Couple warn of French renovation grant ‘frustrations’

The Vintner family lost out on aid worth €1,280 for double glazing in their home after signing for the installation before getting formal approval

Leif Vinter has applied for two separate grants through the MaPrimeRénov’ scheme
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The flagship grant programme for energy-saving home renovation, MaPrimeRénov’, hit the headlines when the official consumer watchdog warned improvements were needed.

The Défenseur des Droits revealed in October that it had received 500 complaints about the scheme after less than two years of operation.

Most concerned the impossibility of communicating with anyone at the programme, which was designed as an internet-only service.

Estimate must be approved first

Connexion readers Lucy and Leif Vinter, who live near Cahors in Lot, share this frustration.

The couple lost out on grants worth €1,280 for replacing single with double glazing in eight windows.

“We were told by the window firm that we had to sign straightaway if we wanted free installation,” Mr Vinter said.

“When we went to a specialist at the regional council in Cahors, however, they told us MaPrimeRénov’ will only pay out if the estimate is approved before we sign.

“We were advised to contact MaPrimeRénov’ itself to check, but this proved near impossible despite having an active account.”

Communication issues

“It is difficult to get any sense from them. I must have sent dozens of emails with absolutely no reply.”

The couple received one automated email saying the mandataire (agent) looking after their grant had changed “due to a computer upgrade,” during which data had been lost.

They finally received a second, unsigned email, with no contact details, rejecting their grant request for signing for the free installation before getting the estimate approved by MaPrimeRénov’.

“It is incredibly frustrating — what difference does it make if the paperwork is submitted before or after?” asked Mr Vinter.

“We spent a lot of time getting prices so we know what we have is very good quality for the money, but that counts for nothing because a computer does not like the paperwork. I am sure if we could talk to someone it could be fixed.”

Heat pump claim

The Vinters are also in the MaPrimeRénov’ system for a second grant to install a heat pump costing €30,000, of which they will only have to pay €11,500 thanks to the subsidies.

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

This application is being handled by the installer, and seems to have gone through without a problem – except that the manufacturer cannot find parts to make the pump.

Consequently, the installation date has been delayed.

Payment from the couple is due when it is installed but they have been asked for a letter from their bank to confirm the €11,500 is available.

Delays force homeowners to take out loans

In a statement, the Défenseur des Droits said MaPrimeRénov’ was designed to help people with low incomes, yet it was these people who had the most difficulties dealing with internet-only platforms.

“Some people have gone ahead with renovations after receiving an accusé de réception giving them the go-ahead in 2020 but are still waiting for their grants because the site does not allow them to upload proof that the work has been done,” the statement said.

It added that some people have had to take out bank loans due to the delays.

The Agence Nationale de l’Habitat, which is in charge of MaPrimeRénov’, told Agence France-Presse that 1.25 million people had received grants and a survey showed 89% of them were satisfied.

However, it vowed to “reinforce our relations with users” in light of the watchdog’s recommendations.

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