A rising number of French apartment buildings with communal heating bills (copropriétés) are switching to individualised bills as costs rise.
One co-owner (copropriétaire), Oriabel Baumgartner, at the La Tour Sarrasine residence in Nice, told France 3 that her building recently switched to individualised heating with the agreement of all the co-owners.
This change cost her €8 per year per radiator. She said that the investment was worth it, because “when you look at the statistics, the savings are 15% on average”.
She added: “Before we think about making savings, we have to make people responsible for knowing how much they are consuming.”
The process in her building had begun before the energy crisis, but the co-owners are even more committed to the change now, with inflation and energy bills having risen considerably over the past year.
Commenting on the issue, the Ecology Ministry in France said: “In all collectively heated buildings, when technically possible and when costs are under control, each building must now be equipped with a device that enables [the owners] to see and regulate their energy consumption.”
There are two main methods:
- Individual thermal energy meters (for heating or cooling).
- Heating cost allocators.
Some are installed at the entrance to the flats and others on each radiator. However, in many older buildings, this type of device is not "technically possible", meaning that some co-owners may choose to split the bills between them manually.
Pierre Taboni, president of the Taboni property management firm based in Nice, said that the system was seen as “quite negative by [some] consumer associations because you have energy exchanges between flats that can be difficult to manage”.
However, he added: “If you change the windows, install thermostatic taps... yes, that can be a good thing. I advise it in some co-ownerships.”
But Mr Taboni said that even with individualisation, there are still frequently extra fixed costs due for collective buildings. He said: “70% corresponds to what is recorded and the rest is fixed. I'm having sleepless nights because I have co-owners who [still] won't be able to pay this winter.”
He also said that despite the installation of heat meters to measure consumption, he knows of some co-owners who are not planning to turn on their heating much at all, to continue to save costs even further.
The government is trying to convince more co-owners to take an individualised approach, and in its ‘plan de sobriété énergétique’, which it announced on October 8, it encouraged this as a way to save energy costs.
The change would “encourage inhabitants to reduce their energy consumption and therefore their bills”, said the Élysée in a statement.