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France second homes: Is there a change for visits from UK?

People in England can currently come for reasons related to buying, selling, renting or letting a residential property, so why is a change on this being reported for next week? We explain

24 March 2021
People from England can travel to their second homes - if they are not located in areas under extra lockdown rules - if they are going for activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting the property
By Thomas Brent

Several media outlets in the UK have reported that from March 29, people in the UK will be able to travel to their second homes abroad in order to organise a property sale or rental. 

It is being described as the “Stanley Johnson Loophole” in reference to the UK prime minister’s father, who is reported to have travelled to his second home in Greece last summer, breaking Covid-related travel restrictions. 

However, the change being reported is not entirely correct. People in England are, under current rules, allowed to travel abroad to carry out “activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property”. 

There will be no change to this rule on March 29, a spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care told The Connexion

She stated that:

“International travel from England is currently governed by the Stay at Home restrictions. This means that you can travel internationally if you have a valid reason for leaving home in the first place.

“The Stay at Home restrictions contain a reasonable excuse to be outside of your home to undertake any activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”.

This means that a reasonable excuse to travel internationally is if you are undertaking an activity connected to “the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”.

On March 29, the Stay at Home order will be replaced by the Stay in the UK order, subject to parliamentary approval. Under this measure, travelling internationally for activities relating to the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property will remain a reasonable excuse.

Currently, all international travel from the UK is prohibited unless travellers have an essential reason. This means that people in the UK with a second home in France must not travel there unless they can present convincing proof that they are going for the essential reasons outlined above.

Anyone caught travelling abroad from the UK for a non-essential reason could be issued with a fixed penalty fine of £5,000 and/or told to return home or be arrested.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Paris told The Connexion that they would advise people be very cautious about travelling to second homes in France, even if they are going for reasons related to buying, selling, renting or letting a residential property, as the overriding advice from the British government is not to travel abroad if you do not have to. 

Forms and proof

If you are in England and you have a second home in France, you are legally authorised to travel there if you are going to organise selling it, buying it, renting it or letting it. 

The UK government website states that you should bring proof with you, such as proof of residence, proof of contract, letters or appointment details from an estate agent, relevant contract or letters detailing sales, other appropriate documentation. 

You must also fill out a declaration form for international travel, which you can find here

There is one form for travel before March 29 and one for travel after March 29. Under the “reason for travelling” section you should select “other permitted reasons” on the pre-March 29 form and “other reasonable excuse” on the post-March 29 form. Then you should write that you are travelling “to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property”. 

Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

The Connexion has so far only been able to confirm this for people travelling from England. We are seeking clarification from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments as rules may vary. 

The Welsh government’s website refers to the UK government’s travel advice, as does the Northern Irish government’s website. This suggests that the same rules that apply to England apply there as well.

The Scottish government website states that a reasonable excuse to travel is in connection with moving home or “activities connected to the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting or rental or a residential property that a person owns or is otherwise responsible for”. 

It is not yet clear if this also applies to property outside of Scotland or the UK. 

Rules on the French side

The French rules state that it is now no longer necessary for someone travelling from the UK to France to have an essential reason for travelling, meaning they no longer need to fill out an attestation de déplacement international

However, they still have to provide the following documentation, which can be found here.

These are: 

  • A sworn statement certifying the absence of Covid-19 symptoms and absence of any contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19
  • A sworn statement of willingness to undergo further testing on arrival if asked to do so
  • A sworn statement of willingness to voluntarily self-isolate for seven days and, if aged 11 or more, to undergo a PCR Covid test at the end of the isolation period
  • For those aged 11 years and above, a PCR Covid test carried out less than 72 hours before boarding, showing no Covid-19 contamination

France partially locked down

A further complication is the fact that 16 departments in France are now under a form of lockdown. Click the link below to see which ones. 

Covid France: Four-week full lockdown for 16 departments

People from outside of these departments can only enter them if they have an essential reason, such as for work, health, family, judiciary or administrative reasons, etc. 

One essential reason is: “Moving home, change of residence or travel essential to the acquisition or rental of a principal residence, which cannot be postponed”.

As a second home is not a principal residence, this means that people coming from the UK should only enter these departments if they are moving into their French home on a permanent basis and it is vital to make the move at the moment. 

People coming from the UK are prohibited from entering these 16 departments if they are looking to organise the buying, selling, renting or letting of a property that is not their main residence. 

Going back to the UK from France

The UK has strict rules on people entering the country from abroad.

Please read our article, linked below, about these rules to find out more. 

Do I need to isolate in a hotel if I go to UK from France?

In addition to the quarantine rules in place, people entering the UK from abroad (outside of the Common Travel Area) must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure.

You must also show proof of a completed passenger locator form at the UK border. You can complete it up to 48 hours before you enter the UK and should do so before arrival.

What about this Stanley Johnson Loophole?

Last summer, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father Stanley allegedly breached UK Covid-19 rules by travelling to a second home in Greece to “Covid-proof” it, The Guardian reported

UK political party Labour has branded this a “Stanley Johnson Loophole”, which they claim allows wealthier people with foreign property to travel abroad unfairly. 

A Guardian article, published yesterday (March 23), claims that this loophole will “allow people to travel abroad ‘in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property’” from March 29. As stated above, these rules are already in place.

Read more:

I am British living in France. Can I go to UK to see family?

Do I need to isolate in a hotel if I go to UK from France?

France eases Covid rules for UK and other non-EU travel

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