Renovation help row, rental rates: Five French property updates

We cover a complaint by housing associations about a new scheme to guide people in upgrading their property, and where in France rent prices are highest (in four maps)

This week we report on renovation help, rental rates, squatters and more
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Housing associations criticise new renovation help service

Several housing associations have hit out a government scheme aimed at helping people carrying out renovation projects, saying there is a lack of clarity over its future independence.

Mon accompagnateur Rénov’ is part of France’s revamped housing renovation platform called France Rénov’.

Read more:What is France Rénov’ aid scheme – can I use it to renovate my house?

The accompagnateur is someone who can help guide homeowners through the process of upgrading or renovating their homes to make them more ecologically sound. This includes helping them find and access grants available to them, finding the right workers, filling out documents and overseeing the renovation work.

This service was launched on January 1 and is available through the France Rénov’ website.

Currently, the accompagnateurs are associated with France Rénov’ or the national housing agency, Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah).

However, from January 1, 2023, certain other private operators will be able to act as advisors as part of Mon accompagnateur Rénov’s offering.

The draft decree for this change stipulates that the private operators will have to “respect certain conditions of independence” regarding the renovation work.

In other words, they should not be associated with construction companies, architects or others in the building industry who they then advise customers to hire for their renovation work.

But four housing associations in France have asked that clarifications on this “independence” be mentioned in the final decree.

The associations are:

  • Amorce (Association des collectivités territoriales en matière de transition écologique)
  • Anil (Agence nationale d’information sur le logement)
  • Cler (Réseau pour la transition énergétique)
  • Fédération nationale des conseils d'architecture, d'urbanisme et de l'environnement

They said it should be impossible for any company with economic or functional ties to a construction company to be involved in the Accompagnateur Rénov’ scheme.

They have also said they believe that any individual wishing to use the Accompagnateur Rénov' help should first go through advisors at France Rénov’.

The demands of the four associations will no doubt be taken into account for the drafting of the decree, although it is not clear at this point whether they will be included in the final version.

Landlords risk prison and fines if they evict squatters themselves

A new procedure, launched on February 1, means that bailiffs can now guide property owners who are victims of squatting through the entire process of recovering their property.

The Connexion reported on this in our property roundup at the beginning of the month.

Read more: Squatters, sublets and chateaux sales: Five French property updates

Most squatting situations are resolved quickly, in favour of the landlord. Up to 85% of evictions were successful in 2021, according to Franceinfo.

However, there are some situations that drag out or prove complicated, and in rare instances landlords take it upon themselves to do something about it.

This is the case of Gérard Cortina, a man in his 70s who owns a property in Lauzerte (Tarn-et-Garonne). He recently decided to intervene by cutting the water and electricity to a house that he owns that was being occupied by a squatter, La Dépêche du Midi reported.

Despite Mr Cortina reporting that he was beaten by the squatter, his move to cut off the electricity and water could be seen as a violation of the squatters’ rights.

Landlords who intervene forcibly can be accused of “violation de domicile”. Those found guilty of this face up to three years in prison and fines of up to €30,000.

Cutting off water and electricity to a home could fall under violation de domicile, Romain Rossi-Landi, a property rights lawyer, told Figaro Immobilier.

The fact that Mr Cortina cut the supply without entering the building should count in his favour, Mr Rossi-Landi said.

“The judge's assessments will be made on a case-by-case basis. If the squatter can prove that he or she has taken up residence in the dwelling in question and the landlord enters the flat to turn off the circuit breakers, this is a violation de domicile even if the squatter's occupation is illegal,” he said.

“If the landlord does not enter the dwelling but acts from public areas, (as is the case for Gerard), this is [not necessarily a violation de domicile] but raises other questions.”

He said that, for example, Mr Cortina could be found guilty of destroying property owned by France’s electricity grid management company Enedis.

It is recommended then that victims of squatting go through the official means to resolve the situation.

We outline a short guide to those steps in a previous property roundup here.

The squatter who was staying in Mr Cortina’s house is believed to have now left the property, Figaro Immobilier reported.

It gave no update on if Mr Cortina would face any legal action over his decision to cut the electricity and water.

Read more: Success of new squatter law in France is 'postcode lottery'

57 more communes classed as areas with high property competitiveness

France is divided into five different property market zones that show how competitive the market is in a given area. These are called zones géographiques.

The more competitive an area is deemed to be, the higher a person’s income can be when claiming for certain housing-related benefits. Note, these benefits generally apply to people with low to moderate incomes.

Properties in zones Abis, A and B1 are considered to be in areas of high competitiveness (zones tendues). In these areas, rent prices are often more strictly regulated and increases are usually limited.

We outline this system in our explainer article here: How to know which French housing zone you live in and what it changes

On February 20, 57 more communes in France were upgraded to either A- or B1-list areas, meaning more people there can potentially access housing-related benefits.

40 communes in Haute-Savoie were upgraded from B1 to A, seven communes in Savoie were upgraded to B1 and 11 coastal communes were also upgraded to B1.

You can find a full list of these communes at this link here (in French).

Customers unhappy with fibre optic internet

Complaints about fibre optic internet in France are at an all-time high, with reports about the deployment of fibre connections making up 30% of all grievances, ahead of ADSL for the first time.

The national telecoms mediator was consulted 5,500 times in 2021 by consumers unhappy with the quality of their internet service.

Complaints about fibre made up 25% of the cases in 2020, and 15% in 2019.

This is the first time that fibre reports have exceeded those regarding ADSL, which in 2021 made up 27% of complaints.

Many of the complaints (around 42%) are related to technical problems, meaning issues with the quality of the service.

However, some are related to technicians causing inadvertent damage to their homes when installing the cables, or technicians cutting incorrect wires or TV cables.

Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir has highlighted this high rate of complaints in a recent article.

They said: “Of course, the explosion in complaints is partly correlated with the increase in the number of fibre subscribers. At the end of last year, there were some 14 million fibre subscribers, up 4 million from one year earlier.

But they also place the blame on a lack of training for the technicians and also a strained workforce.

“In the field, technicians have so many jobs to do that they don't always have time to work properly,” UFC-Que Choisir said.

“If Internet Service Providers don't take steps quickly to better control the work of their subcontractors, the number of complaints is likely to continue to rise.”

Read more about the rise in complaints in our article here: Internet in France: Complaints about fibre at all-time high

How much does property cost in France’s major cities? An overview in maps

Rental prices in France continue to rise each year, eating further into the budget of tenants.

In 2018, rent represented 26% of the average tenants monthly budget, the latest figures from Insee show.

This is an increase of 15% since the year 2000.

In the four maps below, we show how much the average rental price is in France’s major cities and how much floor space tenants can expect to get for that price.

We look at unfurnished studios in the first map, then one-bedroom flats, two-bedroom flats and three-bedroom flats. Only cities with a population of over 100,000 were used, and averages are only given when there are at least 30 adverts that match the criteria in each city.

The figures all come from rental announcements posted by the website in January 2022, which was highlighted in Franceinfo’s article.

In all four maps, Paris comes out as being the most expensive city, and Saint-Étienne the least expensive.

Hover over the different cities to see more information, including average rental price and floor space, or search for a city using the search bar.

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