Five years ago, JK from Banjaluka paid 56,340KM for a 28-square-meter studio apartment. The apartment is still not finished, although it was supposed to be ready six months after the purchase. For almost the last three years, JK has been forced to simultaneously pay loan instalments and monthly rent for the rented apartment in which she currently lives.
Written by: Vanja Stokić; Photo: Vanja Stokić and private archive of tenants; Video: Ajdin Kamber
In question is a building in Patrijarha Arsenija Čarnojevića street, in the Mejdan settlement in Banja Luka. Back in 2014, the tenants agreed with the investor Mladen Pandža to build another floor, so that they would get a new roof, a new facade, the construction of a balcony in their apartments, replacement of the entrance door and other repairs in the building, as well as cleaning the surroundings after the works were completed. However, the works have not been completed until now. Buyers of new apartments cannot move in, and other tenants live on the construction site. Balconies were built, but the tenants had to fence them as best as they knew how. In the meantime, the investment company “Faraon Line” was closed down.
“I saw the apartment in an ad and contacted the agency that advertised the apartment. The upgrade had already started. The man who sold me the apartment is named Aleksandar Milašinović, and for me, he is just as guilty as the investor. I paid a down payment of one thousand KM, and then the entire amount of 55,340 KM, to the account of Aleksandar Milašinović, and the signatory is Mladen Pandža as an investor“, says our interlocutor, supporting her claims with documentation.
She took out a loan to buy an apartment. After she transferred the money to Milašinović, then began the wait that still has no end in sight.
“The apartment was supposed to be ready in half a year. The deadline was the end of August 2018. When the deadline passed, I contacted Pandža, asking him about the penalties specified in the contract. They have to pay me penalties in the amount of 200 KM per month. That’s where he started to talk to me in a street manner, saying that he only recognizes penalties in football matches. That offended me, so I called Aleksandar. He told me to communicate only with him, that his relationship with Pandža is his business. He said that he invested much more money than I did and that it was in his interest to see it through. If it is not finished within a reasonable period of time, he can return the full amount to me, but without interest. The one I paid him, that he will pay me back. That gave me security“, she says.
However, a few months later, the work did not end.
“After a year and a half, I felt very insecure. Aleksandar told me very clearly that it was no problem for him to return the amount. I thought for a few days and decided to ask for a refund, no matter how much I wanted that studio apartment. I called Aleksandar and felt a change in his voice. He didn’t expect it. He asked us to wait a few more months because the investor promised to finish the building. If that doesn’t happen, they will return the money. September has passed. When we were supposed to meet, he came with Pandža. They acted like a good cop and a bad cop. I felt used, deceived, miserable”, she recalls.
Shortly after that, she had to rent an apartment to live in. She says that she tried to arrange new meetings with Milašinović, but without success.
“I hired a lawyer, who tried to contact both of them. Aleksandar started to wash his hands of that case and says that he is an injured party like me. He received the money. What he later did with that money, I don’t need to be interested. I sued both of them and filed a criminal complaint“, she says.
She is asking Milašinović to return 56,430 KM with default interest from September 1, 2018, up until payment. She is demanding 4,400 KM from Panža for non-compliance with the contract, as well as 12,100 KM for material damage, more specifically for renting the apartment where she lives, with late payment interest from 24/06/2020 up until payment.
For the next 15 years, she is obliged to repay the loan taken out for the apartment.
“I feel like I’ve been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Life is passing me by. It means nothing to me that it will be in 15 years. I need it now. Five years ago when I paid for it. My life has stagnated since this happened. I can’t do anything concrete. I took the studio apartment to have a corner for myself. I can’t live in that studio apartment, I can’t let it out or sell it. I can’t take out a new loan. My hands are tied. This is a lot of stress. Financially I suffer a lot, mentally the most. I simply cannot live in such an arrangement and such a world, where no one can do anything in regards to them,” she says.
She often stops by the unfinished apartment. She shows us photos from 15 days ago. The walls are plastered, but there are no floors. The glueing of ceramics has begun, and the sanitary ware has not yet been installed.
“We find a worker glueing tiles and we start to hope. We will come in a few days, there is not a single worker. It’s going so poorly… He’s been working on one floor for five years“, she says.
In addition to her problems, the current tenants of the building have problems due to unfinished construction. Six parking spaces are blocked, behind the building, there is construction waste and material, and outdated canopies threaten to fall on someone’s head. They say that everyone had to renovate their apartments because of the irresponsible execution of the works.
“The damage was done on each floor separately. Everyone had a problem. At the end of 2017, he took off the roof and didn’t put it back on for months, so it was leaking on people. We all had to renovate our apartments ourselves. The damage is huge. In a few months, black mold developed. We whitewashed entire floors because we had to fix and decorate it. We couldn’t live in it. Water pours through the wall, and flows through sockets. The water drain is filled with gravel, so the water flows into the garages. There has been waste behind the building for years, even on an area that does not belong to our building but to another building“, says Neven Marinković, one of the tenants.
His neighbours confirm the story and show photos as evidence. Black walls, clothes in the closet covered with mold.
“He put the roof on, but he didn’t finish it completely. Water is leaking down the chimney. He didn’t even lower the gutters. When it rains, we have a waterfall above the entrance. We know that he has no money and that it will not end soon. But at least let him put away the thing that bothers us, that can fall on someone and that has been taking up six parking spaces for years. I have a garage, so I can take shelter, but some don’t, so they have problems with parking and unparking”, says Robert Pavluk, president of the community of condominium owners.
“Every year, I have to scrape the wall in the bathroom and whitewash it, because of that water leakage. The bottom line is that he abandoned all of this and left“, continues tenant Slobodan Grbić.
They addressed the City Administration, and communal and construction inspections. They were advised to ask the investor to finish the started works, without raising tensions and noise.
“We cannot agree to that,” the tenants agree.
Snakes and rats live in the pile of debris behind the building. Tenants see them. Boards are hanging from the outer walls of the building.
“We first turned to the inspection to clarify this for us. This is not all building material. This is garbage. To review how safe this is. The wooden pillars have cracked, and the canopies are no longer safe. And no one will take them away. We have a lot of small children in the building”, says Nataša Dabić.
They admit that they trusted the investor too much and that they waited too long to react. They hoped that they would not have to go to the media. However, they have no other options.
“Everyone is transferring us to someone else. Our usual system of transfer of responsibility. When I was cleaning around the building, I moved one of the nets to take away the trash. He immediately called to ask who had tampered with his nets. He behaves very arrogantly, like a bully. And we just cleaned the area so that we can walk on asphalt, not mud”, says Neven Marinković.
“It is incomprehensible to me that someone cannot stop him. He pushed us down the river. Is there anyone who can order him? If not, get someone to take care of it“, continues Asim Bukić.
In a letter to the building inspectorate, the tenants state that they are concerned about their own safety, which is why they ask the City to “prevent threats to people’s lives and health and ensure the safety of the environment, protect property from further damage and enable the normal functioning of tenants and passers-by”. The institutions of the City of Banjaluka say they are not competent.
“We inform you that, in accordance with the law, this authority does not have the authority to influence the speed and deadline for the completion of works, because the law prescribes a deadline in which the investor must start the execution of the works according to the previously obtained construction permit, but not the deadline in which he must finish them. The Urban Planning and Construction Inspection is not competent to assess any damage that may have occurred as a result of construction works. Within the framework of its competencies, this body will carry out supervision and fact-finding in the sense of taking measures to protect the building and ensure the safety of persons and surrounding buildings”, it was stated in the reply from the City Administration, which also states that the tenants should seek their rights in Basic court.
Investor Mladen Pandža says that no one has sued him, although eTrafika has in its possession a lawsuit filed against him and Aleksandar Milašinović, by JK
“Work continues very quickly. Everything will be finished by the end of the year“, he told us briefly in a telephone conversation.
According to the buyer of the apartment, the tenants and Aleksandar Milašinović, they have been listening to this promise for years. Pandža shifted the blame for the current situation to the tenants. However, he admitted that he was also responsible.
“The problems arose from themselves. I am also to blame because there was a slight lack of money in some moments. It disappeared because I couldn’t sell the apartment because the “gentlemen” created a circus. The workers did leave, it is continuing and it is going slowly. One gentleman rebelled and because of his signature I couldn’t sell the apartments“, he says.
He claims that the new apartments are being extensively renovated and denies the destruction of the old apartments. Despite the material evidence, he again shifts the blame to the tenants.
“The building is from 1962, and some have not been whitewashed for 15 years. And then they suddenly decided that something had leaked on the first floor from the fourth. Just, please don’t”, he said.
Aleksandar Milašinović, to whose account JK paid the money for the apartment, claims that he is a victim like everyone else. He says he lent money to an investor.
“I am sorry that it has not been completed and that I am also suffering damage due to the irresponsibility of the investor. He doesn’t answer my phone. I support any kind of pressure on him to end it. I am not a contracting party, I have a loan to the investor. Based on the sale of the apartments, he was paying me back the loan. I am neither an apartment seller nor an investor. I’m collateral damage there. It makes no sense for my name to appear in a negative context because I suffer the consequences of an irresponsible investor,” Aleksandar Milašinović told us.
He adds that there is only a loan agreement between him and Panža. However, in eTrafika’s possession is the contract of Pandža and Milašinović on the purchase of eight apartments, notarized. According to that contract, Milašinović bought eight apartments under construction from Panža, for a total price of 300,000 KM. One of these apartments was sold to the interlocutor of eTrafika JK.