space. This led to the decrease of interest in this type of property from the investors and the constructors.

What are the more essential particularities when buying an atelier?

  • Inapplicability of tax reliefs regarding the primary residence building tax

When declaring a certain abode as a primary residence, the owner benefits from tax relief. By rule this tax relief does not apply to ateliers since they are considered to be non-residential sites and cannot be declared as primary residence. This way for example, if the owner of a two-room apartment in Sofia, which is declared as a primary residence, has to pay a BGN 40 tax. The owner of an atelier with the same tax assessment would have to pay twice as much. There is an exception – if your explicitly declare that the property is used for housing needs and if you change the function of the property.

  • Higher yearly household waste fee (garbage fee) for non-residential property

Every municipality determines the size and method for forming local taxes and fees. In some municipalities there is no difference in household waste fees for apartments and for ateliers. In other municipalities there are higher fees for non-residential properties. Thus, it is possible that you will pay a higher yearly household waste fee in a given locality if your property is considered to be an atelier rather than an apartment.

  • Higher electricity bills for atelier owners

One of the main problems which atelier purchasers encounter and which compensates for their lower purchase price in comparison to apartments, is the higher electricity bills. Since the atelier is a non-residential property, electricity is paid on prices for non-household clients. Still it is possible to negotiate with the electricity distribution company. The function of the property is of upmost importance – that is why it is essential to check whether it is changed or whether the property serves residential needs.

  • The right to an administrative address

Atelier habitants do not have the right to an administrative address of the atelier. That is because the law regards the atelier as a non-residential site, meaning that the atelier does not satisfy housing needs and thus a person should not register that they live there. In practice, atelier owners do get an administrative address, regardless of the above-mentioned particularity. However, you can never be sure that there will not be any problems in the future.

  • Non-sequestration

According to the law, if a debtor has only one abode, it is non-sequestering, meaning that the enforcement agent cannot direct an enforcement towards it. Such a “defense” is not envisaged regarding ateliers which are considered to be non-residential properties.

Can the function of an atelier be changed?

Yes, but it is connected with a formal procedure, time, expenses and “give-and-take” with the administration. It should be noted that this change is possible only when the relevant property with an atelier status covers all the characteristics of an apartment, but nevertheless the property was intended and built as an atelier.

In conclusion

Require the ownership documents form the seller before purchasing a property. If the property is in a building which is still in construction – you should require the building project. Examine how the property is estimated in it – is it an atelier or an apartment. Now you know the difference between the two. You can show the seller that you are aware of the cons of the atelier and you can want a better price offer. Your understanding of the difference between an atelier and an apartment will help you make an informed decision and make the right investment.

Author: Denitsa Atanasova – trainee at Stankov, Todorov, Hinkov & Spasov, Attorneys-at-Law