Home energy rating problems and three other French property updates

We look at a court case surrounding the rules on asking neighbours to prune trees encroaching on your land and why Airbnb ‘key safe boxes’ are unpopular in Lille

An image grid showing a person pruning a tree, a key safe, piles of coins surrounding a house and French energy ratings
We look at four updates for property owners in France this week
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1. Property energy efficiency rating reviews ‘unreliable’

France’s property energy efficiency rating system, which is becoming a much more important factor in buying and selling properties, is “unreliable”, a leading French consumer magazine has found

60 Millions de Consommateurs has reported that there were “errors galore” following an investigation into how reviewers are rating properties.

In France, properties are rated on their energy efficiency based on a scale called the Diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE).

The DPE uses a graded rating scheme – from A to G – to indicate how energy-efficient a property is, with A the best and G the worst.

It takes into account the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission rates of a home, corresponding to the property’s size.

60 Millions de Consommateurs ran a study involving four property owners who all hired five independent DPE reviewers to rate their homes.

The magazine reported that the reviewers consistently rated properties differently, with a difference in some cases of two or three letters. For example, one reviewer would rate a property B while another would score it D.

The report said the reviewers frequently used wrong property construction dates, miscounted the number of windows or doors, forgot to include heat pumps, miscalculated the size of the properties, etc.

Fanny Guibert, journalist for 60 Millions de consommateurs, said the reviewers “are not doing a good enough job in terms of data”.

This could be an issue because the DPE ratings are becoming more important.

From 2025, it will be prohibited to rent out G-rated properties. This ban will extend to F-rated properties in 2028 and E-rated properties in 2034.

Starting from August 25 this year, it will be illegal to increase rent in properties rated F or G.

Finally, from September 1 landlords of F- and G-rated properties will have to organise a full energy audit (a more detailed evaluation of a property’s energy efficiency) before being able to sell.

Read more about the energy audit law change in one of our previous property roundups here: Local taxes, energy audit: Four updates for property owners in France.

France’s Minister of Transformation and Public Service, Amélie de Montchalin, has admitted that the government must do more to regulate the DPE inspections.

“We have done a lot of work on standardisation and control. But on this subject, there must be much more consistent practices,” she told France Inter.

2. Landlord fined €9,000 for non-respect of rent control limits

A landlord of an unfurnished flat in Lille has been fined €9,000 for renting out his property for €100 per month more than the city’s rental limits.

In France, a system of rent controls (encadrement des loyers) applies to Lille, Paris and Lyon.

Where it is in place, landlords cannot legally charge more than a fixed ceiling rental rate, which varies depending on the type and location of the property.

Additionally, real estate agencies must mention in their advertisements that the property is in a ‘rent control zone’, along with any relevant legal information. This rule is to be extended to all rental property advertisements in Lille on July 1 this year.

The case in Lille is the first time that a landlord in the city has been fined for breaking rent limits.

The landlord charged €450 per month for the 16.6 square-metre flat in the city centre, with the rental cap set at just under €350 for this type of flat.

The tenant flagged the situation to local authorities using a dedicated website set up by the city.

Lille's mairie wrote in a statement: “Rent control is an important and necessary measure, especially for small flats, which are very in demand”.

It has said that it is looking into around 50 other situations signalled by tenants in which landlords may have breached rent control rules.

3. Lille wants to get rid of Airbnb key safes

Lille’s mairie is requiring Airbnb owners to remove key safe boxes which are positioned on public streets.

These boxes make it easier for Airbnb owners to ensure their guests can access the property without having to be there to welcome them as they share a code with them which can be used to obtain the key.

However, the local authorities are objecting to the fact that these safes have appeared not only in doorways but on street lights and railings, with 50-100 of them being found between the station and Vieux-Lille alone.

“They enable owners to not be present for the key handover or to save on a concierge service. But the urban environment is not designed to become a key cupboard,” said the mairie’s Jacques Richir.

The authorities have therefore placed stickers on offending boxes telling owners to remove them within two weeks. If they do not comply, the municipal police will take the boxes away themselves and charge the owners for the trouble.

It is still possible to install the boxes on a private house or within a copropriété – as long as the assemblée générale agrees.

However, owners should be aware that, wherever they choose to place the box, their insurance company may decide that they are not covered in the event of an act of vandalism, seeing as the ‘key safes’ are easily visible to everyone.

4. You cannot force neighbour to prune their trees every year

It is not possible to demand that a neighbour prunes their trees as a regular, preventative measure, as this implies that they will fail to respect legal obligations they are subject to at a future date. It presumes future guilt.

This was decided by a judgement from France’s supreme court of appeal, the Cour de cassation, after a property owner objected to the fact that their neighbour’s tree branches were encroaching on their land and asked them to cut them back regularly.

Their demands were upheld by the court of appeal, which required the neighbour to prune their trees every year or face a €50 penalty for each day that they protruded beyond the property boundaries.

However, the Cour de cassation ruled that this decision presumed that the owner of the trees would fail to comply with their obligations at various points in the future.

It should be noted that any property owner can demand that a neighbour cuts back trees whose branches have encroached onto their land, and that the neighbour cannot refuse.

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