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SECOND HOMES

Everything you need to know about having a second home in France

Buying property in France and spending long holidays in the French countryside, in the Alps or even in Paris, is the dream for many people - so here's what you need to know about the practicalities of having a second home.

Everything you need to know about having a second home in France
Contemplating buying a place in France? Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP

Being the owner of a maison sécondaire (second home) in France brings with it some specific legal and financial obligations, however it’s not always easy to find the information relating to your status.

Whether its taxes, visas, travel or property regulations – information for second-home owners is often hidden away while governments rarely prioritise those who are not resident in the country.

That’s why we have put together a guide to the most frequently-asked questions from second-home owners in France. We also have an emailed newsletter specifically for second-home owners, so you can be kept abreast of everything you need to know, whether it’s a change in the tax rules or travel alerts.

To sign up, click HERE and tick ‘second homes’.

Visas

First things first, how long can you stay at your lovely French place? Here the key thing is what passport you hold.

If you have the passport of an EU country (including Ireland) then you’re one of the lucky ones and have no limits on how long you can stay in France (although there might be tax considerations, more on that later).

If you are a citizen of a non-EU country such as the UK, US, Canada or Australia then you have two choices – you can either limit your stays to 90 days in every 180 or get a visa.

90 days – you can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule HERE, but bear in mind that it covers the whole of the Schengen zone, so you need to include in your count time spent in France, plus any trips to other Schengen zone countries, eg a weekend in Berlin or a beach holiday in Spain.

Visas – if you don’t want to be constrained by the 90-day rule, you will need to get a visa. However if you want to keep your main residence in your home country and just be a visitor to France, then some visa types are not suitable for you. For most second-home owners the short stay visitor visa is ideal, although it does come with conditions including not being able to work in France.

READ ALSO How does the French visitor visa work?

Bear in mind that not all countries benefit from the 90-day rule and citizens of certain countries – such as India – will need a visa for a visit of any length.

Income tax

Most second-home owners keep their tax residency in their home country and therefore do not need to complete the annual French tax declaration.

However if you intend to rent out your second home – for example on Airbnb – that means you have income in France and therefore may have to complete the French income tax declaration.

EXPLAINED Who has to make a tax declaration in France?

Bear in mind also that long stays in France and out of your home country may change your ‘tax residency’ status – more on that here.

Healthcare

As a non-resident of France, you are not entitled to register in the French healthcare system. However, you can access non-emergency healthcare in France if you need it during your visits – here’s how. (Obviously if you have an emergency you should go to hospital or call an ambulance).

Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Property taxes

Although most second-home owners won’t have to fill out the annual tax declaration or pay income tax, you will have to pay property taxes.

The bill for property tax comes in the autumn and there are two tax types you need to know about – taxe d’habitation which is paid by the householder and taxe foncière which is paid by the property owner – as a second-home owner you will pay both.

READ ALSO What you need to know about 2022 property tax bills

Status 

There’s a popular misconception that owning property in France and paying property taxes gives you extra rights in terms of travel or immigration, but in fact that is not the case.

As we saw during the pandemic, travel restrictions were divided into residents and visitors, with second-home owners falling under the same bracket as tourists. Likewise your immigration status is determined by whether you have a visa or an EU passport, owning property makes no difference. 

Travel rules 

Hopefully Covid-related travel restrictions are a thing of the past, but if you’re travelling from the UK you need to be aware of extra rules in place since Brexit.

You can find a full breakdown HERE of the travel rules for people and pets.

Of particular interest to second-home owners are the rules on bringing in furniture or DIY items like tiles or bathroom suites – a common pre-Brexit practice for people who were doing renovations which is now more difficult – more on that here

Second-home owners – what can you bring to your French property?

Strikes

Speaking of travel, it’s not exactly a secret that the French strike quite a lot and strikes are often targeted at public sector services such as trains, places and ferries.

You can find all the latest travel info in our strikes section HERE.

Property renovations 

If you’re buying a property with the intention of renovating it, be sure to familiarise yourself with French building codes before you start. Like most countries, France requires permission and permits for certain types of building work and renovations, especially if you are in a tourist zone, a historic area or a mountainous region.

READ ALSO ‘Double your budget and make friends with the mayor’ – readers share their tips for property renovation

Renting out property 

Some second-home owners like to rent out their property as a holiday home when they are not using it, in order to help cover some of the running costs.

Before you do this, you should check the rules on tax, rental codes and registering yourself as a business under French law.

If you intend to rent it out on Airbnb, be aware that an increasing number of French local authorities are bringing in restrictions on Airbnb rentals, especially in popular tourist areas, to avoid excluding local people from the housing market. 

5 things to know about renting out your French holiday home

Buying/selling property

If you are not an EU citizen then there are certain extra restrictions when it comes to both buying (especially if you are buying with a mortgage) and selling property in France.

READ ALSO What you need to know about selling your second home

Enjoyment

Lest all this seem overly negative, we should point out that many people have second homes in France and love them.

Property in France, especially in rural areas, is cheap compared to the UK or US, so buying a place here is not the preserve of the super rich.

Having your own place gives you a sense of permanence and many second-home owners become embedded in their local communities. Some people keep their French place purely for visits, while others eventually move to France full time, often after retirement. 

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SECOND HOMES

UPDATE: New French property tax declaration – your questions answered

This year the French tax office has announced that property-owners have to complete an extra tax declaration - from the rules for non-residents to second-home owners, we answer your questions on this.

UPDATE: New French property tax declaration - your questions answered

In 2023 there is an additional requirement for anyone who owns a home in France – they must fill in a one-off Déclaration d’occupation, stating whether their property is their main residence or a second home.

The reason for this is changes to the tax system that are gradually phasing out taxe d’habitation for all but the highest earners – with the exception of second homes.

You can find a full explanation of how to file the declaration HERE.

Many of our readers have contacted us with questions about this new requirement, so we’ve answered some of the most frequently-asked here;

Do I still have to do this even though I don’t live in France?

A fairly sizeable number of people own property in France (usually holiday homes) but live elsewhere, such as the UK or the US. If you don’t live in France or have income in France you probably won’t have to do the annual income tax declaration, but the Déclaration d’occupation is different.

It concerns anyone who owns property in France, including second-home owners who live in another country.

Do I have to do this even though I pay all my taxes in another country?

If you own property in France you probably do, in fact, pay tax here – property taxes. Bills go out every autumn for the taxe foncière (the property owners’ tax) and taxe d’habitation (the householders tax) – and second-home owners would usually pay both. You may also receive a bill from your commune for waste-collection services, although the annual TV licence bill (which used to be sent out at the same time as the property tax bill) has been scrapped this year.

If you own property in France and have never paid property taxes, it might be worth a trip to the local tax office to check that you are registered correctly, as almost all property owners are liable for property taxes.

Do I have to do this every year now?

No, this is a one off. You complete the declaration this year (before June 30th) and then you don’t have to do it again until your situation changes – eg a second home becomes your main residence.

Why do we have to do this?

It’s because of changes to the tax rules. Taxe d’habitation – the occupier’s tax – used to be paid by virtually everyone, but is now gradually being phased out for all but high earners. The exception to this is second homes, so the tax office needs to know whether your property is used as your main residence or a second home so that they know whether to send you a bill in autumn.

Does this mean more taxes?

No, the declaration is purely for information – if your property is a second home you will continue to get your annual taxe d’habitation bill as normal, if it is a main residence you may receive no bill or a reduced bill, depending on your income.

What about commercial property?

If you own commercial property such as a workshop, bar or retail premises, then this does not affect you, the tax declaration is in relation to homes.

It’s all about clearing up the property status for taxe d’habitation, and you don’t pay this type of tax if it is a commercial premises.

What about gîtes, holiday homes or Airbnb properties?

It’s really all down to what you use the property for – if you run it entirely as a business it should be registered as a business.

If the property is your home and you occasionally rent it out on Airbnb (say, when you’re on holiday) then it still counts as a home and you will need to complete the déclaration d’occupation. Be aware that certain areas, including Paris, limit how many days per year you can rent out a property on Airbnb without registering it as a business.

Some people keep properties mostly for their own use as second homes but sometimes rent them out for extra money – be aware that if you do this, you may need to register as a business and declare any income received – full details here.

Can I just ignore it, or tell them my second home is a main residence?

Ignoring or lying to the tax office is generally quite a bad idea whatever country you’re in – they can get quite cross. Failure to complete the declaration in time, or giving false information on the declaration, will net you a €150 fine per property. 

This sounds like a massive pain

Welcome to France – home of bureaucracy! Paperwork is a fact of life in France and that’s probably unlikely to change soon. If you’re already registered in the impots.gouv site then this is one of the more painless admin tasks – a couple of clicks, fill out the form and file it online and you’re done.  

If you have questions on the property tax declaration, you can email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them.

You can also call the tax hotline on  0 809 401 401, visit your local tax office (search Centre des finances publiques plus the name of your commune to find your local office) or select the ‘Contact et RDV’ section on the tax website.

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