French second homes at risk of coastal erosion and other property news

Plus no current plans to ban gas boilers in houses and MPs vote to enlarge the amount of people due compensation for cracked homes

We look at five updates affecting property owners in France
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No plans to ban gas boilers in houses

The government has announced that there are currently no plans to ban gas boilers in non new-build French homes.

Since January 2022, the installation of gas boilers during the construction of new homes has been prohibited. However, this does not retroactively extend to renewing gas boilers in logements anciens – houses that are more than five years old, or those under that limit that have already been sold at least once.

The changes were made due to the comparative energy inefficiency of gas boilers, compared to other heating methods such as heat pumps.

“The government’s objective is to produce the most clear energy possible (...) but there is currently no planned date to ban [this type of equipment] in old housing,” said Housing Minister Olivier Klein.

He was questioned on the matter in parliament by Morbihan MP Paul Molac, who highlighted the concerns of homeowners who use gas boilers. Agricultural producers and those working in the gas industry also use them.

“Many farmers have invested in methanisation and therefore in the production of greenhouse gas that is directly injected into the fuel supply networks [but I question whether] that will simply be abandoned soon,” he said.

Currently, if you live in an established home (logement ancien) with a gas boiler and need to replace it with a new one, there are no restrictions against this.

Read more: France offers more money to households replacing their old boilers

Second-home hotspots most at risk of coastal erosion

A list of popular second-home locations that are most likely to be affected by coastal erosion has been compiled by second-home management company Prello

It compares a 2022 list of French regions most vulnerable to the problem, with the number of second-home owners in these areas.

“Coastal erosion is a criterion that buyers must now take into account, to avoid unpleasant surprises and financial risks," said Ludovic de Jouvancourt, founder of Prello.

“Within 30 years, new construction will be prohibited in the most threatened areas,” he said.

“And if the land becomes unbuildable, there is no doubt that the value of the property will be greatly affected. The most expensive properties are the ones closest to the seafront: this means that they are almost past their sell-by date.”

Despite the aesthetic appeal, Mr de Jouvancourt warned it “can be a bad investment” to buy so close to the sea, and urged potential buyers to consider other areas less affected.

The 10 towns with the highest second-home ownership facing a particularly strong threat of erosion are:

1. La Baule-Escoublac (Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire) 13,135 second-home owners

2. Biarritz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 10,774 second-home owners

3. Arcachon (Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 10,627 second-home owners

4. Fleury (Aude, Occitanie) 7,808 second-home owners

5. Lège-Cap-Ferret (Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 7,435 second-home owners

6. Lacanau (Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 6,599 second-home owners

7. Pornichet (Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire) 6,592 second-home owners

8. Capbreton (Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 6,527 second-home owners

9. Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) 6,393 second-home owners

10. La Tranche-sur-Mer (Vendée, Pays de la Loire) 6,378 second-home owners

Read also: Property buyers not attentive to natural hazards, French experts fear
Read also: Rising sea levels provoke exodus from northern French coastline

Warnings to check roofer’s insurance before hiring

Yet another ruling by the Cour de Cassation (France’s highest civil court) on insurance claims has led to renewed calls for vigilance when hiring roofers in France.

The most recent case – this time surrounding waterproofing work – is the latest in a string of rulings, in which the court has highlighted how important it is for clients to fully check tradespeople’s credentials, qualifications, and/or experience before starting work.

In this particular case, the waterproofing work fell outside the remit of the ‘traditional skills’ covered by the roofer. And, as the roofer did not have the appropriate insurance, homeowners were not covered for the damages caused.

The clients had complained of a number of defects after the completion of the work, but the specific waterproofing work conducted with asphalt was not covered by the roofer’s general insurance policy, and was instead considered to be a specialised skill.

As a result the court urges all clients hiring roofers to check their 10-year insurance policy is still in date, and that it specifically covers the work being undertaken.

This insurance policy must be mentioned on estimates by roofers before work commences and on all invoices.

Read more: Roof tile shortages delay building projects and repairs in France

Vote on law to compensate owners of ‘cracked’ houses

A law widening the number of homeowners eligible for compensation due to ‘cracks’ appearing in their houses has passed a vote in parliament by 115 votes to nine, despite criticism from the government.

Introduced by Green MP Sandrine Rousseau, the bill regards the phenomena of soil shrinkage and expansion, which can cause cracks to appear in affected homes.

The bill aims to increase the number of homeowners eligible for government compensation by expanding the definitions of a ‘natural disaster’ (catastrophe naturelle) characterised by soil movements.

Read more: Moves to improve compensation for drought damage in homes in France

It also seeks to apply compensation measures to houses with cracks that have been caused by the five most serious droughts in the last 50 years. The current law only applies it to the two most serious droughts in that time.

Over 10 million homes are affected by cracks due to soil movements, said Ms Rousseau during her speech in parliament.

Read more: MPs back compensating homeowners in France for drought damage

The government has already announced plans to increase compensation for drought-damaged homes in France. However, this new bill is aimed at increasing the number of people eligible for compensation, instead of simply increasing the amount of compensation itself.

Although largely abstaining from the vote, government MPs were critical of the bill, highlighting the aforementioned plans to increase compensation.

France’s Minister for Small and Medium Companies, Olivia Grégoire, argued the bill places the responsibility on insurers and would “lengthen the time taken for compensation [to be handed out]" and "increase insurance premiums to the detriment of the insured”.

“Insurers have made record profits in 2022, they have the capacity to take this on," said Ms Rousseau.

The law will now be debated in the Senate.

Read also: Vehicles, homes: claiming compensation for weather damage in France

Copropriété charges on the rise

A number of factors - most notably energy costs and the prices of raw materials - is leading to an “explosion” of monthly fees for copropriétaires (flat owners in shared blocks), says a report by the consumer association group UFC Que Choisir.

These charges cover costs for communal areas as well as for building insurance, and where applicable include elevator maintenance and collective water/heating for the building.

Data for 2022 is not yet available, but 2021 saw an average increase of 3.9% in charges, according to a report by the Association des responsables de copropriété.

In some areas, such as larger cities, this was even higher - Parisian charges skyrocketed by an average of 6.9% in 2021.

The area with the largest increase overall was heating, which saw a 15% increase in 2021. This is only expected to get worse in 2023.

“Co-owners haven’t seen anything yet. [These costs] have really exploded during 2022. This is going to be taken into account in the 2023 budgets, which will soar considerably,” said Olivier Safar, president of a copropriété association.

“It is true that a shield has been put in place by the government, with a maximum increase of 15%, but housing residents pay their bills first and only benefit from [that shield] later,” he added.

Read also: France looks to make eco-renovations easier for flat owners

Among the largest increases were electricity and elevator maintenance costs, which both rose by 10%.

Charges are split between each property within the group, and are updated on an annual basis after taking the previous year’s costs into account.

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