Constitutional Council: ruling on rental charges for heating-related expenses

FRANCE – The principle of equality does not require that the rules for recovery of rental charges for heating-related expenses are identical regardless of the selected heating mode.

This was the ruling handed down by the Constitutional Council Decision No. 2014-441 / 442/443 QPC on 23rd January 2015 before the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling on three priority issues of constitutionality. These questions were related to compliance with the rights and freedoms ensured by the Constitution as stated in the last paragraph of section I of Article L. 442-3 of the Code of Construction and Housing (CCH).

This article establishes the system of recoverable costs in buildings belonging to rental agencies for low-rent housing. The provisions of this Article, which allow the landlord to charge tenants the full amount paid under contract for a purchase of power, heat energy or fuel gas distributed by networks, were challenged but the Constitutional Council found these provisions to be constitutional.
The applicants in particular questioned the differences in rental expense recovery rules depending on the form of collective heating used in any given building. The Board held that the principle of equality before the law does not require that the rental charges recovery rules for heating-related expenses are the same regardless of the selected heating mode. Furthermore the contested provisions tend to encourage the use of energy in a network which helps to protect the environment. The resulting difference in treatment concerning the charges that moderate income housing agencies may recover from their tenants is linked as much to the different situation pertaining to each tenant as to the objective of general interest that the legislator was asked to rule on. The Board therefore dismissed the complaint alleging infringement of the principle of equality.