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PROPERTY

French property news: Getting a property loan extension and dealing with noisy neighbours

From interest-free property loans, to noise laws in the countryside and an invitation to Nice, here is our weekly French property roundup.

French property village
Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

Interest-free loans

The 2022 Budget is making its way through the French parliament, and now contains several measures to make buying or renovating property in France easier.

Included in the budget are extensions to interest-free loans for buying or renovating property, as well as a loan scheme for people in certain areas who want to renovate and then rent out property.

READ ALSO 3 ways the 2022 Budget makes it easier to buy or rent French property

‘Crisis is behind us’

After a difficult 18 months, French real estate agents have declared that “the crisis seems to be behind us”.

While lockdown made moving house largely impossible, the property market has picked up in recent months, with the health crisis even creating new markets, as people move out of the cities to get more space in rural areas.

Even within the office rental sector, which many feared would be hard-hit by ongoing trends for remote working, agents say demand is returning in the cities.

Let’s move to . . . Nice

The southern French city of Nice has a lot of obvious attractions, not least that it is the sunniest metropolis in France. But in addition to its beautiful architecture, world-famous seafront and great weather there are some other good reasons to move there, one of which is that it consistently tops polls for being among the most welcoming places in France for new arrivals.

And for Brits there is the added fact that it is the ‘most British’ town in France – that’s according to the mayor, who in 2019 wrote this delightful essay celebrating his city’s links with the UK.

Rural noises

If you prefer more of a rural location, it’s probably best not to complain about the noises and smells you encounter.

France now has a law to protect its ‘rural heritage’ which includes traditional noises like church bells,  crowing cockerels and frogs mating, as well as some of the smells that you might encounter in the countryside.

The law came after a series of legal cases where people sued their neighbours over noise or smells from animals, or lodged complaints about noisy church bells.

French property vocab

Urbanisme is key. If you’re planning a building or renovation project, then the Plan locale d’urbanisme could be an important document. This is a local policy document that sets out things like which areas can be built on and which are business and residential zones.

Not all areas have these, but if you’re buying with the intention of changing something – whether it’s an extension, a new build or converting a barn into a home – make sure you check first whether it will be allowed according to the local plan.

Property tip of the week 

If you’re buying an old property it’s highly likely that the windows will need replacing to eliminate drafts – but if you’re replacing old, ill-fitting windows with modern double-glazed ones then this will increase the energy efficiency of your property, and could mean you’re entitled to one of France’s many eco grants to cover at least some of the cost.

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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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