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BBQs, plants and laundry: What are the rules in France around balconies?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
BBQs, plants and laundry: What are the rules in France around balconies?
A man makes a phone call on his balcony on March 28, 2020, in Paris (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

If you want to grill some ribs, install heavy plants or even hang up your laundry to dry on your balcony in France, then there is one document you'll want to consult beforehand.

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If you live in an apartment building in France, then you might be curious whether there are any rules regulating what you are allowed and not allowed to do on your French balcony.

The answer is relatively simple: it depends on your copropriété. In France, a copropriété is a type of building that is split up into several different apartments that are individually owned. It is also the name of the individuals who together make up the co-owners of that shared building, similar to a 'homeowner's association'.

READ MORE: PROPERTY: What you need to know about 'copropriété' fees in France

Most of the time your building will also hire a syndic, or managing agents for the building.

Every copropriété should have a règlement de copropriété, which is a written document outlining all of the operating rules of the building, as well as the rights and olbigations of the 'co-owners' and tenants.

This document governs the common areas of the building and the fees that go into the building's maintenance (les charges), but it can also regulate the use of private areas under certain circumstances. For example, the règlement might have its own rules about the hours that you can do noisy renovation work, or a list of colours allowed for the shutters on your exterior windows.

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So can I barbecue on my balcony?

As you may have guessed from above, the règlement de copropriété may outline the rules for balcony or terrace usage.

This means that the document can dictate anything from whether or not you can hang laundry outside to the weight of plants allowed and the rules on barbecues.

The gist is that the regulations governing balconies and what you can do on them vary widely from one apartment building to another.

Some apartment buildings allow for people to use small electric grills for barbecues, while others might ban grilling and barbecuing altogether.

When asking about your balcony, be sure to find out whether any parts of it are considered 'shared space'.

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Under some circumstances, the règlement may deem balcony railings to be part of the shared space, which would have consequences for the minimum amount of maintenance required by the owner. Though, this would be most likely to occur if the upkeep of your balcony's railing has a direct impact on the structure of the building or other apartments.

Similarly, the document might consider the actual concrete slab of the balcony to be the responsibility of the copropriété for maintenance and upkeep. In this case, if you had a crack in your balcony then the repair costs would fall on the copropriété and not you individually.

How do I find out about the règlement for my building?

If you have a gardien (doorman) you can start by asking him/her. They would likely have a copy on-hand, or they might just know the answer to your question.

Otherwise, you can reach out to the building's syndic, or you can even request a copy of the document from the land registration service. The latter option will cost €30, and you would need to file a formal request (you can find the form here).

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How are these rules decided?

The règlement for the copropriété is voted on in a general meeting of co-owners, and it can be changed.

To do this, you would need to gather the 'general assembly' of co-owners in the building. Then you would need to vote. Depending on the nature of the change, French law can require that the co-owners in the building reach a simple majority (most owners present vote yes) or an absolute majority (out of all owners, including those not present, the majority vote yes).

You can find the voting rules on this government website.

In general, the items outlined in the règlement will be justified somehow. For example, the rules related to furniture and plant height/weight might have to do with concerns about safety and ensuring that the concrete slab of the balcony holds up.

But that does not mean that 'aesthetic' concerns are irrelevant - your copropriété might consider something like hanging laundry to dry from your balcony to be an 'aesthetic harm' (or hygienic concern) for your building.

The standard for all French copropriétés is that anything that changes the exterior appearance of the building is not allowed, and in order to do so, you must get special permission.

READ MORE: The rules for installing air conditioning in your French home

What about local laws and rules?

In certain situations, there might be additional local laws and rules that regulate activities you might want to do on your balcony.

For example, when it comes to BBQs, some areas - especially if there is a drought - will ban or restrict them to avoid the danger of starting wildfires.

Certain legal clauses might restrict charcoal BBQs and allow gas ones, while others could restrict barbecuing to certain times. Check with your local mairie to see if there are restrictions where you live.

READ MORE: What are the rules of having a BBQ in France?

Departmental health regulations may also contain rules that would apply to balconies and terraces.

For example, in Paris the health regulations prohibit the storing of flammable liquids, seeds, bread crumbs or food of any kind on windows, balconies and outside parts of buildings.

It also stipulates that anything hanging from a balcony or window should be done so in a safe manner so that it does not create a dangerous environment for passers-by or other building occupants.

Overall, you can do what you want with and on your balcony, as long as you comply with the copropriété rules and existing local or departmental health/safety regulations, you do not alter the external appearance of the building or carry out any large-scale, structural work that you'd need a permit for, and as long as whatever you do/install on your balcony does not create a safety risk.

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