The trustees of co-ownership jostled by insolent start-ups

published on Friday, May 27, 2022 at 08:42

Vitriol ads, legal battle… The emergence of start-ups that intend to upset the management of co-ownership trustees puts established real estate professionals on the defensive.

They are called Bellman, Homeland, Syndic One, Hello Syndic… Young companies, which present themselves as “neo-syndics”, on the model of “neo-banks”, offer computerized solutions to facilitate the management of trustees.

The syndic of co-ownership manages the common parts and charges of a building. It can be cooperative, that is to say piloted voluntarily by co-owners, or professional, when it is entrusted to a company for a fee.

One of these new companies crystallizes the oppositions: Matera.

Offering assistance to volunteer managers, without itself being a professional trustee, the start-up had split, in 2019 and 2020, an aggressive advertising campaign ridiculing the traditional heavyweights of the sector.

– “Ambiguity” –

The reaction of the community was quick: two legal summons aimed at the company, accused in particular of illegal exercise of the profession.

At first instance, the Paris Commercial Court ruled in favor of Matera on this point, but ruled that it had committed unfair competition and deceptive commercial practices.

Matera appealed, and another summons, for similar grievances, is being examined at the Paris Court.

“Matera has cultivated an ambiguity between being a trustee or not being a trustee”, thunders Jean-Marc Torrollion, president of the National Federation of Real Estate (Fnaim).

“For me, this is an absolutely ridiculous affair,” retorted Matera boss Raphael Di Meglio. “They know full well that each time, we present ourselves as assistance to the cooperative syndic”, he assures.

Recently, an online comparator of trustees has once again drawn the indignation of professional organizations, which accuse Matera of having set up a “clickbait”, or of indulging in “syndic-bashing”.

“There are existing players who defend a rent, and who are in my opinion not very capable of creating innovation in their sector; and their means of defending their market share is in particular to initiate legal proceedings” , says Raphaël Di Meglio.

– “Commercial issue” –

Because behind, there is a very real economic battle.

The new players “nibble market share from the trustees, the latter being robbed of the co-ownerships in favor of management by the co-owners themselves internally. So there is still a commercial issue behind it”, explains to the AFP Me Elisa Bocianowski, lawyer specializing in real estate (and not involved in these cases) at the firm Simmons & Simmons.

These young companies intend to automate, using applications, certain time-consuming tasks: accounting, filing of administrative documents, etc.

“Today, if you go to a traditional trustee, it works a bit like thirty years ago,” says Antonio Pinto, founder of the neo-trustee Bellman. “It’s the accountant who prints things, the assistant who will put the letters in folds and post them, we receive invoices in paper format, we put stamps…”

“And when you’re managing 40 buildings, or 50, or 70, every second counts,” he says.

“Online trustees are interesting for small condominiums that cannot be managed in a traditional way”, thinks David Rodrigues, of the consumer association CLCV.

Bellman, who manages around 500 condominiums, had co-owners interviewed for a study: 45% of them rate their satisfaction with their trustee between 0 and 6 out of 10.

Which prompted her to also launch a daring advertising campaign, where the co-owners who give up on dropping a dysfunctional trustee are represented as masochists all dressed in leather.

The heavyweights in the sector are trying to adapt. Foncia is thus putting the finishing touches to a trustee management smartphone application.

“I think there is room for everyone, but the added value is still linked to a professional in the flesh”, defends Danielle Dubrac, president of the Union of professionals of the real estate (United), while warning: “If the economic model (of new players) is not profitable, if there is no return on investment, we move on. And there may be a very rapid obsolescence of these neo-actors”.

Neither Bellman nor Matera are currently beneficiaries.

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