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How to reduce your debts

There are two keys avenues to explore if you are struggling with your finances in France

IF YOU are struggling with debt there are two avenues that may help, depending on the seri-ousness of the situation: regroupements de prêts and a déclaration de surendettement.

As in the UK it is possible, via some banks and other financial firms, to group together debts into one new loan, which should be at an overall more favourable rate. This is called regroupement de prêts (or de crédit) or some-times rachat de crédit (referring to the fact that one organisation pays off your debts and converts them into a new debt to itself).

It is especially useful where you have a number of out-standing consumer loans for different pur-chases, experts say; but it could relate to loans you made for home improvements, to buy a car, credit card bills etc. However it is best to compare several offers, including speaking to your own bank, as there will be different rates, repayment periods and frais de dossier (set-up costs).

Where all else has failed, and you can-not pay your (personal, not professional) debts, there is the option of applying to the commission de surendettement des particuliers. This official body will intervene with your creditors.

The process starts with filling in the cerfa n°13594*01 form which can be found here. This should be submitted, with a signed letter explaining the reasons for the debt problems and current situation, to the commission de surendettement for your department, by post or in person.

It is advisable to take advice on how to do this and potential consequences from the mairie’s centre d’action sociale (welfare help centre). Help can also be obtained from maisons de la justice et du droit – free legal advice centres. The charity Elizabeth Finn Care can also sometimes help financially Britons and Irish people facing hardship and/or advise on benefits which may help (French contact, Mary Hughes: 04 68 23 43 79).

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