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Common errors that push up taxe foncière: Five French property updates

We also look at why it is important to consider neighbour complaints before signing off on renovation work

In this week’s roundup we look at taxe foncière rates, an incoming rule that will affect properties with poor energy ratings and a noisy AC unit Pic: page frederique, Marc Bruxelle, Andrey_Popov, HJBC / Shutterstock

Taxe foncière is up by over 20% in some towns

The taxe foncière French property tax has increased by over 20% in some towns in France this year, the latest figures from the landlords’ union, the Union nationale des propriétaires immobiliers (UNPI), show. 

Read more: Some French towns raise taxe foncière by up to 19%, others stay level

The tax has increased by on average 4.7% in France’s 200 biggest towns/cities. 

This is up from 1.3% in 2021. 

The top 10 towns/cities where the taxe foncière has increased the most in 2022 are:

  1. Poissy (Île-de-France): +23,9%

  2. Mantes-la-Jolie (Île-de-France): +22,2%

  3. Martigues (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur): +19%

  4. Bagnolet (Île-de-France): +18.6%

  5. Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur): +16.3%

  6. Tours (Centre-Val de Loire): +16%

  7. Pau (Nouvelle-Aquitaine): +13.6%

  8. Pantin (Île-de-France): +13.4%

  9. Bagneux (Île-de-France): +13.3%

  10. Strasbourg (Grand Est): +12.6%

The increase has been more moderate in other major cities such as Paris (+3%), Toulouse (+4.1%), Lyon (+3.4%), Le Havre (+3.4%), Rouen (+3.4%), Dunkirk (+4.1%) and Lille (+4%).

The generally large increases are due to nationwide inflation and also local authorities increasing – in some cases substantially – the local rates that are used as part of the calculation of the tax. 

Taxe foncière is based on a theoretical annual rental value calculated by the tax office, called the valeur locative cadastrale (VLC). This figure, which will probably not bear much resemblance to the actual market value you would obtain if you rented it out, takes into account various factors such as location, quality of construction and comfort.

The VLC is divided in half, to take account of expenses such as maintenance, insurance and repairs, and then has a percentage rate applied to it that is voted on by your local authorities. This gives the tax payable

This year, the VLC of all properties was increased by 3.4% across the country, because it is tied to inflation, which was at 3.4% in November 2021. 

Read more: Taxe foncière France’s local property tax: Who pays and the exemptions

“For several years, UNPI has been warning about the soaring property taxes and their dramatic consequences for homeowners and, more generally, for spending power,” the UNPI wrote in a statement following the release of its figures. 

“At a time when the 2023 government budget is being examined by parliament, the UNPI deplores the lack of any measure to cap property taxes, at least on the cadastral rental bases.”

The French government previously said that it would integrate a cap on valeur locative rises into the budget this autumn but this was dropped after opposition from local authorities, which faced seeing their local tax revenues reduced as a result.

Read more: Plan for cap on French taxe foncière increases to be abandoned

Common errors lead to people paying too much taxe foncière

Households may not be paying the correct rate of taxe foncière or other property-related taxes, according to a company which specialises in verifying tax amounts. 

David Dricourt, head of Fiscallia, told Le Figaro that there were problems on 60% of the tax bills they analysed. 

The company also verifies local taxes, taxe d'habitation bills, taxe d'aménagement bills, etc. 

Karine Ambroise, a lawyer specialising in tax law, has noticed the same problem and has developed a website that lets individuals check their taxe foncière bills called  jevérifiemataxefoncière.com

One common error is that people declare ancillary rooms as part of the main living area of the property. This could be a garage, laundry room, attic, cellar, etc. 

The full area of a main room, such as a living room, is taken into account when calculating a property’s ‘living space’, which contributes to the calculation of the taxe foncière

But not all the space in ancillary rooms should be considered. For example, a 40 square metre garage may only have a 24-square-metre ‘living space’ due to the fact that a car is regularly parked there. A similar situation could arise in laundry rooms with the placement of washing machines or in attics with sloped ceilings, for example.  

Another common error is not accurately declaring the state of the property. 

A 20% reduction can be applied to the calculation of the valeur locative cadastrale if the property is in a very poor state. On the flipside, a 20% increase will be applied to a property in very good condition. 

Signing off on renovation work without reservations
leaves you solely responsible for future problems

A property owner in Brittany has been deemed guilty of troubles de voisinage (neighbourhood disturbances), which is a finable offence, after signing off on the installation of a new air conditioning system that a neighbour complained was too loud. 

The owner had the AC unit installed but once the work was complete, the person’s neighbour immediately pointed out that it was too noisy. They also had an expert back up their claim. 

However, the owner of the property with the new AC unit signed off on the work without including any reservations (réserves). They could have noted in the final contract, after having tested the unit and learning of the complaints by the neighbour, that they had concerns over the noise of the AC unit. If they had done so this would have shifted responsibility for future problems onto the installer or contractor. 

The neighbour took the person to court over the noise.

The owner of the AC unit then tried to pass the blame onto the installer and the contractor, claiming they should be responsible for any damages that had to be paid. 

The case was eventually deferred to France’s top appeal court, the Cour de cassation, where judges said that as the owner of the AC unit had signed off on the work without réserves – for example that the unit may be too noisy – and thus it was the sole responsibility of the property owner that it was too noisy.

Read also: What can I do about neighbour’s cat leaving mess in our French garden?

Read also: Is there a way in France to get my neighbour to tidy his messy garden?

Read also: What can I do about a neighbour blocking my garage in France?

500,000 properties to be banned from rental market due to poor energy rating

A reminder that from January 1, 2023, it will be illegal to rent out the least energy efficient properties in France – those that consume more than 450kWh of energy per square metre and per year and are ranked G on a scale called the Diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE). 

In France, properties are rated on their energy efficiency based on a scale called the Diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE). 

The DPE uses a graded rating scheme – from A to G – to indicate how energy-efficient a property is, with A the best and G the worst. 

It takes into account the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission rates of a home, corresponding to the property’s size. 

Effy, a company specialising in energy-efficient renovations, has recently stated that there are around 511,000 properties with a DPE rating of G and which consume more than 450kWh of energy per square metre and per year. 

Around 320,000 of these are main residences and so will not necessarily be affected by the January 1 change. 

For the other 191,000, of which 140,000 are privately owned with the rest part of social housing schemes, the owners will no longer be able to rent them out. 

This change is part of France’s move to encourage people to make their properties more energy efficient. 

From 2025, it will be illegal to rent out the remaining G-rated properties. This will apply to F-rated properties from 2028 and E-rated properties from 2034. 

Elsewhere, landlords have since August 24 this year been forbidden to increase rent on properties ranked F or G on the DPE scale. 

Read more: Rent prices in France frozen for least energy efficient properties

Another rule set to come into effect is the obligation for homeowners selling low-energy performing properties to get an energy audit (audit énergétique).

This measure was supposed to come into force on September 1 for owners of properties classed as F or G but has been pushed back to until April 1, 2023. 

Read more: Extra energy audit to protect property buyers in France is delayed

The introduction of this rule has already been delayed several times due to a lack of preparedness on behalf of the auditors. 

An energy audit gives a more complete breakdown of a property’s energy efficiency and also contains recommendations on how to improve the property. The DPE is similar but is a less thorough report. 

The obligation for people selling properties classed E on the DPE to get an energy audit is set to come into effect from January 1, 2025. This will be extended to D-classed properties on January 1, 2034. 

Read more: €1,000 energy audit to be needed for sales of millions of French homes

Read more: Home energy rating problems and three other French property updates

Brittany woman’s nightmare ordeal over uninhabitable home

A woman from Brittany has found herself in a nightmare position after her house was deemed to be uninhabitable due to various construction problems and the insurance company won a court case absolving them of responsibility for covering the repair costs. 

Cécile Baudry bought her 135-square-metre house in the town of Questembert (Morbihan) for €210,000 in 2010. 

She first noticed problems with it in 2016, beginning with signs of subsistence. 

In 2017 she notified the courts of the problems and an expert deemed the house “dangerous and uninhabitable” in 2019. 

The expert cited various issues such as the crawl space height being too low and insufficient ventilation as well as a missing, important concrete slab and moisture rising from the ground. 

Ms Baudry had to leave the house with her two teenagers to move in with her parents. The builder who constructed the house sold his company in 2015 and has since changed activity, making it complicated for him to be implicated in the responsibility for the problems. 

In 2020, a court in Vannes ruled that the builder’s insurance company Maaf should cover the costs of the €286,000 needed to repair the property. 

But Maaf appealed and won its case this September because work on the property technically began in 2006, two years before the insurance policy was taken out. 

It means that Ms Baudry now finds herself in a position where she needs to reimburse Maaf for the repair work that has already been carried out as well as continuing to pay a mortgage on a house that she cannot live in. 

She plans to appeal to the Court of Cassation but all this will be expensive. 

French newspaper Ouest-France, which has followed this story, estimates that it will cost €40,000 to demolish the house and €300,000 to rebuild it. 

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help Ms Baudry cover the numerous legal costs. 

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