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Extra boiler aid, drought damage claims: Five French property updates

We also explain why advertising a home yourself if you have an exclusive estate agent contract could cost you dear, a tougher new squatting law and more Airbnb backlash

We look at five updates affecting property owners in France Pic: Billion Photos / Semmick Photo / pixinoo / Mr Doomits / Shutterstock

Take advantage of additional aid to replace oil-fired boilers

Homeowners looking to replace their oil-fired boiler with a more environmentally-friendly alternative can now take advantage of up to €1,500 of additional aid.

Called the ‘Coup de boost fioul’, the measure was announced at the end of October and is available until the end of June 2023.

It applies to installations of heat pumps, biomass boilers, combined solar systems or connections to a heating network supplied mainly by renewable or recovered energy.

The money is provided by the government and supplements the ‘Coup de pouce chauffage’ grant already offered by energy suppliers as part of France’s energy saving certificate scheme (CEE).

Read more: CEE: France’s home renovation grant for main and second homes

Any household with an oil-fired boiler can benefit from the CEE scheme but the amount paid out differs according to the nature of the work and the owners’ level of income.

Read more: Do I have to be a resident to get France’s CEE home renovation grant?

Households on low incomes are entitled to a higher premium. 

The table below shows ceilings for low-income households in 2022, divided between the Ile-de-France region and the rest of the country. If your yearly household income is less than that shown, you will be eligible for more aid.

For installations of biomass boilers, heat pumps or a combined solar system, the government top-up sees the total bonus increase:

  • from €4,000 to €5,000 for low-income households

  • from €2,500 to €4,000 for middle and high income households.

For connections to a heating network, the available aid increases:

  • from €700 to €1,000 for low-income households

  • from €450 to €900 for middle and high-income households.

The new bonus is a temporary measure. The estimate for any work done must be signed before June 30, 2023 and the work itself completed by December 31, 2023 at the latest.

You will need to select an energy company in the Coup de pouce chauffage scheme and accept the offer from the supplier or its partner before signing any work estimate.

Only professionals with a status called Reconnu garant de l’environnement (RGE) can carry out the work (a directory is available here).

After the work is finished, homeowners must send supporting documents to the energy company or its partner. This may include invoices and a signed certificate summarising the work.

The subsidies can be combined with the MaPrimeRénov’ grant, available to anyone who owns a house in France and lives in it as their main residence or landlords who rent it out as a main home.

It, too, is income based so the more a household earns the less money it is eligible for – but all households qualify for some help. You can read an explanation of the breakdown of costs in our article here

Note that the Ma Prime Rénov grant includes the €1,000 bonus introduced by the government earlier this year for the replacement of an oil or gas-fired boiler.

Read more: Extra €1,000 available in grants to replace a gas boiler in France

Since July 1 it has no longer been possible to install a new oil-fired boiler (chaudière au fioul) in any French home for environmental reasons.

Read more: Can I still get an oil boiler in my French home if no other option?

Summer droughts may have caused record damage to buildings 

Insurance pay-outs for damage caused by this summer’s droughts are expected to exceed initial estimates and break all previous records for natural disaster claims.

The insurance industry federation, France Assureurs, estimated on Monday (November 21) that drought episodes in France in 2022 will likely cost between €1.9 and €2.8billion, compared to a more conservative earlier estimate of between €1.6 and €2.4billion.

Unless it is at the lower end of this range, pay-outs from this summer’s drought will exceed that of 2003, with its €2.12billion worth of claims, a record since the creation of ‘catastrophe naturelle’ (natural disaster) provision in 1982.

A ‘catastrophe naturelle’ is an official status, decided by authorities in France. Its declaration requires insurance firms to pay out in event of damage caused by unusual or severe weather events not covered under other clauses.

France Assureurs’ estimate only includes damage in areas where natural disaster status will be recognised. It does not take into account crop damage, which will be covered by specific insurance.

In July we reported how thousands of houses in France were expected to be left with sizeable structural cracks after early summer heatwaves, as they are built on clay soil which contracts during periods of extended dry weather.

Read more: Ten million homes in France risk structural cracks after heatwaves

Almost half (48%) of land in France is deemed at risk of this, including all along the Mediterranean coast. Detached houses are particularly affected.

Read more: What to do if structural cracks appear in your French property

According to a study by the federation published in 2021, drought in France cost €14billion between 1989 and 2019 and is expected to cost around €43billion between 2020 and 2050.

Homeowner forced to pay estate agent compensation for advertising property himself

Trying to sell a property yourself after giving an estate agent exclusive rights can cost you dearly, a homeowner has discovered.

A court ruled that the man in question, who has not been identified, breached his contract by publishing a classified ad on a website four months after assigning the sale of his flat to an estate agent, even though the property did not sell in this way.

The owner argued that publishing an advertisement is not the same as actually selling the property and said he would have paid the estate agent regardless of how the property was sold.

However, the Cour de cassation ruled on November 16 that the issue is not related to remuneration in case of sale. 

Rather, it is a question of the conditions of the search for a buyer, and there is a breach of the exclusivity contract even if the property has not found a buyer. 

As such, the owner was ordered to pay the 'penalty clause' provided in case of breach of contract by one party. This sum was equal to the agency's remuneration in the event of a sale. 

Government throws its weight behind tougher law on squatting

Proposals to triple jail time and fines for squatters are “necessary”, the government has said.

A new bill, due to be debated in parliament next week (w/c November 28) aims to increase the penalties for squatting from one year behind bars to three, and raise fines from €15,000 to €45,000.

This would align the penalty incurred by squatters with the one currently applicable to landlords who evict them without police assistance, for example by changing the locks or cutting off the water or electricity supply.

The draft bill also clarifies the legal definition of squatting and specifies that a dwelling can be considered a home even if it is temporarily empty of furniture. 

In addition to squatters, the legislation focuses on tenants who do not pay their rent, proposing six months' imprisonment and a fine of €7,500 if they remain in a dwelling despite a court order.

The payment period granted to a defaulting tenant by a judge, during which time they may legally remain in the property, could also be reduced from a maximum of three years to just one year.

Government spokesperson Olivier Véran told France 2: "It's a good parliamentary bill, so we'll support it.”

"We must re-establish republican order, the law and also protect landlords when they are within their rights," he said.

However, Droit au logement (DAL), the Fondation Abbé-Pierre, Solidaires and Attac, who all campaign for vulnerable people’s rights to housing, have hit out at attempts to make existing legislation tougher, criticising "a tendency to consider squatters as criminals", reports BFM

Developer bans Airbnb-style rentals in new homes

A property developer in south-east France has forbidden future owners from renting out their homes to tourists on platforms such as Airbnb.

Benjamin Combey, general manager of Primalp, a property developer in Annecy (Haute-Savoie), hopes the move will ensure year-round accommodation for residents.

There are already some 3,000 furnished flats advertised on such websites in Haute-Savoie, reports Capital.

Mr Combey said his solution is a ban on short-term rentals in the co-ownership regulations of his new development in the heart of Annecy, due to be delivered in 2025.

He concedes that, legally, this ban could be changed later by the co-owners at a general meeting. However, Mr Combey believes that the majority rules that apply will serve to maintain the ban in the long term rather than overthrow it. It is then up to the co-owners and the syndic to enforce the rule. 

While some buyers have subsequently given up their purchase, he says others have been reassured that they are less likely to be disturbed by noisy rental neighbours.

Mr Combey intends to extend the rule to other housing projects managed by his company.

This should involve "150 homes per year" within the department, he told France Bleu.

However, not all his properties will be affected: "We will avoid doing it in resorts because it is difficult to stop owners who pay a lot of money for their flats from renting them out.”

A number of other French cities in tourist hotspots have been taking a stand against short-term holiday rentals,

Read more: The French tourist cities taking a stand against Airbnb-style lets

In Saint-Malo, for example, the mayor recently introduced caps on how many holiday lets are permitted within different areas of the city. 

Read more: Shutters and burglaries, Airbnb controls: Five French property updates

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