Co-ownership, your rights, and obligations

Updated on Thursday 28 September 2023

The legal regime of co-ownership allows the distribution of the ownership of an apartment building between several people, known as co-owners.
This system sets the operating rules of this small community, so that the latter is experienced peacefully.


The co-ownership system

Almost all apartments are subject to the co-ownership system, which applies to all co-owners and their tenants.

In some special cases, houses may be subject to this legal system, as well as commercial or professional premises.

Regardless of the property in co-ownership, it always has two legally inseparable elements:

- private areas (rooms in the accommodation for example)

- a quota, expressed in percentage (most often in thousandths) of the common areas (green spaces, elevators, boiler room, etc.).

These two elements, private sections and common area sharing, make up an indivisible lot.

The law sets mandatory rules for the use and management of buildings, which are subject to the legal system of co-ownership.

Co-ownership rules

These rules are mentioned in the co-ownership regulations, which contain both general information on the building and on the intended use of the private areas of your lot. Therefore, you need to respect this.

For example: you live in a building which is intended for exclusive residential use, exercising a business will be forbidden there. It may be tolerated to exercise a liberal profession. Therefore, it is necessary to consult the co-ownership regulations to find out more about this. However, the simple administrative domiciliation of the head office of a sole proprietorship in a residential area is theoretically permitted, mainly if the activity takes place outside. For a company, it is also possible to establish the domiciliation at the residence of its legal representative, but only at the residence of the manager (CEO or manager for example), but never the partner.

If a contractual or legislative provision rejects the domiciliation of the head office of a legal person at the residence of its manager, this domiciliation remains possible for a maximum period of 5 years. The manager must specify the temporary nature of his domiciliation while registering and inform the owner of the premises, through a registered letter with acknowledgment.

Careful: however domiciliation at personal residence does not authorize exercising the activity, the reception of goods or client, and does not entail any change in the use of the premises, nor application of the status of commercial lease.

Even if there are similarities between the co-ownership regulations, you need to be attentive to the possible peculiarities in your case. This includes any restrictions on the use of your co-ownership lots and therefore protects you against any abuse by other co-owners..

Updating the co-ownership regulations

In order to align the co-ownership regulations, which are at times old, with the legislative and regulatory provisions that have emerged since their establishment, the general meeting may make adjustments, voted through a simple majority of the co-owners who are present or represented (article 24 of the law dated July 10, 1965). Publication of these changes with the Land Registry Service is carried out at the set registration fee (and not at the proportional fee).

These adaptations can make it possible to get rid of any clauses contrary to the regulations or, on the contrary, include the mandatory clauses which aren’t present.

Among the recent legislative developments, we mainly note the law to access housing and renovated town planning (known as the ALUR law) dated March 24, 2014 which mainly creates a new governance system, for small co-ownerships and aims to facilitate management and decision-making by the co-owners.

Syndicate of co-ownership

The community formed by all the co-owners of the same building is known as the syndicate of co-owners..

This syndicate has the same legal capacity as a company.

The latter must meet every year and this meeting is known as the general assembly of co-owners. Its purpose is to give an opinion on the accounts of the past year, on the discharge which needs to be given to the trustee, on the provisional budget for the future year, which means the amount of the quarterly provision of outlays that need to be paid, provision for works’ funds since January 2017 (except for new buildings and co-ownerships of less than 10 lots), renew the trustee in terms of his functions or choose a new one, elect the members of the union council, to the consultation level for the syndicate council and competition between companies, to vote on the necessary works, to maintain common areas, etc..

Depending on the nature of the decisions which need to be taken, the law sets various majority rules for the general assembly and even imposes unanimity for the most serious decisions.

In order to carry out the decisions of the general assembly, the syndicate of co-owners is provided by law with two bodies:

- the syndicate (professional or volunteer)

- the union council (made up of elected co-owners) responsible for assisting the property manager and monitoring his management.

The syndicate of co-owners is authorized to enforce and modify the co-ownership regulations, either when the law changes or when a co-owner requests so.

For example: If you wish to divide your co-ownership lot into two or if you want to combine two lots into one, the co-ownership regulations will have to be amended through a notarial act. Do not hesitate consulting your notary, to find out the procedure which needs to be followed and to be in accordance with the legislation in force.

In some cases, especially if your work involves common areas (drilling a load-bearing wall for example) or impacts the general harmony of the building (closing a balcony for example), an agreement from the general assembly will be necessary and your request for authorization must be sent to the trustee, so that he can put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

It should be noted that theoretically speaking, there is only one per year and you can only carry out your work after you have been authorized to do so. In certain cases (division of a lot for example), an expert surveyor’s intervention shall be necessary and a notarial act as well, which modifies the co-ownership regulations that were drawn up. Let your notary assess the total cost of the modification you plan on requestion, before starting the works.