During a period of real estate market recession, the regulations on construction work in amateur garden areas are being toughened. On Nov. 11, 2008 the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania approved amendments to the Law on Gardeners' Societies (hereinafter, the Law), which came into force on Nov. 25, 2008.
The previous version of the Law stated that gardeners, without changing the principal specific purpose of land use, are allowed to construct one dwelling house and one appurtenance in their garden parcels after having prepared a design document and received authorization in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Republic of Lithuania Law on Construction. As dwelling houses may be of several types: single-family house, block of flats, two-flat houses, the previous version of the Law was ambiguous and did not precisely define what kind of a house can be constructed on an amateur gardener's parcel.
Thus, two-flat houses, blocks of flats and other huge buildings that occupied wide areas were subsequently built. This turned gardeners' societies into large suburbs lacking the infrastructure and facilities of contemporary life. Gardeners' societies were littered, nature was damaged, and small parcels became densely and intensively inhabited. This caused problems not only for the dwellers of big blocks of flats and two-flat houses, but also to gardeners, who sought to rest in their garden areas or to promote horticulture and its traditions.
The approved amendments to the Law stated that persons having purchased a land parcel located within the territory of an amateur garden which is bigger than 0.04 hectares, having prepared design documentation and received an authorization, is allowed to construct one single-family house and one appurtenance to it (it should be noted that after amending this Law, not only gardeners are allowed to carry out construction works in garden arrears, but also any natural or legal person). Houses and appurtenances must be built in such a way that it would not worsen the conditions of amateur gardening to the owners or users of neighboring land parcels.
These requirements shall be applicable only to new constructions. Garden houses, furniture (benches, fireplaces, sculptures, etc.) and other temporary structures might be built without construction authorization. The Law also defined a garden house as a simple construction for recreational purposes. Amendments to the Law do not apply to structures which already have an approved set of design conditions for construction work to structures that have a design contract which is signed by the contractor. These amendments to the Law aim at preserving the landscapes of suburbs, restricting amateur gardening areas to recreational and horticultural purposes, and at maintaining their cleanliness and tidiness.
The newly approved amendments also set a heavier responsibility to the members of the board of gardeners' societies for the failure to fulfill, or for the improper fulfillment of, their obligations. From now on, members of the board of gardeners' societies must pay any damages caused due to improper decisions of the board that violate the articles of association of the gardeners' society or other legal acts. The only members of the board that shall be exempt from this liability are those who voted against the decision or those who did not participate in the decision-making meeting of the board 's if they brought a protest to the chairman of the board within seven days of becoming aware of the decision. Even a resigned or discharged member of the board remains under the liability to pay the incurred damages.
Alongside the previously mentioned amendments, the Law also updated the proceedings of calling for a meeting of a gardeners' society and its procedures. Additional rights have been granted to auditing commissions or auditors, regulations on the election of societies' authority members were supplemented, and more specific requirements of society liquidation were settled.
In summary, a conclusion may be drawn that the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has finally reacted to the problems of garden societies and, by approving the amendments, sought to more clearly regulate construction work in gardeners' societies and their management and administration.
Lauras Stankevicius is a lawyer at Jurevicius, Balciunas & Bartkus, a member of Baltic Legal Solutions, a pan-Baltic integrated legal network of law firms including Glikman & Partnerid in Estonia and Kronbergs & Cukste in Latvia, dedicated to providing a quality "one-stop shop" approach to clients' needs in the Baltics.