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Solar, erosion, renovation: Four updates for property owners in France

In our weekly roundup we look at the 126 communes threatened by coastal erosion and what happens if a squatter burns down your property

Property roundup France

This week we look at reduced subsidies for grants to insulate homes, coastal erosion, solar panels and a fire caused by a squatter Pic: SpeedKingz, CloudOnePhoto, Camille.L Photography, Slavun / Shutterstock

Reduced rates on funding through CEE home renovation scheme

Households have since May 1 been getting around 30% less money for certain projects through one of France’s main home renovation grants aimed at making properties more sustainable. 

Certificats d'économies d'énergie (CEEs) is a scheme that obliges energy suppliers (EDF, Engie, TotalEnergies, etc.) to obtain 'CEE' energy certificates by funding renovation works aimed at improving the energy efficiency of households. 

The scheme, alongside MaPrimeRénov’, is one of the main grants that property owners can use to upgrade their homes. Unlike MaPrimeRénov’, second home owners, regardless of their residency status, are eligible for it. 

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

The amount that households can get from this scheme to subsidise thermal insulation work has since the beginning of this month been reduced, despite the fact that energy prices are rising around the country. 

Hellio, a company specialising in eco renovation, highlighted the issue recently, saying that subsidies to cover a range of insulation upgrades, including on floors, walls and ceilings, are now between 21% and 33% lower. 

“This is detrimental to households, who will be less able to finance their home renovation projects,” said Marine Offel, head of Hellio’s public and legal affairs department. She added that the reductions will also hit the professional sector, with building costs widely rising. 

The scheme was first introduced in 2006. It obliges energy companies to meet certain targets in improving properties’ energy efficiency scores. As the companies get closer to meeting these targets, they are gradually reducing the amount in grants that they are giving out. 

This reduction has long been planned, but comes at an unfortunate time with energy prices rising. 

Read more: Explained: How to apply for a renovation grant for your French home

In related news, CEE funding to insulate attics, roofs and foundational-level flooring is to end on July 1 this year. 

Government publishes list of 126 communes at risk of coastal erosion

The French government last week (April 29) published a list of 126 communes in France that are at serious risk of coastal erosion in the next century. 

The majority of the communes are situated along the Atlantic coast or by the English Channel. There are 41 in Brittany, 16 in Normandy and 31 in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. 

You can see the list here, which will be updated every nine months. 

In areas threatened by coastal erosion in the next 30 years, new construction is prohibited, with a few exceptions. 

In areas threatened by coastal erosion in around 100 years, new construction is still permitted but will come with an eventual obligation to demolish the building when the threat increases. 

All communes on the list will have to draw up a ‘coastal risk prevention plan’ that will map how the coast will erode over the next 30 and 100 years. Up to 80% of this plan will be financed by the State. 

The mayor of Trégastel (Côtes d'Armor), a commune on the list, welcomed the obligation to have a plan. 

"If we say we are renovating the city centre and that in 20 years it will be underwater, is it useful to renovate it today, shouldn't we think about seeing it differently?” Xavier Martin told AFP. 

But Elodie Martinie-Cousty from the NGO France Nature Environnement questioned the limitations of the list of communes.

“These 126 so-called priorities are ridiculous compared to the 864 threatened communes," she told AFP. 

She said that the 864 communes, while not necessarily immediately at threat of coastal erosion, are "particularly vulnerable" to being temporarily flooded, particularly during storms. Around 1.5 million people live in these flood-prone areas. 

She believes that still  "too much building has been allowed on the coast" and the new provisions "are not adapted to the challenges”. 

In a previous property roundup, we reported on a new tool developed by a French start-up that calculates when your street will be submerged by rising sea levels. 

It has been created by Callendar, specialists in climate risks. See the submersion calculator here

Essentially, you input your address into the calculator, and it will give you estimates on when that street will be underwater. 

Callendar also published a study in February that found that 6,000 to 9,000 properties sold over the past five years in France will be submerged by sea levels at high tide by 2050.

It found that another 15,000 properties will become flood risks before the middle of this century. 

In France, it will become mandatory to inform buyers and tenants about the risks of coastal erosion when advertising a property from 2023. 

If your commune is on the list, we would like to hear from you. Let us know by emailing news@connexionfrance.com

Requests for solar panels up, but government support still limited

The number of households in France looking to install solar panels on their properties has increased significantly, according to energy renovation specialist Effy.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the company reported 20,000 requests for solar panel installations. In the following year, between April 2021 and 2022, this number rose to 40,000. 

This increase can be explained by "the post-Covid economic recovery, as suppliers have increased electricity prices, and by the war in Ukraine, as electricity prices are indexed to gas prices", said Cédric Bocquet, head of solar operations at Effy.

In France, households pay 10% VAT on solar panels with a capacity of up to three kilowatt peak (the equivalent to eight panels and a roof area of 15 to 20 metres squared). Above that, the VAT is 20%. 

“In the UK, the VAT on solar panels for individuals’ properties is 0%,” said Mr Bocquet.

“We want the VAT rate to be more attractive, another way for [households] to reduce the bill.” 

Mr Bocquet said that if property owners are thinking about installing solar, then one way to get money back is to re-sell the electricity they generate. 

To do this, you need to make a request to Enedis, which manages France’s electricity grid. 

There could be a fee of €50 to connect your panels up to the grid (this is the case if Enedis has to create a new connection point). 

Homeowners then sign up to 20-year contracts with a buyer to sell the electricity on, getting a fixed rate back per each kWh of electricity sold. 

You only get money back on electricity that you sell, not what you keep for your own property. 

Find out more on the government’s website here (in French). 

A squatter burned down a house. Who pays the damage?

A house fire, likely caused by a squatter, has caused considerable damage to a property in Castanet-Tolosan, a town south-west of Toulouse. 

It has raised the question: Who is responsible for paying for the damage to the house, the squatter or the owner?

“In theory, the squatter is responsible for paying for the repairs,” Romain Rossi-Landi, a lawyer specialising in property law, told Le Figaro. 

The problem, though, is that the squatter is most likely not in a position financially to pay the damages, and is also unlikely to be insured. 

If this is the case, then the property owner must turn to their insurance company to cover the costs, who might not pay out, depending on the owner’s policy. 

If the owner only has a basic insurance policy that covers responsabilité civile – a mandatory part of the most basic policies – then the owner will only be covered for damage caused by the fire to a neighbouring property. 

In order to be covered for damage to their own property, they must have an extra policy covering damages, an assurance dommages. If this is the case, the insurance company should cover the cost of the fire damage, whether it was caused by a squatter or not. 

Almost all homeowners in France are likely to have a multi-risk home insurance policy, known as assurance multirisque habitation

This covers all the basics, including damage caused by theft, fire, water, snow, hail etc. 

Read more: Squatters, sublets and chateaux sales: Five French property updates

Read more: Success of new squatter law in France is 'postcode lottery'

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French house prices rose by up to 19% in 2021: How did your area do?

Extra energy audit to protect property buyers in France is delayed

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