Monday, June 3, 2013

You and your syndic

If you live in a typical French apartment building or in some cases an enclosed estate comprising a mix of villas and apartments, it is likely that the complex will be managed by a professional organsiation, known as the 'syndic'. They charge fees for their services, which are collected from each occupier according to the size of their apartment or villa.

The syndic can be either the property management division of a local estate agency or increasinly an office of the one of the specialist companies such as Foncia or Nexity, which are in turn owned by major banks and financinal institutional. A recent consumer report has criticised a number of syndics for over-charging, poor management, lack of communication and in some cases outright fraud. How can you guard against such excesses?

The first point to note is that residents have the right to dismiss and appoint the syndic, a decision which can be voted on at the annual general meeting of all the residents. If you have a strong residents committee, one of its tasks will be to keep a close watch on expenditure, both on management fees, and building maintenance costs and necessary repairs. As the consumer report noted, where there is no strong representation by residents - often in very large complexes - abuses can go unchecked.

As a resident you have a right to vote on all issues, your vote depending on how many shares you have in the complex (according to the size of your property) and if your French is up to it, you could consider taking a more active role by joining the residents committee. At the very least, you should study carefully the agenda for the annual meeting, describing what issues are to be voted on, and either attend or appoint a fellow resident as your proxy, with the power to vote on your behalf.

If you are buying into a complex that is managed by a syndic, your estage agent or Notaire should provide you with copies of recent decisions by the syndic, so that you can check for any major expenditure that may have been voted, and the cost of which you may inherit.

Major cost items can include interior and exterior painting, lift maintenance and repair, the salary of a concierge if resident on site, maintenance of grounds (including swimming pools etc). A property in a well maintain complex has added value and a strong residents committe will ensure that expenditure is kept to a minimum. A good syndic will also have sensible rules to regulate the complex for all concerned, covering such issues as noise, pets, sub-letting etc.

Some very small shared buildings - such as a group of less than 10 apartments - may be managed by a voluntary syndic made up of the residents. This is quite legal but the only point to watch is that routine repairs and maintenance have not been neglected, as failure to act soon can create more serious problems later.