Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Syndic

Living in a co-ownership property, such as an apartment, you will come across the building management service (known as the syndic) and usually a committee of residents who employ them. As well as owning your apartment you will also have a share of the building's common parts - corridors, lifts, stairs, garden, pool etc - and your monthly charges will include sums for maintaining these. Your voting power at the building's AGM depends on the size of your apartment and the number of 'units' (shares or tantièmes) you own in the building, in addition to the freehold of your apartment.

Normally everything runs smoohtly, and discussion at the AGM centres around everyday issues such as painting and maintenance, noise, dogs, permission from someone to add a terrace or close in their loggia, and so on. These are voted on according to the total number of points accumulated - a large apartment has more, a studio less, and so on. Occasionally there can be more serious issues, such as the one I am facing in relation to my own building.

It appears that since the last AGM in August 2008, a group of residents made a formal complaint to the syndic about offensive cooking smells coming from three of the restaurants on the ground floor below me. This led to an expert being called in, a court case and a meeting with the restaurant owners, who have been found to be in breach of local laws regarding correct air extraction equipment from their premises, and they have been told to put things right. Some of them have come up with proposals, while protesting that they have been established in the building in some cases for nearly ten years and there have been no complaints until now.

This has led to a mix of views among the residents, some who say they don't want unsightly air extraction ducts spoiling the look of the building and the restaurants should simply be shut down; while others argue we are on weak ground owing to the long period the restaurants have been operating without complaint and they have now offered to put things right, at their expense.

I have been taking soundings among people I know in the building, as all this arises when yet another faction says they are unhappy with the syndic's management of the problem and general levels of expenditure on cleaning etc; and want to sack them and replace them with another firm, which is within the power of the co-owners to do so. There is also the matter of interior decoration which is needed but ideally should be put on hold until any necessary work is done to accomodate the new air ducts which is more urgent. There is also the perennial conflict between the views of residents who live here all year round (very few of us) and absentee owners who visit occasionally and try and rent out their apartments during the summer season.

All this is outlined in the agenda for next month's meeting which may prove to be a lively one, and I will report on the outcome in due course.