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French property roundup: Villages advertising for buyers and shared second-home schemes

From the French communes that are advertising themselves to buyers to tax reminders and new options for people to purchase second homes, we take a look at what's happening in French property news this week.

Shared second-home ownership schemes target areas like France's Ile de Ré.
Shared second-home ownership schemes target areas like France's Ile de Ré. Photo: Xavier Leoty/AFP

French villages appealing for residents

We’ve already seen this in Spain and Italy, but now several French communes that are rapidly shrinking are appealing for people to move there.

The communes of Lure and Jussey, both in Haute-Saône in eastern France, have organised an ‘opération séduction‘ to try and attract property buyers. Organised by the local authorities with real estate agents, they conduct open house operations to show off the type of property on offer. Find out more here.

Three more French cities bring in rent controls

Rent controls are already in place in Paris and Lille, but now local authorities in Lyon, Bordeaux and Montpellier have gained permission to follow suit.

The stated aim of all three cities is to bring back residents to the city centres, where they are increasingly being priced out of the market.

Each city will set a ‘ceiling’ rate according to the neighbourhood, with fines for landlords who do not comply.

Let’s move to . . . Lyon

And if reducing rent prices aren’t enough, here’s a few reasons why you might want to move to France’s ‘foodie capital’ of Lyon. As well as the amazing food, there is the beautiful city centre, fascinating history and lots to do. Lyon resident Aga Marchewka explains why she believes everyone should move to Lyon.

Shares in second homes

If you would love a second home in the French countryside, or by the beach, but don’t quite have that amount of cash, two new companies have launched a ‘shared’ second home scheme.

Startups Altacasa and Prello both work on a model of shared ownership of a property by up to eight people, with the companies offering the logistical support around bookings, changeover and cleaning.

So it’s sort of halfway between having your own place and accessing an Airbnb, although both companies say they are aiming for the ‘high end’ market with locations including the Île de Ré, the island off the coast of La Rochelle beloved by wealthy Parisian second-home owners.

TV licence reminder

Bills will shortly be coming for the French TV licence. This is paid by almost all households and second-home owners – even if you never watch French TV.

The TV licence was previously added to the taxe d’habitation bill, but although around 80 percent of households no longer pay this, the TV licence is still compulsory for most people. There are a few exemptions, however, click here for details. 

Garden access

For many people buying rural properties, a garden is a must, but if you live in the city it can be more of a problem. You need to be spending some quite serious money before you find properties with gardens in cities including Paris (or you could just become the president, the Elysée Palace has very nice gardens).

Fortunately there is an alternative – either get an allotment or get involved in one of the increasing number of community gardens in cities. Here’s how to get on the list.

French property vocab 

If you’re buying a property in a rural area, you will probably need to get up to speed on la fosse septique or septic tank. Properties in rural areas generally don’t connect directly to the sewage system, so you will need your own tank, usually buried in the garden.

Owning a fosse coming with responsibilities such as having it regularly emptied, and even affects your weekly shop as some toilet cleaning products are not suitable for use with a fosse, so always check the bottles.

If you need to have a new one installed, you need to contact your local préfecture for guidance as there are a lot of rules and processes to follow. 

Property Tip of the Week

Energy bills have risen sharply recently and look fairly sure to continue rising. If you’re concerned about the cost of heating your home this winter, check our guide to keeping your energy bills low, and see whether you might be eligible for government help with the cost of your bills.

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PROPERTY

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at societe.com. If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.

Vocab

Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In Ebglish it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.

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