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Copropriétés, squatters: Five updates for property owners in France

Warnings put out about avoiding scams when applying for renovation grants; rules on selling a property without an estate agent and more

We look at five stories for property owners in France Pic: Dietrich Leppert / Kamrad71 / SpeedKingz / pixinoo / Shutterstock

Agency puts out official tips on avoiding eco-renovation scams 

The Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah), an official body helping with housing-related issues, has put out advice to help homeowners avoid falling victim to eco-friendly renovation scams.  

This comes after the agency was alerted to problems including scammers usurping people’s identity to claim grants or faulty execution of work. 

Firstly, the agency reminds people that the property owner should begin the renovation process by finding someone to carry it out through the France Rénov’ platform, as it is a “neutral and free public service”. 

Read more: What is France Rénov’ aid scheme – can I use it to renovate my house?

It adds that it is worth comparing several different quotes to find the best price and service offer, rather than making a quick decision. Property owners should be suspicious of quotes which seem too good to be true. 

When you come to apply online for the government grants, you should make sure to do it yourself rather than allowing your chosen firm to do it for you, says Anah. 

Then, when you come to sign the réception des travaux (acceptance of the work carried out), you should make sure that everything in it corresponds to the original quote, that the renovation has been completed correctly and that everything works.

Read more: Rules for providing a quotation, or 'devis' for work in France

However, consumer group UFC-Que Choisir has claimed that following these tips alone will not necessarily prevent people from falling victim to scams. 

It said that “there are firms which are reconnu garant environnement (certified as carrying out eco-friendly work - a requirement for the grant) among the fraudsters, and the uninitiated cannot distinguish between a legitimate RGE and a dishonest RGE.”

It also warns that there exist several fake websites which imitate Anah’s page to collect people’s personal information.

Property owners can oppose the alteration of a lane serving their home

France’s top appeal court has ruled that all owners must agree to any modifications to so-called chemins d’exploitation, that is, roads that only service a restricted number of homes along the road and which do not lead to any other settlements or public facilities.

Such roads are deemed to be jointly owned by the property owners, who own the road alongside their property, up to the middle of the road. They are sometimes open to the public, or sometimes just reserved for the owners’ use.

The Cour de Cassation has ruled that any of the property owners can oppose alterations to the route of this lane, even if the alterations have no negative impact on them and would not bring the lane right in front of their home.

The court ruled in favour of a property owner who had objected to a change in a chemin d’exploitation serving her home, even though it had been authorised by the majority of her neighbouring landowners. 

In March 2017, the court had judged that such a track should not be destroyed or left to disappear without unanimous permission from all of its owners. This latest ruling adds to that.

Read more: Can I make my neighbour prune trees that overhang my garden in France?

Selling your French home independently: what to include on your listing 

When selling a French property, it is possible to bypass estate agent fees and list the house or flat for sale yourself. 

However, if you decide to do this, you should be aware of certain details that – at least in theory – must be included on your listing. 

The government has recently tightened rules on property listings to clamp down on vague information. 

Private sellers have more liberty when it comes to their initial advertisements than estate agencies, which are bound by the French loi Alur to list certain details. 

Individuals do need to share all of the required information before a sale contract is signed, and are advised to include in their listings: 

  • The nature of the property (house, apartment etc.) 
  • Its composition (the number of rooms and their type) 
  • The surface area
  • The building’s condition (whether work needs to be done to it)
  • Its geographical location
  • Its price 
  • Any considerations such as an easement (right of way) or the presence of a tenant 

The rules are stricter when it comes to properties in copropriétés (such as flats with communal areas) whose owners have to state that the listing is part of a building under shared ownership. 

They must also include the surface area as calculated according to the loi Carrez: discounting walls, partitions, staircases and stairwells, piping and electricity conduits and ducting, window and door spaces. 

This is in addition to stating the average annual maintenance fees, the number of apartments in the building and if it is protected by a plan de sauvegarde (safeguarding plan) if the copropriété encounters financial difficulties. 

All properties, whether part of a copropriéte or not, must be listed with their diagnostic de performance énergétique energy rating. 

Read more: What is the impact of energy ratings on French house prices?

Since July 2021, it has also been obligatory to share details on the property’s CO2 emissions. In addition, under the 2019 loi Énergie climat, listings must now offer an estimation of the average sum of the annual energy bills.

Properties which are less energy efficient – using more than 330 kilowatt-hours per square metre – should carry the label ‘Logement à consommation énergétique excessive’ (Home with excessive energy consumption), with a notice that it will have to undergo renovation works before 2028.

If sellers fail to include these required details in their listings, they risk a fine of up to €3,000.

Couple about to move into their new house discover it has squatters

A couple who purchased a house in Ollainville (Essonne) in May were preparing to move in when they realised that the locks had been forced and changed, and 

a family was already living in the property as squatters, Le Parisien reports. 

The squatters were not discovered until after they had already been in the house for 48 hours – the timescale during which property owners can call on the police to resolve the situation – so Elodie and Laurent were forced to resort to a court procedure. 

“On the one hand we have our rent, on the other, our mortgage. It is so stressful,” Elodie told Le Parisien.

The couple have also been told by a bailiff who came to see the property that the eviction process could take a while. 

The squatters have claimed that they are the true owners of the property, saying that they paid €120,000 in cash to buy it.

Volunteer copropriété syndics can download a new free guide

Apartment owners in a shared property (copropriété) who manage their building’s syndic on a voluntary basis can now download a free help guide. 

Read more: Copropriétés: Co-ownership in France explained

The syndic is an organisation, in most cases a commercial firm but sometimes a single flat owner, who acts as the representative of all the owners in the building – the syndicat des copropriétaires

This organisation or person oversees the day-to-day running of the communal areas, cleaning, maintenance, and emptying of bins.

The guide has been issued by the Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah), and is entitled ‘Guide du syndic bénévole : les clés pour bien gérer sa copropriété’ (Volunteer syndic guide: key tips for managing one’s copropriété well). 

Read more: French property syndics: What can I do if mine stops responding?

It includes information on the legal considerations surrounding copropriété operations, advice on renovation works and the rules on assemblée générale owner meetings.

It was written by Anah, the Association nationale pour l’information sur le logement (Anil) and the consumer group Consommation, logement et cadre de vie (CLCV).

On January 1, 2022, there were around 32,000 volunteer syndics registered on Anah records, normally representing smaller copropriétés.

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