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CRIME

French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure

Leaving your property empty puts it at risk of burglars or squatters and this is a particular worry for second-home owners, whose homes are often vacant for prolonged periods.

French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure
(Photo: Fred Tanneau / AFP)

French police run a scheme called Opération Tranquillité Vacances which involves householders telling their local police that they will be away, so they can keep an eye on the property.

The scheme has run in various forms since 1974, but now an online platform has been set up allowing property owners to make their declaration in just a few clicks.

It’s largely targeted at French people who are going away over the summer and leaving their homes empty, but it’s not limited to French nationals and can be used all year around.

Under the scheme, householders and businesses can ask their local gendarmes to keep a watch over their properties while they are away for a period of up to three months.

READ ALSO How to get rid of squatters from your French property

Police and gendarmes patrols visit houses on their list at various times during the day or night, checking shutters, gates, and back gardens to make sure all is as it should be – and to act as a deterrent to any criminal groups checking the area.

The new online service is not limited to French nationals or French residents, but it does require a FranceConnect account to operate, meaning that you need to be registered in at least one French database (eg the tax office, benefits office or in the health system).

The form can be used to cover both main residences and second homes (résidence secondaire) but there is a limit of three months at a time for the property to be vacant.

You can find the form HERE and it can be completed between three and 45 days before your departure.

You can also register in person at your nearest police station or gendarmerie unit. Take ID and proof of address, such as a recent utility bill, if you do it this way.

Summertime is high-season for criminals in France, who target homes that have been left vacant while their owners are away on holiday.

Opération Tranquillité Vacances was introduced in 1974 as a means to keep crime rates down during the summer holiday period. It was extended to include other school holidays in 2009, and is now available all year round.

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For members

PROPERTY

Tenants in France: How to make your home more energy efficient

Insulation, ventilation, heating - given the cost-of-living crisis that’s affecting France as much as many other countries, it’s understandable that there is a lot of talk right now about improving energy efficiency in homes.

Tenants in France: How to make your home more energy efficient

In France many people rent and although you would hope that your landlord would do improvements like this, if they are unable or unwilling than you have the right to do these works yourself.

It means the work is at your own expense, but if you’re a long-term tenant you may make the money back in savings on your energy bills.

Here’s how to go about it:

Inform your landlord

The first thing to do is inform your landlord you intend to carry out the work, at your expense. Do this by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. 

The letter must describe the transformations envisaged, the conditions under which these works will be carried out, and the name of the company undertaking the work.

If you have not received a written response in two months, you can assume you have the tacit agreement of your landlord to carry out the work.

Work you can carry out

A decree published in France’s Journal Officiel on July 21st defines the list of works a tenant can carry out at their own expense on the property they rent.

  • insulation of lower floors;
  • Attic and upper floor insulation;
  • replacement of exterior joinery;
  • solar protection of glazed or opaque walls;
  • installation or replacement of ventilation systems;
  • installation or replacement of heating and domestic hot water production systems and associated interfaces.

The work cannot affect communal areas of a shared property, and must “respect the expected energy performance”. 

Work cannot affect the building structure, its external appearance, require a permit, or change the purpose of the building.

What happens afterwards

Within two months after the completion of the work, the tenant must inform the landlord that the work has been carried out by the chosen company and that it corresponds to what was announced in the pre-work letter.

Other work tenants can undertake on a property they rent

In 1989, a law was passed that allowed tenants to undertake certain work on a property – painting and decorating, adding or changing floor covering – without the permission of the landlord and at their own expense.

Any other works require the written agreement of the landlord – otherwise the tenant may be obliged to return the property to its original condition. 

The landlord can also keep the benefit of the work done without the tenant being able to claim compensation for the costs incurred.

Landlord’s responsibilities

Landlords must provide decent housing, which implies, in particular, heating in good working order, and compliance with a minimum energy performance criterion. Under current rules, doors, windows and walls must be airtight. 

A tenant can only require work from his landlord on these elements, if they are deficient.

From January 1st, 2023, properties advertised for rent in France must have a Diagnostic de performance énergétique rating of G or better.

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