Buying an apartment, 'bas de villa', any advice?

I’m considering buying in the area where I’m currently renting, however the only properties with gardens in my price range are ‘bas de villa’, the ground floors of large houses with one other co-proprietor upstairs. It seems common enough in this area however does anyone have any first hand experience of buying and living in an apartment like this? I’m basically worried about dealing with issues like maintenance of property and common areas, would permission always be needed from the other proprietor and vice versa, would there need to be legal agreements drawn up between the proprietors regarding such issues, basically does living like this work out or would it be a headache?

Not precisely the same, but we used to own a flat in Paris. The french system does not have leasehold and freehold, but instead you buy en copropriété so you own your flat and have a share of the common parts. All very regulated and this one was managed by a syndic who organised maintenance, common areas and improvements etc etc which was all set out in the coprop documents. We each had voting rights according to our surface area. Small copropriétés don’t have to be managed by a syndic.

Anyway at the beginning we had a bad coprop syndic who were useless, and did nothing and didn’t manage disagreements between flat owners. Eventually it was transferred to a better syndic - but the annual meeting still took forever.

So the key question is whether a divided villa is considered as a tiny copropriété? And if so what the règlementation document for that villa says as it should be quite detailed and tell you what you can and cannot do, how disagreements should be managed and so on. You can also ask to see the maintenance history which will give you an idea of whether that particular villa has been well managed and is likely to cause headaches or not. Talk to the estate agents who will know the details.

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if there is a “copropriete” with a proper syndic (best way to go) then you should ask to see the last 3 AG comptes rendus

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Thanks a million Jane and Phililip for that information, I wasn’t sure what the correct french terms were, I will ask about a reglementation document and if a syndic is used.

a copropriete can be a few as 2 dwellings or flats

Yes, that’s what they would be Phillip, I’m looking at properties that are the ground floors of large houses with another owner living in the upstairs part accessed by external steps. They share the driveway and garage though.

it can get horribly complicated if there is, for example. a leak in the roof, or any form of structural problem. things can quickly become nuclear when money is involved…hence the need for a syndic and proper rules for the copropriete

That’s what I would be worried about!

Doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about the regulations that are in place…and who of course are the other owners. You should be able to ask for a set before you sign anything. I live on the top floor of of a two apartment building and it’s clear how costs are shared. There should be insurance for the common areas in case of fire etc, but there are several ways of doing that. We don’t have a company managing ours. I’ve never looked into what recourse you have if things don’t go well., so that might be worth doing. It would be also good to meet the other owners before buying - find out how long they’re planning to be around, do they rent it out etc. Find out what other work has been done recently perhaps and consider getting someone to look at the roof before diving in. Maybe look at what the floor is made out of - I know our wooden floors can be a bit noisy downstairs when we have visitors with kids - and see if you can experience the place with people in upstairs.

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Great advice, thanks a million!

I would also be curious to know whether the upstairs co-proprietor has access to the garden…

It seems to vary, for some both apartments have seperate sections of garden, for others the garden is for the sole use of the downstairs apartment.

Is there a separate electricity supply for each part of the property? and how about water and drains etc…

Generally this is quite well organised in a coprop, with mains services arriving at the building and then being split. And a clear division of responsibility within the flat and outside. For example in our building (which was 7 flats) the replacement of lead water pipes from the street was done up to our front doors, and the bill split according to laid down procedures. But from our front door onward it was our sole responsibility.

But another thing to check is detailed in the documents.

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