Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The syndic - apartment owners have wide choice

With some 2.8 million French co-ownership properties managed by professional organisations ('syndics'), owners are faced with a wide range of options when selecting the managers of their building. Only the smallest multi-occupancy buildings are run by a group of volunteers, and most opt instead for some kind of formal arrangement in order to cope with the complexities of insurance, maintenance, planning applications, upkeep of the common parts, collecting the annual charges and mediating between neighbours.

Traditionally much of this work has been done by local estate agents whose licence ('G') enables them to offer the services of professional building management ('gestion'). Inreasingly however, banks and other financial conglomerates are moving in this (lucrative) area and among the largest are companies such as Foncia (Banque Populaire), Lamy (Nexity), Urbania, Immo de France (Procivis), Icade (CDC), Tagerim etc. Some of these groups have taken over small local firms - reminiscent of the days when British banks and insurance companies moved into the estate agency sector, and subsequently withdrew after incurring heavy losses.

There has been some dissatisfaction expressed by owners about the loss of the local company presence and the large groups are not always popular, due to their appearance as remote and impersonal. A number of problems were highlighted in the April 2009 issue of the French consumer magazine '60 million consommateurs'.

Apartment owners have considerable power and can use the annual general meeting to vote the professional syndic out of office, and in all cases it is their vote alone which decides how much or how little can be spent in the comming year, and which determines the future of the building they part own through their shares.