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’.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.