Reader Question: We own a flat in an apartment block and one of the other owners was managing the syndicate. However, she has now disappeared and is not responding to calls or emails. We need to find our syndic’s details and get some urgent work completed. How can we progress from here?
There are several avenues that you might try to resolve your situation, but first, we explain what a syndic is and the role it should play in a shared block of flats.
What is a syndic?
In France, buildings divided into flats are co-owned by the individual flat owners under the copropriété system.
A copropriété includes individual private areas, ie. personal flats, and communal spaces such as hallways, lifts, gardens, and even bin areas.
The syndicat des copropriétaires is a technical term for all of the owners, who hold an annual meeting called the assemblée générale (or AG) des copropriétaires. It has its own legal status, similar to a company, and takes decisions related to the building’s management.
The syndic is an organisation, in most cases a commercial firm but in this case a flat owner, who acts as the legal representative of the syndicat des copropriétaires, and who manages the day-to-day running of the communal areas, cleaning, maintenance, and emptying of bins among other things.
The firm or person acts on decisions taken at the AG and sends quarterly bills appels de fonds.
The conseil syndical – elected from owners at the AG – assists the syndic and checks they are doing their job properly.
The AG des copropriétaires meets to vote on the accounts of the previous year, the coming year’s budget, any new repair or improvement work on communal areas, and to set aside money for a fonds de travaux.
The latter is an obligatory fund that flat-owners must pay into as part of their charges since 2017, set aside to help pay for important work that becomes necessary in the future. The aim is to avoid unexpected big bills all at once.
What can you do if your syndic stops responding to you?
Use the extranet
If your syndic stops replying to emails, texts or calls, one other thing you can try is sending a message through the extranet portal which they should have set up for your syndicat de copropriétaires.
This online platform should contain all of the documents related to the copropriété and as owners you should be able to access it.
If you are able to message your syndic through this extranet, you can take screenshots of the communication as proof that you have tried to contact them in various different ways.
However, if they have not responded to other forms of communication, this may not prove to be very useful.
Letters with accusé de réception
Another way of encouraging your syndic to take notice of your messages is to send a letter with accusé de réception (acknowledgement of receipt) formally detailing your requests or concerns.
This will force the syndic to show that they know that you are trying to get in touch with them. This will also act as proof of repeated attempts at contact if further action is required against the organisation or individual.
Approach your conseil syndical
Seek advice from your conseil syndical, which coordinates communications between the syndic and the owners it represents.
It is likely that other owners within the building are also experiencing the same problem, and you can find out whether or not this is the case by asking your conseil syndical, which may also be able to take certain actions to resolve the problem.
If you do not already have contact details for this conseil, they may be displayed on the communal boards in your building, in the extranet or on the minutes from your last AG (which will be attached to your purchase deed if you have just moved in).
Of course, if you know who the members of the conseil are and you are at your flat, you can also visit them in person.
Engage the services of a mediator
Your syndic should have included the details of a mediator on the contract they signed with your copropriété and/or on the extranet portal.
You can also find a list of mediators on the Commission d’évaluation et de contrôle de la médiation de la consommation website under the Immobilier (real estate) section.
Discuss your issue at the next AG
If possible, you could also wait until the next assemblée générale de copropriétaires (AG) to discuss your issue, but you must send your question or demand to the syndic well in advance of the meeting, and if they are not replying to you this may not be very straightforward.
Initiate proceedings against your syndic
If your syndic is neglecting their responsibilities, your copropriété can vote at an AG to initiate proceedings against them and choose a new organisation or individual to act as syndic.
A syndic is appointed for a period of three years but it is possible to terminate their contract beforehand if they have seriously neglected their responsibilities, which can include a failure to reply to you.
Replacement action must be included in advance on the AG agenda, and several different syndics must propose their services so that the owners can choose between their offers.
If the end of the three year contract is approaching in the next three months their appointment can be terminated straightaway and new contracts proposed.
Copropriétés: Co-ownership in France explained