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US-French couple give up on ‘frustrating’ home renovation grant

The couple in Bordeaux were eventually told they had ‘done everything wrong’ when trying to access the government’s MaPrimeRénov’ scheme

Erik and Jesica Uzureau applied for €4,000 towards environmental improvements to their home like insulation and double glazing Pic: Uzureau family / Arturs Budkevics / Vladimir Nenezic / Shutterstock

Efforts to claim €4,000 in state grants for renovation work have been likened to “banging your head against a brick wall” by a couple who eventually gave up.

Connexion readers Erik and Jesica Uzureau spent more than two years applying for the government’s MaPrimeRénov’ scheme, which offers financial aid to improve the energy efficiency of homes.

‘Told we had done everything wrong’

Mr Uzureau, an American, and his wife, who is French, sought the grant as part of a €250,000 project to buy and renovate their house in Bordeaux. 

The energy work included installing a solar-boosted hot water system, insulating the loft and walls, and double-glazing the windows.

They said they initially used an online calculator on the MaPrimeRénov’ website, which came up with the €4,000 grant figure.

“It seemed simple at the time, and €4,000 would have been a great help,” Erik said.

“It was only when we went to the new France Rénov’ information service that we got a face-to-face interview with someone who knew what they were talking about and who explained to us clearly that we had done just about everything wrong.”

Read more: French renovation grant to target old gas boiler replacement

‘Request moved from one queue to another’

The couple had employed an architect for the project who became the maître d’oeuvre (similar to a project manager).

“He informed us at the start that he did not work on the government grant side of things and that we would have to do it ourselves,” said Erik. 

The first indication that things would not be plain sailing was when MaPrimeRénov’ emailed to say the proof of ownership of the house was not sufficient. 

They eventually had to scan and upload the papers received from the notaire.

“That took nine months because our request was moved from one queue to another,” he said.

Artisan was not RGE certified 

They were then told that one of the artisans employed by the architect to insulate the walls did not have the required Reconnu Garant de l’Environnement (recognised environment professional, RGE) certification. 

It meant the whole project had to be resubmitted without the walls. Again, there was a long delay.

“It was always nagging in the back of our minds, and I called and emailed regularly. We did not know what the outcome would be,” said Erik. 

Read more: Explainer: DPE survey and new energy audit for properties in France

‘Go to France Rénov’ first’

Hearing of France Rénov’ from a newspaper advertisement, Erik contacted the public service platform for free personalised advice and was quickly given an appointment with an adviser.

“They sat down with us, went through the process, and basically told us we would never get the grant because the work was done before estimates from RGE artisans had gone through the application process,” he said.

“I strongly recommend anyone thinking of MaPrimeRénov’ to go to France Rénov’  first, because even when you think you are capable of dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy in French like we did, you risk banging your head against a brick wall.”

‘Auchan’s Prime Eco Energie grant was easy’

By contrast, applying for a Prime Eco Energie grant offered by supermarket group Auchan, worth between €2,000 and €3,000, “was like getting a letter in the post”, Erik said. 

“The key document was an energy assessment from a specialist. Once we had that, it only took around two weeks.

“The energy assessment, which we also needed for the MaPrimeRénov’ grant, cost around €1,000, so Auchan covered that and more.”

Prime Eco Energie grants are available from a number of large French companies as part of a deal agreed with the government to help reduce CO2 emissions.

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