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How to get rid of squatters from your French property

The French government has passed a reform aiming at making it easier to remove squatters from French property - the process is still a complicated one though. Here are your rights around uninvited guests.

French police prepare to breach a property occupied by squatters.
French police prepare to breach a property occupied by squatters. Here's what to do if your property has been taken over. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

In recent years the French government has made it easier to evict squatters from properties in France, expanding anti-squatter laws to cover second homes; accelerating the process of forced eviction; deploying legal clerks to help with the process; and removing the time limit in which you had to report squatters. 

Illegally entering and occupying someone else’s home in France is punishable by up to two years in prison and a €30,000 fine. 

As the video below show, French law enforcement is not afraid to deploy extensive resources including helicopters, riot police and specialist intervention units trained for counter-terrorism operations to remove squatters – or even pro-migrants’ rights activists – from a property, if necessary. 

But while big operations like this grab the headlines, the process can still be a difficult and lonely one for owners of a single French property. 

There are two main processes through which to have squatters removed from your property.

The accelerated administrative procedure 

This is the fastest way to have squatters removed from your property – and since December 2020, no longer requires owners to report squatters within 48 hours of them moving into the building. 

If you want or need squatters removed from your primary residence or second home quickly, you need to take the following steps:

  • Call the police or gendarmerie and file a report. Alternatively, you can do this at your closest police or gendarmerie station. This step can be taken by the property owner or someone acting in the interests of the property owner (so if you’re not in France you can instruct a family member or notaire to represent you). An officer will be able to assist you in filing the report. 
  • You will need to prove that you are the rightful owner of the property, with household bills, financial documents or an attestation signed by a neighbour. 
  • Once you have done this, an officer from France’s judicial police will have to inspect the property to determine that squatters are living inside. 

Once these steps have been taken, you need to ask your local préfecture to issue a cease and desist order (mettre en demeure) to the squatters. To obtain such an order, you can either write a tracked letter to the Préfet, go through a legal clerk, or hand the request in yourself (this is easier if you are living in a rural area).

Once your request has been received by the préfecture, they have 48 hours to give a decision on whether to evict the squatters. If the green light is given, the squatters are given a notice to leave the property within 24 hours or be forcibly evicted by law enforcement officers. 

From February 2022, the government has ruled that you can now employ a legal clerk, known as a huissier de justice, to help you with the procedure, which can be complicated if you don’t speak French. Fees for such a service vary. You can find your closest clerk here

Taking the case to a judge

There is another process by which to remove squatters but it can take months or even years. It involves launching a legal case and having a judge passing an eviction order – but it has the advantage that it can be used if your application for an accelerated procedure is turned down. 

If squatters have moved into a property that is classed as uninhabitable – for example, a garage, shipping container or office space – you have to follow this procedure and cannot benefit from the accelerated process. 

You would need to take the following steps:

  • Ask a lawyer to make your case to a judge, asking for the authorisation to expel the squatters and ask them to pay indemnity;
  • Prove that the property belongs to you, with a deed, financial documents or bills;
  • Prove that there are squatters in your property – this is best done by hiring a legal clerk. Ideally, at least one of the squatters will need to be identified by name. 

If the judge accepts the case, a legal clerk will issue the squatters with a court summons – even if they fail to appear in court, they must be informed of any judgement. 

If the squatters do not leave the building in the month following the ruling, they will be ordered to leave immediately. If they do not leave after that, the legal clerk should ask the local préfecture to send in law enforcement officers to remove the squatters by force. 

What not to do 

Even if you are angry and upset, do not take justice into your own hands and try to remove the squatters yourself. 

Doing so would mean breaking the law and the sanctions are heavy. You could face three years in prison and a €30,000 fine. 

This article contains the guidelines on the law around squatting and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. If in doubt, contact your closest préfecture or a legal expert. 

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PROPERTY

VIDEO: The French château that could be yours for €750k

For most of us, owning our own château in southwest France is probably in the realms of lottery-winning dreams - but someone could soon own one such historic building. 

VIDEO: The French château that could be yours for €750k

The beautiful 16th-century Chateau De Saint-Elix, half-an-hour from Toulouse’s Blagnac airport, will be sold in a 24-hour online auction, starting on Tuesday, June 21, at 1pm and running until Wednesday, June 22, at 1pm.

Built between 1540 and 1549, the Renaissance-style building is a Historic Monument and has been twice put up for sale in recent years – in 2014 and 2018 – without success.

Now owned by the French State, the 2,000 square metre building, complete with four romantic towers, a recently renovated slate roof and nearly 3 hectares of land is again back on the market. 

You can even take a virtual tour of the building, which has 25 good-sized rooms, including 14 bedrooms, spread over three levels.

The starting price for the auction is set at €750,000.

Potential vendors should also keep in mind the extra costs of buying property in France, from taxes to notaire fees. We imagine the heating bill would be quite hefty in the winter too. 

READ ALSO The ‘hidden extra costs of buying property in France

Saint-Elix has a rich past. It was notably the home of the Marquis de Montespan after his wife became mistress to Louis XIV. It was partially destroyed in the Revolution.

Photo: CESSIONS IMMOBILIÈRES DE L’ETAT

More recently, it was listed as a historic monument in 1927, but was ravaged by fire in 1945.

In the 1980s the castle underwent a vast renovation project that lasted eight years. 

The pleasure garden is listed in the pre-inventory of remarkable gardens. The park, the regular garden, orangery, enclosing walls, stables, basin and dovecote were also registered as historic monuments in 1994.

Full details of the property are available here. More detailed information, including legal requirements for the purchaser, is available as a series of pdf documents here.

Photo: CESSIONS IMMOBILIÈRES DE L’ETAT

It should be noted that any non-France resident interested in purchasing the property must supply an avis juridique – translated into French attesting to that they have the legal and financial requirements for buying and owning the property, on top of all other necessary documents.

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