Modifications to a new anti-squatting law mean that huissiers (bailiffs) can now help owners get their properties back.
Original law was open to interpretation
The changes were introduced after a study of the effectiveness of the new law, which allows owners to recover their property without having to go through the courts.
It found some were still having problems, and the law was applied differently by prefects around the country.
Some were rejecting requests to act, claiming either that not all the necessary paperwork was available or that they could not act because the law referred to domicile and not propriété.
That means unoccupied or second homes, for example, could be construed as being beyond the remit of the law because the owner is not living there permanently.
The interior ministry issued a circular to clarify the situation, but prefects insisted that the wording of the law was stronger than a ministerial circular.
Bailiffs will help for a fee
Huissiers can now be involved from the start of the process to the end.
As well as helping with the paperwork, they can provide proof to the prefect that the property has been occupied by squatters.
Some owners had said that police officers sent to check on squats accepted “squatters’ rights” contracts as proof of legal occupation.
How much the huissiers will charge depends on individual cases.
Regulated fees of €152 apply when they evict people after a court order.
However, the new procedure is not included in the regulations, which means fees can be set by each huissier.
There were 124 cases of owners using the new law in the first year after it came into force in December 2020.
Squatted properties can be sold
Squats have also attracted property speculators, prepared to pay a discounted price for squatted properties and gamble that their specialist lawyers and negotiators will be able to get the squatters out, thus enabling the new owners to make a profit.
The two largest – Squat Solutions, founded in 2015, and Légitimmo – say the new laws have not had any effect on their business because some owners are too timid or do not have the time to deal with the squatters.
In Bordeaux, meanwhile, the municipality is taking action against an estimated 150 squats housing approximately 1,600 Bulgarian and Romanian vineyard workers.
They have sprung up over the last six years, mainly in old factory buildings.
Mobile homes have been made available for the workers under special espace temporaire d’insertion contracts, where they pay 15% of their wages as rent, and undertake to look for legal housing and integrate into the community.