In France, properties with common elements (whether a building, amenities or land) shared with other properties are owned outright through a system called ‘co-ownership’ (copropriété), similar to owning a condominium in the US. The owners of the building are all part of a co-owners association. In addition to general charges, there may also be special charges for collective services and common equipment such as lifts, central heating and hot water, which may be divided according to the share of the utility allocated to each apartment. Allow about 2 euros/square metre of the apartment and you won’t be far off.
All copropriétaires have been required to pay service charges quarterly, the amount being adjusted at the end of the year when the annual accounts have been approved by the committee. Owners also have the right to make payments from a separate bank account.
The association is managed by an outside company (Syndic) that organises any necessary repair works, as well as the annual owner’s association meeting. At the annual meeting, the owners decide upon any renovations or building works that are necessary. An owner has the right to attend the meeting, or can give a proxy. In that case, simple proxy must be sent ahead of time to the Syndic.
When you purchase an apartment, any renovations that were voted upon during the ownership of the seller are the financial the responsibility of the seller, but those that are pending, (up for discussion but not decided) become the responsibility of the new owner. If the group is in the throes of deciding to install an elevator in the building, it can be costly, so take this into consideration when you are looking at the overall price of your potential purchase.
The Syndic will send the Notaire handling the sale a statement of the seller’s account regarding the payment of fees and any work in progress but not yet completed (for which owners are liable). The vendor should obtain a Certificat de l’Article 20 stating that he doesn’t owe any money to the copropriété; otherwise the Notaire must withhold payment to cover any fees due.