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RENTING

French local authorities crack down on holiday rentals

A rule coming into effect in June will force landlords in popular French holiday destinations to rent out one property on the local market for every holiday rental that they own, in an attempt to tackle the housing shortage in key areas.

Biarritz is a popular city for tourists from France and abroad. It will introduce strict new rules on holiday rentals from June.
Biarritz is a popular city for tourists from France and abroad. It will introduce strict new rules on holiday rentals from June. (Photo by Gaizka IROZ / AFP)

France faces an acute shortage of affordable housing. 

In the Pays Basque area of southwest of France, increasing numbers of landlords prioritise lucrative short-term holiday lets over traditional rental contracts, exacerbating the problem. 

According to the Agence d’urbanisme Atlantique et Pyrénées (Audap), the area has more than 16,000 properties let out exclusively to tourists – a figure that grew 130 percent between 2016-20

In response, local officials voted earlier this month to set tough new rules to curb holiday rentals and listings on platforms such as Airbnb in 24 Pays Basque communes including Biarritz, Bayonne and Saint-Jean-de-Luz. 

The following measures will come into effect on June 1st: 

  • Landlords who want to use their property for short-term holiday lettings will need to offer a second property, similar in size and in the same town, with a conventional rental contract;
  • Landlords cannot simply build another property to rent out alongside their Airbnb one – they must renovate a building that already exists and is being used for non-housing purposes (ie a garage). 

Some landlords will struggle to meet these requirements and may be forced to offer their property onto the traditional rental market instead, thereby adding to the housing supply. 

READ ALSO 5 things to know about renting out your second home in France

People renting out property in the Basque country already need to apply for a license to offer short-term holiday lettings, which are renewed every three years. Those who already have a license will need to abide by the new rules once the three-year validity period runs out. 

Landlords will still be able to rent their primary residence through platforms such as Airbnb for up to 120 days per year (as is the case in the rest of France) and offer holiday bookings in properties that are rented to students for at least 9 months of the year, without submitting to the new rules. 

Holiday rental rules elsewhere in France

  • Primary residences 

If you are absent from your property for more than 4 months of the year because of a health problem, professional reasons or because of a cas de force majeure, you can rent our your primary residence for more than 120 days of the year. 

From 2019 Airbnb and other holiday rental platforms introduced a tool that blocks postings which would allow someone to book accommodation beyond the 120-day legal limit. This measure was introduced in Aix-en-Provence, Annecy, Bordeaux, Levallois-Perret, Lille, Lyon, Martigues, Menton, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Nice, Paris, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Saint-Cannat, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Sète, Villeneuve-Loubet and Versailles.

If you want to sublet a property where you are the tenant via a platform like Airbnb, this is legal for up to 120 days as long as you have the permission of the property owner. 

Many French towns require people renting property through Airbnb to register with the local town hall. 

  • Second homes 

French cities and towns with more than 200,000 inhabitants require property owners to seek an authorisation from the local town hall if they want to offer holiday rentals. 

Places with 50,000 inhabitants but which qualify as a zone tendue (as having a housing shortage) are also subject to these rules. 

In Paris, people who wish to rent their second property to tourists are obliged to follow similar ‘compensation’ rules as those being introduced in the Pays Basque – in other words, by offering one traditional rental property for every holiday property. The difference is that in Paris, it is possible to buy an existing property and rent it out – rather than renovate a garage or an office for example. 

Nice and Bordeaux also have similar compensation rules in place. 

Many French towns require people landlords renting property through Airbnb to register with the local town hall. 

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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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