France to bring in new environmental rules on log burners and open fires

Snuggling up in front of the fire or log burner with a glass of wine is one of the highlights of countryside living for many, but a proposed new environmental law aim to change their use in France. Here's what is happening.

France to bring in new environmental rules on log burners and open fires
Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

There are already some rules in place on this, including localised bans on particular types of burner, but now Environment Minister Barbara Pompili has published a draft plan to reduce the emissions from domestic wood burning by 50 percent.

The fine particle emissions produced by open fires, log burners and wood-fired heating systems, known at PM 2.5 are harmful to humans and can be carcinogenic.

The ministry said that domestic wood burners are the largest single cause of fine particle emissions, responsible for 43 percent of PM 2.5 emissions and 50 percent of the finer particle PM 1.0 emissions.

The goal is twofold – reduce the number of domestic wood burners in use and ensure that those that are used perform more efficiently, produce fewer emissions and use cleaner fuel.

The recently-adopted climate law includes a target to reduce by half fine particles emissions in the most polluted areas and the protocol on wood burners is a key part of this.

Here’s what it says:

Grants – there are already a variety of grants available in France to make your home more energy efficient and these now include help with the costs of switching from wood burners to a cleaner method of heating. Find out how to access the grants HERE. The target is that 600,000 appliances will have been replaced by 2025.

Energy ratings – the age and energy efficiency of all wood-burning appliances will be included in the energy efficiency rating that tenants and house-buyers get.

Labelling – the energy efficiency and cleanliness rating of wood burners will be improved so that people buying are aware of the risks. This is via the existing Label flamme vert (green flame labelling) scheme. 

But for those who continue to use wood-burners, the ministry wants to ensure that the fuel they are using is as clean and energy-efficient as possible.

Wood sold for burners will soon be required to carry labelling certifying its quality and low water content (so that it will burn efficiently) and whether it came from a sustainably managed forest.

The ministry also wants to increase the ‘formal log market’ ‘ie fuel and kindling sold in shops or from fuel businesses as opposed to gathered or sold or bartered informally, from 20 percent to 40 percent of the market.

So if you already have a fire or a log burner is there a risk of being ordered to tear it out? No, says the minister. In the press release announcing her policy, she says: “The action plan we are proposing aims to work for the climate cause by promoting more efficient wood heating while improving air quality, without opposing them altogether.”

However, some local authorities have put in some stringent measures, such as this Alpine valley that has banned the use of open fireplaces altogether, so if you are doing renovation work check with the préfecture if there are local measures in place concerning wood burners.

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Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

If you're researching the French property market, you might have come across mentions of 'courtiers' - here's what they do and whether they are necessary.

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

The French ‘courtier‘ is usually translated as a broker, and the Notaires Association describes their role like this: “the broker is a true intermediary in banking operations. His/her role is to negotiate the best rates for you, but not only that: they will also find the most advantageous financing conditions for the realisation of your project.”

Essentially they act as an intermediary between you and the banks, so they’re only required if you need a mortgage or a loan in order to buy your French property. 

Their job is to research the best deals for you and then to help you put together your application and ensure that all your paperwork is correct – unlike the notaire, instructing a courtier is not a required part of the process, so the decision on whether to instruct one is up to you. 

So is it worth it?

Among French buyers, around 30 percent of mortgages are obtained using the services of a courtier, and this rises to 60 percent among young, first-time buyers, who generally find it harder to access credit.

Some of things to consider are your level of French and confidence in negotiating French bureaucracy, your financial situation (since French mortgage lenders tend to be stricter than those in the UK or US) and whether you currently live in France or not (since there are extra hoops to jump through for overseas buyers).

READ ALSO Is now a good time to buy a home in France?

“Things have changed,” Trevor Leggett, group president of Leggett International estate agents, told The Local. “It’s now more important than ever to work closely with a reputable broker.

“In France it is all paper-based, very old-school and extremely bureaucratic, a different world entirely to the UK. Preparing the client “dossier” so that it will be accepted is an art form.”

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

He advised non-resident international clients, particularly, who may not be au fait with the French system to seek the help of a broker who knows the ropes.

“The question is no longer really about savings,” he said. “It is about finding a bank that can actually lend to the client profile, interests rate are secondary. 

“It occasionally happens that one bank can be played off against another, or to shop around, but it’s a rare event nowadays.”

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

And he had no hesitation in recommending that prospective buyers find a broker to sort out the financing.

“The lending market has tightened for international buyers and a good one is worth their weight in gold,” he said.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

In France, you make an offer on a property and then you begin the mortgage process (while in the UK it’s the other way round) so problems in getting your mortgage approved could lead to you losing your dream property.

“[Using a courtier] can be the difference between buying and not,” added Trevor.

“It’s not just any possible language barrier – but understanding the process and the different players in the market.”

How much?

The cost of hiring a courtier is borne by the buyer – but how much do they charge?

The courtier usually charges a percentage of the total mortgage amount – fees must be fixed in advance and are only payable once your mortgage application has been approved. 

Fees vary between different areas and different businesses, but the average fee is €2,000, which amounts to around one percent of the purchase price.

Many brokers set a minimum amount – around €1,500 – for smaller loans, and take a percentage of larger loans, so how much you pay depends on your property budget.