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Pool tax win, cheap €1/m² building plots: five French property updates

Plus two landlord controversies and the soaring price of summer holiday lets

Our weekly round-up of property news in France Pic: Mr Doomits / Nokwan007 / conejota / alexandre zveiger / Shutterstock

1. Creuse town offers building plots for €1/m²

A town in central France hopes to lure new families to the area by offering cut-price building plots. 

Fursac in Creuse currently loses an average of 1% of its residents every year, and now has more people over 70 than under 20.

To buck the trend, it is advertising eight plots for sale measuring from 750m² to 1,400 m² and available for just €1/m² – 10 times lower than the market rate.

The land, formerly agricultural, is on a housing estate close to the town, which boasts good amenities, job prospects and a school, said its mayor Olivier Mouveroux.

He told Le Figaro: "Our rural commune of 1,500 inhabitants is one of the eight most densely populated in the department.

“It has a number of shops including a grocery shop, a butcher's shop due to open in the autumn, plus a pharmacy and a health centre. The air is pure and the quality of life is high. 

“In terms of businesses, we have Furméca, which makes fusion mechanics, and another company that makes carbon frames for bicycles, which is going to expand. We're going to have jobs to offer.”

To qualify for the low prices, would-be buyers must commit to starting building work within two years. Failure to secure planning permission within this period risks the commune reclaiming the land.

Read more: Number of new housing projects in France ‘at lowest level since 2010’

The property must be a main residence or rented out to families. Young couples are encouraged to benefit from the offer, especially those with children.

The initiative, which was announced last week (July 20), has already garnered a lot of interest. The town hall says it may offer more plots if successful.

Prospective buyers are invited to email mairie@commune-fursac.fr for more information.

2. Property owner stung by satellite pool discovery wins tax case

French tax authorities have backed down after accusing an Oise resident of having an undeclared swimming pool in his back garden. 

The homeowner, identified only as ‘Daniel’ in the media, faced a substantial rise in his taxe foncière after the pool showed up in satellite images taken of his property.

Tax authorities in France have so far discovered more than 120,000 undeclared swimming pools using artificial intelligence (AI) technology in partnership with aerial photography from Google.

This is cross-referenced against information held by the authorities – a system which stands to net them €40million to €50million in unpaid tax.

Read more: Tax authorities discover 120,000 undeclared swimming pools in France

Property owners who install swimming pools must declare them to local authorities and pay the necessary taxe foncière as a result of the change. They should be declared within 90 days of their construction being completed.

However, the rule only applies to pools that are in the ground, semi-buried or those which cannot be dismantled.

In Daniel’s case, the 10mx5mx1.3m pool was a “self-supporting” one, which “can be dismantled using tubes and clips that plug into each other".

He told Le Parisien the pool does not stay up for more than three months of the year, spending the less clement seasons stored in his garage.

Neither is it connected to a water and electricity supply, instead being filled up with a hose.

"It was stressful and upsetting not to be heard, but I'm relieved it’s over," Daniel told the newspaper after his weeks-long campaign to challenge the tax office's decision.

He said he specifically chose the pool model because it would not be liable to taxation.

Read more: France wants to expand AI use to find undeclared verandas and sheds

3. Landlord presses ahead with building work despite tenant’s presence

A tenant in Brittany had rain pouring into her rented house after the landlord started major building work on the property while she was still living there.

The 37-year-old woman in Vannes (Morbihan) was allegedly told of the impending renovation in 2021 and given notice to leave the property last year to make way for a relative of the landlord.

However, when the date came for her to go, on June 26, she refused, insisting the paperwork was not legal because it did not give a legitimate reason why she must leave, nor the name of the family member who would be living in the property instead.

Read also: I have a second home in France, what should I do if squatters get in?

Rather than delay his project, the landlord started renovating the roof structure anyway, removing slates and leaving the house exposed to the elements.

The tenant’s mother told Ouest France that she had been forced to cover the roof with sheeting to keep it dry.

Work has continued and the landlord is now trying to evict the tenant through the courts, claiming she has not paid rent for 20 months.

“They say there's a shortage of rental properties in Vannes… but we shouldn't be surprised when we see the way some people behave,” he said.

“Landlords don't want to invest any more if their tenants go into insolvency, don't maintain the property, spoil it or, worse still, destroy it.”

4. Prices soar for holiday lets, especially with swimming pools

Owners of French holiday lets are hiking their prices this year as new figures show substantial increases for a week’s rental in August, compared to the same period last summer.

A study by holiday rental comparison site Likibu.com found prices have risen sharply across the whole of France but are 9% higher in Brittany, Occitanie and Corsica.

Rates have also soared by 18% in the Ile de France region.

“In a fairly strong inflationary context, people are paying more for their bills, so they’re going to try to earn a bit more, and they’re going to raise their prices,” Likibu’s co-founder, Aurélien Jemma, told BFMTV

Read more: Tax Airbnb rentals more, demand French MPs

Houses and villas (as opposed to apartments) have seen the steepest hikes. In Corsica, this type of accommodation is 16% more expensive in August 2023, while Centre-Val de Loire has seen a 10% rise. Many other regions (Brittany, Occitanie, Grand-Est, Normandy, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) report an 8% increase.

Prices for properties with pools have risen across the board too, and in more than a third of French departments they command double the price of houses without, even in seaside resorts.

On the Côte d'Azur, for example, booking a place with a swimming pool for a week in August (sleeping six to seven people) is an eye-watering €6,692 in Juan-les-Pins, €6,321 in Cannes, and €5,227 in Théoule-sur-mer.

Read more: France overtourism: five alternatives to the most popular destinations

At the other end of the scale, holiday lets in the north remain the most affordable. Nord (€483) and Seine-Maritime (€490) offer the cheapest average prices for a one-week apartment rental for two to six people this summer.

Manche (€525), Finistère (€543), Somme (€557) and Côtes-d'Armor (€560) also have affordable prices for a family holiday by the sea.

5. Blind woman assured alternative housing after eviction outrage 

A 97-year-old blind woman facing eviction has been told she can stay in her rented house in La Rochelle until suitable alternative accommodation is found, following a groundswell of public support for her plight. 

The tenant was warned she would be forcibly removed from the property anytime from August 16 after three years of legal proceedings over a history of unpaid rent.

However, a spokesperson for the Charente-Maritime prefecture said she can now stay on until alternative accommodation, which is adapted to her needs and meets her approval, is found.

He added that local services are working to find such a place.

Read more: What is a ‘protected tenant’ in France and how do you become one?

The tenant’s lawyer, François Drageon, said he had received the support of “hundreds of colleagues” and also benefited from last-minute intervention by the local MP, who appealed to Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin on the woman’s behalf.

"They have – each in their place – restored humanity and dignity to this spiral of unjust and unjustifiable violence", said Mr Dragon on his Facebook page.

The tenant has lived in the house since 1962.

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