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War of the Noses

Yesterday there was a rather thick package of paper in my “boites aux lettres” titled “Amicale du [number] rue de Saintonge.” One might have thought it the manuscript of a new screen play at first glance, but no, it’s the preparatory documents owners will need to attend the annual “assemblée générale” (meeting) of the “copropriété” (homeowners association).

The meeting will take place March 10th, just after our own “Parler Paris Après Midi” gathering, in the same location — the upstairs at La Pierre du Marais. Convenient for me…I won’t have a long commute — may not even have to change seats!

The association meetings of any group of owners is predictable. It is sure to be both dastardly and fascinating at the same time. While the meetings usually drone on with incessant conversation over the most mundane decisions (the French can ‘circle’ a discussion like driving cars around the “Etoile” (Arc de Triomphe) never to actually spin off in any direction), the interaction among the owners is always an eye- opening experience.

At one meeting of one of our clients (who owns a one-bedroom apartment in a 16th-century building in Le Marais), kicked off with a ‘duel of noses!’ Yes, you read right…a duel of noses. The father of the volunteer “syndic” (association manager), who also lived in the building and who was present to defend his son from the accusations of absconding with 10,000 euros of the association’s money, actually thrust his long French nose into the nose space of another owner and whacked it back and forth as if it was an epee!

I swear, this is true. It’s never been seen before and never been seen since, but my first thoughts were that in a weird way it was quite civilized, if not downright bizarre. Is it cultural, we might wonder?

Nonetheless, what is so interesting about the thick package of papers has more to do with the contents, which includes a friendly letter from our volunteer syndic. He’s an elderly gentleman with whom I’ve developed a very pleasant rapport over the years, mostly because in his eyes I’m a real oddity — a woman with real estate/business sense. It seems he hasn’t come across too many of those in his past experience and for that reason, must respect my opinion as he includes me in many of
the committee meetings only involving a few owners.

In his letter, he refers to the decision by the association in 1995 to manage itself rather than hire an outside agency. In an effort to ‘pat himself on the back’ a bit, he notes that of the 500,000 associations in France, representing 20 million people, 90% to 95% are managed by professional agencies, while the remaining 5% to 10%, usually of small associations, manage themselves, citing an article in Le Monde this past December. The letter goes on to say that the normal annual cost for an owner is 25,30€ per square meter while at our building, the cost is less than 9€! That’s an annual savings of more than 1,100€ for my part alone.

No doubt, I have new-found respect for the volunteer syndic who has to endure all the owners’ issues and complaints, including the rebel owner who painted her door different from the others (like me).

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris


P.S. It’s surprising! “Le Provençal” actually has availabilities this month and next. Take advantage of a last minute rental in the sunniest little studio this side of the Seine at the low season rates! Visit
/parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html and be sure to tell John I sent you.


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