Joint ownership can be defined as a regime of forced co- ownership of dividing barriers such as walls, hedges and ditches. These are not easements but genuine rights of ownership held in common by two people.
What is joint ownership?
The joint ownership is governed by Articles 653 to 673 of the French Civil Code.
A jointly-owned wall is a wall which is common between two neighbors of which they are joint owners. We refer to forced co- ownership since this state of indivision is in principle perpetual.
When two neighboring owners decide to build at their joint costs a fence placed on the dividing line of their land, this fence is jointly-owned (mitoyenne). The setting up of this fence, jointly owned from the origin, results from an amicable agreement.
Acquisition of a jointly-owned wall
It is also possible to amicably acquire the joint-ownership of a wall which is located on the boundaries of a property or a portion of a jointly-owned wall built individually by the neighbor (in particular in case of raising). The acquisition of the joint ownership constitutes a transfer of ownership and requires a document of survey as well as a notarial act drafted by your Notary. This acquisition indeed results in the displacing of the properties’ dividing line since half the ground on which the wall rests now privatively belongs to each of the neighbors. The purchaser must pay half of the wall's costs and half of the ground’s value on which it is built.
The regime of joint ownership does not apply to the walls belonging to the public domain. Only a wall dependent of the private domain of the community or the State can be jointly-owned.
How is joint ownership established or not?
The methods of proof's hierarchy allowing to establish the joint ownership is the following:
: leaning a building against the wall of his neighbor for thirty years, without protest from said neighbor, allows to claim the joint
of the part of the wall used.
- The title: This is the notarial act that
clarify if the fence is private or terraced, but if this title is not common to the two neighbors, the act is only a
submitted to the discretion of the judge.
- Marks of non joint-ownership of the wall (Article 654 of the French Civil Code): When the top of the wall comprises a tilted surface or when said wall comprises nets or corbels on one side, they are considered to belong to one owner, the one towards whom the tilted surface is directed or on the side of whom the nets or corbels are placed.
- Marks of non joint-ownership of ditches (Article 666 of the French Civil Code): When the raising or heap of earth is located on one side only of the ditch.
- Presumptions of joint-ownership of the wall (Article 653 and 666 of the French Civil Code): a wall is presumed jointly-owned when it serves as separation between two buildings up to the point of disjunction, or between a courtyard and a garden, or between enclosures in fields.
- Presumptions of joint-ownership of a fence or a ditch (Article 666 of the French Civil Code): Any fence separating inheritances is deemed jointly-owned unless there is a title, prescription or mark indicating the contrary, and any ditch is supposed to belong exclusively to the person towards whom the heap of earth is located.
Rights of joint owners situated next to each othe
Each of the neighbors may lean constructions against the wall and insert beams with the consent of the other owner of the wall or agreement of an expert in the absence of neighbor. Each owner may also lean plantations in espalier, provided they do not exceed the wall’s top.
Each owner can rent the face of the wall which is located on their side for advertising purposes without giving notice to his/her neighbor and without sharing the fees collected. No openings (doors, windows) can be done in a common wall without the neighbor’s agreement.
Any joint-owner can raise on his/her own the party wall or increase its thickness. He/she then shall entirely support the costs of the works since the raised or increased part is his property. If the party wall cannot support the elevation, the person who wishes to raise the wall shall rebuild said wall at his/her own expense.
Obligations of joint owners situated next to each other:
Both neighbors shall jointly contribute to the maintenance, repairs or reconstructions expenses of the party wall.
This rule is however excluded when works are made necessary because of only one of the owners: Consequently, the owner that demolishes his building shall perform the works of waterproofing of the subsisting party wall from now on exposed to the weather without protection.