Buying a flat in a block of apartments
The management and running of flats in France is strictly laid down by the law which provides a safe and efficient means of regulating the rights and obligations between the owners. Under the co-ownership system you become the owner of your flat and the co-owner of the fraction of the common parts attributable to your flat (as stated in the “Etat Descriptif de division”).
The co-ownership scheme is governed by two important documents, the Règlement de Copropriété and the Etat Descriptif de division (which should be read and understood before purchasing the property).
The building is managed by the co-ownership manager (syndic de copropriété) appointed by the co-owners during the Annual General meeting (Assemblée generale des copropriétaires). During such meeting, the co-owners must also approve the budget and agree on any work to be carried out.
The Syndic is responsible for dealing with insurance, recruiting any personnel, dealing with maintenance contracts and obtaining quotes for repairs. In addition, the Syndic is responsible for the accounting side and issues demands for payment of the service charges.
The Syndic must report to the Conseil Syndical which members are appointed each year by the Annual General meeting (Assemblée generale des copropriétaires). It is important to be involved in the management of the building by becoming a member of the Conseil Syndical in order to defend your and the co-owners’ interests against the Syndic’s decision. It is also important to organize from time to time, in conjunction with the Conseil Syndical, a due diligence in order to make sure that the co-ownership is managed properly by the Syndic (and especially that the monies paid to the said Syndic are used in the most efficient manner). More information re those due diligence can be provided by with one of our bilingual French Lawyer.
If you are buying a flat in the co-ownership scheme, there is additional information that it important to see (prior to the signature of the compromis de vente), such as the last three years accounts and the minutes of the last General Meeting of the co-owners minutes. Those supplied by the vendor (or the syndic), will provide you with relevant information such as the level of the current services charges, the sinking funds (“fonds de roulement” or “avance de trésorerie”), if significant building works in the property had been voted, etc.
Please note that the sinking fund (“fonds de roulement” or “avance de trésorerie”) which has been established during the vendor’s period of his/her ownership will have to be reimbursable by the purchaser to the vendor at completion. Unfortunately, this figure is often only revealed very late in the transaction just prior to completion and can represent sometimes a significant sum to pay. You are therefore advised to enquire such information to the syndic at an early opportunity.
This law provides also that a vendor must guarantee the surface area of the flat and, in this regard, he/she must provide with a certificate (Certificat loi Carrez) which states the exact surface of the property. This is quite important as if the agent has advertised a flat for a particular surface area and you subsequently receive a certificate which states that the property has a significantly less area, you may wish to renegotiate the price. This is often the case with apartments where the surface area has a direct bearing on the value of the property.