Thursday, October 1, 2009

Problems with the neighbours?

Problems with neighbours ('troubles de voisinage') are taken very seriously by the French and are covered by both the civil and criminal law codes.

Problems that typically arise include noise, DIY activities at night or the weekend, late night partying, and domestic animals, including in the latter case loud and persistent barking by a dog left alone at home or on a balcony (a common occurrence where people are out at work all day), and dangerous and threatening dogs.

If you live in a co-ownership property such as an apartment, you can first speak to a member of the residents committee ('conseil syndical') or failing that to the 'syndic', the professional management company in charge of the property.

In serious cases, you can make a formal complaint ('porter plainte') to the Gendarmerie who are bound to take action.

Sanctions include fines - 150 euros or more for noise, 450 euros if it occurs at night ('tapage nocturne'), and up to 3000 euros for premises such as a bar or disco. In very serious cases, such as threats from a neighbour, the result may be a prison term for the offender.

In all cases a remedy must be applied promptly to hault the nuisance; and a dangerous animal such as dog might be obliged to be kept on a lead or muzzle, or possibly be ordered to be put down.

If you are the victim of nuisance, you should act quickly and decisively, perhaps trying to include the support of neighbours but if necessary going it alone. Your complaint will be taken seriously.

Anticipating and avoiding problems
Checking the area around a property you are thinking of buying is time well spent, and we always advise clients (or do it for them) to return at difference times of day, during the evening, at the weekend as well as during the week, even if possible at different times of the year in the case of, say, a property situated in a holiday resort which is quiet out of season but can be busy in the short holiday period.

Real life examples include:
- properties close to a school you may have visited during school holidays or over a weekend that may be noisy on schooldays
- properties near shops or business premises need to be visited on weekdays
- properties near bars, restaurants cafés should be re-visited in the evening

It is generally wiser to allow time to explore an area thorouhgly than spread your research over too wide an area, in the hope of finding your dream home!