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Buying en copropriété in France

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 20.56.16What is a copropriété?

The way ownership of apartments in France works is somewhat different to the way it works in the UK, and it is sensible to make sure you understand the differences before proceeding with a purchase.

When buying an apartment in France, such as an apartment within a complex, you are not only buying the apartment itself but a share in the apartment block.

The owners between them own the whole apartment block like a kind of co-operative, and this arrangement is known as en copropriété.

Charges de copropriétéScreen Shot 2016-06-11 at 20.56.07
As in the UK leasehold system, there are service charges and maintenance charges associated with copropriété. In France these are known as charges de copropriété.

The charges de copropriété will depend on the size and quality of the complex, such as whether there are lifts, a pool, gardens, tennis courts and other facilities. Houses can also be part of a housing corporation, such as a house on a gated development, or a house that has shared facilities such as a pool or underground parking. All charges will be allocated according to the size of each apartment and the facilities it enjoys.

How does a copropriété work?
The management and running of flats in France is strictly laid down by French law which provides a safe and efficient means of regulating the rights and obligations between the owners.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 20.56.01The Syndic de Copropriété
The management of the building is undertaken by a management committee – the ‘syndic de copropriété.’ It is appointed by the apartment owners to look after the day to day running of the building, such as insurance, maintenance contracts, gardening, cleaning of common parts, looking after the grounds and buildings. In emergencies they are there to ensure the necessary persons are called. For small matters under a certain budget they have the right to complete necessary building works without the permission of the committee. For larger matters they obtain quotes for the committee to approve.

They are also responsible for the building accounts and issue demands for payment of the service charges.

‘The Syndic de Copropriété meet with apartment owners at the AGM and with the elected committee on a regular basis.

Decision making in the apartment block

All the owners have the right to attend and vote at meetings and the apportionment of votes is roughly in proportion to the number of parts owned by each owner (the number of ‘parts’ will depend on the size of the apartment).

Règlement de copropriété – the Rules of the Copropriété 

The rules and regulations of the co-ownership are contained in a document known as the règlement de copropriété. This is usually a very long document. The rules are generally common sense such as being considerate towards the other owners and maintaining the value of the property e.g. by not painting your shutters bright orange or leaving bicycles or other equipment in the corridors.

Also contained in the règlement de copropriété are the regulations relating to meetings. All co-ownerships must have an annual general meeting as a minimum legal requirement but there will be provision for other meetings that may be needed, for example if urgent works are necessary.

There will be information on how voting takes place and decisions made, (i.e. unanimously or by majority).

It’s important to note is that when signing your ‘acte de vente’, the sale contract, you (the property purchaser) are agreeing to the terms of the règlement de copropriété so its important that you fully understand it.

Important points to note when buying a Copropriété

Since the Loi Alur came into force in 2015, vendors are obliged to provide certain documents and information to purchasers of their apartment, including the règlement de copropriété, which was often not previously provided until the day of completion of the sale.

  1. Before signing the compromis de vente
    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).

Among other documents that purchasers are entitled to see are:Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 21.00.57

– The last three years accounts
– The maintenance record for the property
– The Minutes of the last three annual general co-ownership meetings
– The level of the current service charges
– The level and cost of the sinking fund (“fonds de roulement” or “avance de trésorerie”)
– If significant building works in the property have been voted approved / planned etc.
– Financial information relating to the co-ownership – who owes what to who.
– Technical reports to show whether there is any asbestos or lead in the building, whether it is affected by termites and so on. Be sure to obtain reports for both the private and common parts of the property.

  1. Certificat loi Carrez
    This law states that a vendor must guarantee the surface area of the flat and provide a certificate (Certificat loi Carrez) which states the exact surface of the property. This is quite important as the size of the apartment is the main criteria for determining the value. When you buy one you are entitled under the law known as Loi Carrez to be given a certificate showing the habitable surface area measurement. If it transpires that the actual measurement is more than 5% less than this, you would be entitled to claim a corresponding reduction in the price, as long as you claim this within one year of signing the acte de vente (sale deed).
  1. Charges & contracts
    The law provides that, in the context of a sale, co-ownership charges are paid for by whoever is the owner at the time the demand for payment is made by co-ownership management. However, it is possible for the co-owners to derogate from these provisions if they wish. As charges are usually made quarterly, if completion of the sale takes place towards the end of the quarter it may not be fair to make the purchaser pay for the whole period as they did not own the property for most of that time.

The parties are free to agree between themselves how to deal with this and provisions should be made at an early stage, i.e. in the contract.

Regarding works to be carried out on the building, this should also be the subject of an agreement between the parties. For example, it might be fairer for the vendor to pay for all works already agreed, and for the purchaser to pay for workScreen Shot 2016-06-11 at 20.55.50s agreed after signing the sale agreement, or the acte de vente.

If major works have already been agreed, you may not want to take responsibility for this expense so soon after taking ownership. Ensure that you have a clause in your contract that is suitable in the circumstances.

Smaller points 

  • When buying an apartment it is important to obtain a site plan (plan de masse) to compare with your contract to ensure from the position of the apartment on the plan that you are buying the right one.
  • If you wish to do something different to your apartment, such as install a own satellite dish or change window shutters you would need to apply and be given permission by the copropriété before you could go ahead.
  • As previously mentioned, when you sign the final conveyance deed to purchase the apartment you are deemed to have read and agreed to the règlement de copropriété.

The Summary

A run well copropriété can be a hassle free way to own a property and ensure maintenance and up-keep of the property and building is taken care of. You may also enjoy facilities such as elevators, swimming pools, well maintained gardens and clean communal spaces! The down side can be a poorly run syndic de copropriété or unexpected pre-agreed building costs or deposits into the sinking fund, or an overly officious neighbour.

Either way its important to do your homework to ensure there are no hidden surprises!

Reference  Material:
France Legal
We Live in France
Complete France
The French Law Office




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