Monday, September 14, 2009

Syndic voted for building works?

One of the essential pre-purchase checks when buying a French co-ownership property (such as an apartment) concerns the 'syndic', the professinal management company responsible for administering the building, in conjunction with an owners' committee (known as the 'conseil syndical').

The estate agent handling the apartment sale should be able to provide a record of recent annual general meetings of the syndic and the co-owners, in which you can find details of building works, such as repairs and decoration, recently undertaken, in progress or planned for the future. The costs are apportioned among the co-owners, in accordance with the size of their apartment, which in turn determines the number of shares each owner holds in the freehold of the building.

The syndic is typically responsible for insuring the building fabric, and maintaining the common parts such as entrance, hall ways, corridors, stairs, lifts and outside areas such as a garden, car parking or swimming pool. Each apartment owner contributes an annual service charge to help defray the costs involved, and occasional calls for additional funds voted by the AGM.

Your decision to purchase - or not - may well be influenced by the scale and type of works in hand or planned, as a share of the cost will fall on you, the buyer. Typical major works can include exterior painting ('ravalement'), internal decoration, and repair or replacement of the lift to comply with recent norms. Many apartment blocks from the 1970s and 80s now require major refurbishment, and when visiting properties it is advisable to check the condition of the building overall, in addition to the apartment you may be considering buying.

Typical costs recently incurred involving buildings in my region include internal painting at 60,000 euros (individual contribution from 600 euros for a studio apartment) and replacing the lift in an eight-storey block at 80,000 euros. The cost in this case is based on a combination of factors - size of the apartment and floor level. A 50m² second floor apartment had to contribute 1,600 euros and an 8th floor studio 1,800 euros.

The overall costs of future work, based normally on at least three competitive estimates, should be available from the syndic, together with an estimate of the individual contribtuion that will be required from the apartment you may be thinking of buying.

Apartment owners are generally reluctant spenders but essential works have to be carried out from time to time in order to keep a building in good repair and maintain its value.