It's by no means all apartment blocks, but many buildings in France do operate on the principle of chauffage collectif or collective heating, which means that the tenants don't have control over the date their heating is switched on.
What date is it turned on?
There is no law dictating the switch-on date (la date d'allumage) and dates can vary from place to place in France. The date is usually decided by the tenants' committee in consultation with the landlord.
However as a guide, the heating is usually on by October 15th and switched off again from April 15th.
You might need an extra jumper is you can't agree with your neighbours on the switch-on date. Photo: AFP
What if you're really cold?
Although there are no laws around the switch on date, landlords are required to keep the building to a comfortable temperature. If the temperature in the building falls below 18C for more than one consecutive day, this would be classed as too cold.
If there is an unusually early cold snap before the heating is turned on and your apartment falls below this, you could have a case for asking for the heating to be turned on earlier. If this is the case, you should first make your request via the tenants' association.
If your fellow tenants don't agree with you that it's too cold (or are unwilling to pay extra heating bills) the request may be turned down. If this happens, there is no right of appeal so you will have to either buy an electric heater or put on another jumper until the switch-on date.
What are the advantages to the system?
Although it might sound like a nightmare not being in control of your own heating, there are some advantages. Advance agreements with energy companies can result in lower bills and it's also easier to get heat from alternative sources like geothermal energy or excess heat from local industry if the entire building is being heated.
Not having a boiler in every apartment also saves space and if the boiler does break down it means there is someone to share the cost and help with plumber call-outs etc.
Many apartments have their own individual thermostats, so you can still regulate the temperature in your home once the heating has been turned on and lower your bills further if you don't use much heat.