Help to renovate French home undermined by lack of certified builders

Figures suggest less than 5% of the building firms listed in France have the necessary paperwork to carry out grant-approved work

Energy renovations must be done by RGE certified tradespeople to qualify for grants but too few workers are accredited
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A subsidy scheme for eco-friendly home renovation work continues to be marred by complaints from applicants and a reluctance among building professionals to become accredited.

To qualify, any such work must be carried out by a tradesperson with Reconnu garant de l’environnement (RGE) certification.

However, official figures from Ademe, one of the agencies running the scheme, show France has only 62,410 certified companies, representing less than 5% of the 1.3 million building companies listed in France.

This creates a huge backlog, as those seeking to apply for MaPrimeRenov’ government grants scramble to book these tradespeople in the short time windows afforded to them when applying for aid.

Read more: Tradespeople shortages, buy an island: 6 French property stories

Last year, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he wanted to quadruple the number of RGE-certified tradespeople by 2028, to 250,000.

When asked why they are not interested in getting RGE accreditation, many tradespeople cite the complexity of obtaining the certificate – and the cost.

A carpenter in Charente told The Connexion: “I used to be RGE-registered when it first came out in 2015, but I did not renew it after the four-year period was up.

The file we needed for all the paperwork was as thick as a telephone book.

“It took about two weeks of office work to complete, and it cost over €4,000 over the four years.

We have work on our books until 2025 at the moment without RGE, so I do not see the point any more.”

Qualit’EnR, one of the certifying bodies, said its prices ranged from €895 to €2,360 before tax for the entire four years, depending on the nature of the qualification.

A spokesman said: “I do not know where the €4,000 figure comes from – it is not something we recognise.”

Ademe did not respond for information on the price of RGE certification.

However, the RGE issue is only part of MaPrimeRénov’s problems.

Delays or refusals to pay out for approved applications were first exposed in 2021 by consumer rights organisation UFC-Que Chosir and the problem has not gone away.

A complaints site set up by the government after the gilets jaunes protests receives two to four complaints a day about MaPrimRénov’ delays.

Read more: Hundreds sue over French energy renovation grant delays

Meanwhile, the government ombudsman, Défenseur des droits, told a Senate inquiry in the spring that 500 people have complained to it about the service.

It called for the government to form a crisis committee to sort out bugs on the website, work to reduce the time taken to make payments, appoint named people to handle each case, set up a separate complaints channel direct to ministries, and pay the backlog of delayed payments.

Reader experience

Among those affected is The Connexion reader Alan Henderson, from Charente.

He signed up with MaPrimeRenov’ in September 2021 to help cover the cost of a €10,000 air-heat pump hot water system.

He was told he was eligible for a €5,000 subsidy.

The system was installed in March 2022, and he was informed via an email that the money would be paid.

However, he is still waiting 15 months on, despite his local maire taking up the case.

“In July 2022, MaPrimeRenov’ said they wanted to do an inspection, and we heard nothing more. Then they said we had not confirmed a time for the inspection,” said Mr Henderson.

“It turned out the inspector had the wrong phone number, in spite of our correct contact details being on all the forms.”

In his last letter from MaPrimeRenov’, in April this year, the agency said it would be in touch if it needed more information.

Mr Henderson is now considering legal action.

“It has been over a year, and everyone who has tried to help us says the problem is that you can never speak to one person, and the people you speak to refuse to give their names or job title,” he said.

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