France to simplify squatter eviction for second home owners

Evicting illegal squatters from your property is set to become easier in France as the government works to simplify and speed up the process for both main and second homes.

17 September 2020
A sea view of Théoule-sur-Mer. France to simplify squatter eviction for second home ownersSquatters occupying second homes has been a high-profile issue of late, as a family was reported to have changed the locks of a property in Théoule-sur-Mer.
By Hannah Thompson

MP Guillaume Kasbarian (LREM) has said that the government is aiming to reduce the eviction procedure process to just three days, in contrast to the months or even years that it can take under current rules.

Mr Kasbarian told newspaper Le Figaro: “If all goes well, the law could be passed by the end of October, and if not then, by the end of December.”

Second homes

The aim is not only to enable property owners to evict illegal squatters more quickly - within around 72 hours - but also to remove the legal differences between main homes and second homes. Currently, the law only allows the eviction process to be fast tracked if the property in question is the owner’s main home.

In contrast, under the current laws, if a second home is squatted for more than 48 hours - which is more likely, as second homes are more often left empty for longer periods of time - the legal process of eviction can take months, and cost several thousands.

Read more: Your rights if squatters move into empty French home

Second home owners who wish to report squatters at their property will now be required to make a complaint to the local police, and show proof - usually the proof of sale (or “l’acte authentique de vente”) - that the squatted property belongs to them.

Authorities will then have 48 hours to respond to the owner. If authorities refuse to evict the squatters immediately, they are nevertheless still required to serve a 24-hour notice to the squatters, asking them to leave, regardless of how long they have been living there.

If the squatters refuse, authorities will then have the power to evict the illegal occupants by force “without delay”.

Squatter circumstances

Even with the tougher laws, the circumstances of the squatters may still be taken into consideration where necessary.

One police commissioner in Paris told Le Figaro: “We often consider the situation of the squatters before we evict them. Eviction will be immediate for people who are - for example - hiding from the police. But in contrast, if it is a young mother with small children, the eviction process will be more delicate.

“I struggle to believe that we will be able to skip legal proceedings in cases in which the ‘good faith’ of the owner, and the ‘bad character’ of the squatter are in doubt. Only a judge can decide [in those circumstances].”

But one Paris lawyer, Me Romain Rossi-Landi, a squatter specialist, said that owners were very happy with the “strong signal” being sent by the government; and Christophe Demerson, estate agent president of the Union des Propriétaires Immobiliers, said: “Squatter impunity is intolerable. If everyone cooperates, this new law will be effective. It is simply a shame that we needed to wait this long to act.”

 

Squatting damage

The changes come following a number of high-profile squatter cases in the media in recent weeks.

One such case concerned a house in Théoule-sur-Mer (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), where elderly owners Marie-Thérèse and Henri Kaloustian, from Lyon (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), were forced to spend days clearing up and cleaning their property after it was taken over by a family of squatters for around 20 days.

The home, which had been their second, became their main house this summer after they sold their property in Lyon. They realised the home had been compromised when they arrived and found the locks had been changed. The squatters are thought to have got in through a window.

Thus began the couple’s attempts to evict the squatters, leading to a high-profile crowdfunding campaign, and local hotels and restaurants stepping in to help them.

Once the squatters departed, the home was left in filth and disarray, they said, requiring them to replace and deep clean everything from the walls to the sofa, to the sheets, towels, oven, and washing machine.

A dog had been kept in the bedroom, and the couple said they found faeces and food covered in insects on the floor, as well as cigarette burns on furniture. The garden chairs were almost all entirely broken, and some things had been stolen.

The couple has now installed improved security, including a reinforced front door, new windows locks, and a new alarm.

Mayor of Théoule-sur-Mer, Georges Botella, said that he wanted to support the couple, who had put “all of their life savings” into their property in the town. He said: “We will host an evening for them as soon as the health situation allows. We have stepped up surveillance of all secondary homes.”

Owner of beachside restaurant Les Frères de la Baie, explained why he had helped the couple. He said: “We don’t want people to think of Théoule negatively. Second home owners shouldn’t worry! Already three or four elderly people have said to me: ‘We are scared, we’re leaving.’”

One second-home owner from Paris, said: “We have a camera that alerts the gendarmerie to any intruders before the 48-hour limit. The two things I fear the most are squatters, and identity theft.”

Squatters’ plight

The situation of the now-departed squatters is unclear, although they are known to authorities due to having used social services before.

According to Le Figaro, one man, known as Abdellah Z., aged 24, is reportedly the husband, and is now being investigated for domestic violence charges. His wife, Jihan Z., who is pregnant, has been placed in a shelter with her two young children.

Her lawyer, Me Emilie Bender, did not respond to requests for comment.

It is thought that the family used to rent a home in Seine-et-Marne (Île-de-France) near Paris, and were offered a four-bedroom social housing home recently, but it is not clear if this offer was accepted.

The husband reportedly told the gendarmerie investigating his case that he “had been shot at” in his neighbourhood near Paris and could not stay there, and Jihan said: “My husband had problems in Paris, so we couldn’t stay.”

The family had also reportedly requested food help, and a crèche place for one of their children, using a new electricity bill from their squatted home as proof of address.

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