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Second-home owners: What French taxes do you need to pay?

Those who own property in France are more than just casual visitors, so what does this mean in terms of your tax bill and what you are entitled to while in France?

Owning property in France will cost you money in taxes.
Owning property in France will cost you money in taxes. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Firstly, let’s look at the taxes you must pay and those you are exempt from.

Notaire fee

When you first buy your house you will need to pay, in addition to the stated purchase price, the notaire fee. Despite its name, the notaire handling your sale only keeps a small part of this, the rest goes to the government, so it is really a type of property tax similar to stamp duty in the UK.

READ ALSO How to calculate notaire fees when purchasing French property

This is a one-off tax that you only pay when purchasing property.

However there are also some annual charges.

Taxe foncière

This is the property owners’ tax and is paid every year. The amount is set by the local authority so varies a lot depending on where you live, but allow between €500 and €1,000 a year for an average-sized property.

The formula used to calculate the tax is a complicated one, but the value of the property is taken into account so doing major renovation work, adding an extension or building a swimming pool are all likely to lead to an increase in taxe foncière.

READ ALSO Why French property taxes are skyrocketing

Taxe d’habitation

This is the annual householders tax, so if you own your own home you pay both. Taxe d’habitiation is in the process of being phased out in France and 80 percent of the population no longer pays it, but second-homes do not qualify for an exemption. In fact in areas where there are housing shortages, local authorities are increasing taxe d’habitation on second homes – find a full list of affected areas here.

Exemptions – If you buy a property as a renovation project and it is totally uninhabitable (ie holes in the roof, not connected to water or electricity) you may be entitled to a temporary exemption on both taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation depending on the area. The best way of finding out is to head to your local Centre des Finances Publiques (tax office) and ask what the situation is for une maison inhabitable.

TV licence

If your property has a TV you will need to pay the contribution à l’audiovisuel public or TV licence fee – even if you never watch French telly. There are some exemptions to this for older people or those on low incomes.

Waste charge

If you live in a small village or rural area you may also be charged a waste collection fee by the commune, to cover the cost of running local waste and recycling services.

Development tax

If you’re planning a project such as a big extension or the addition of a swimming pool, you will also need to pay the one-off taxe d’aménagement. This is calculated based on the size of the pool or the additional feature.

Income tax declaration

All full-time residents of France need to fill out the annual tax declaration (even if they’re not liable for any taxes in France) but this won’t apply to most second-home owners.

EXPLAINED: Who has to make a tax declaration in France

There are some exceptions however, including if you rent out your second home and therefore have income in France or if you use your French property as a base for remote working while you’re here, especially if your work is connected to France or a French company.

Now that you’re registered in the French tax system and are paying money to the French state – what does this entitle you to?

Your payments entitle you to use local services such as recycling and to watch French TV if you want to, but your status as a taxpayer doesn’t give you many extra rights, contrary to popular belief.

Residency – owning a property in France doesn’t give you any extra rights when it comes to length of stay or applying for residency, you still have to follow the same rules as other visitors.

If France closes its borders again is it did during the pandemic there are usually exemptions to travel bans for French citizens and permanent residents of France, but not for second-home owners.

READ ALSO Can second-home owners in France get a carte de séjour?

Length of stay – if you’re a citizen of an EU country there is no limit to how long you can stay at your place in France, but non-EU citizens (including Brits) need to abide by the 90-day rule. 

You can find a fuller explanation of the rule here, but the basic premise is that you must either limit your stays to 90 days in every 180, or apply for a visa if you wish to stay longer. As annoying as this may be for second-home owners used to long visits, simply owning property does not exempt you from the 90-day rule.

READ ALSO How can British second-home owners spend more than 90 days in France?

Healthcare – the same applies to healthcare, paying property taxes does not give you any extra rights to use the French health system.

If you are an EU citizen you can use the European health insurance card to cover you while in France, while UK nationals can use the GHIC card. However neither of these cover all healthcare and are very unlikely to cover the cost of repatriation so visitors are also advised to have health or travel insurance. Non-EU or UK citizens need to have private health or travel insurance to cover any healthcare they need in France.

It is illegal for French hospitals to turn you away in an emergency, but if you do not have health cover you could end up with a hefty bill if you fall sick or are in an accident. Likewise pharmacies and GPs are happy to treat people who are not registered in the French health system, but will charge you for appointments or prescriptions. 

READ ALSO Health insurance in France: What are the requirements for visitors?

Visas – many people believe that owning French property will make it easier to get a visa, but this is not actually the case. Depending on the type of visa you may be asked for proof of having accommodation arranged in France, but a rental contract is accepted for this and there’s no particular advantage to owning property.

Obviously, you do have the massive advantage of having a place to call your own in one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, though, so that in itself is a good reason to invest in a French property.

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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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