Toxic seaweed, energy ratings, tiny flat: Four French property updates

We also look at how having good insulation could add almost 10% value to your home and how the state has to pay €19,000 compensation over a chateau it seized

In this week’s roundup we’re looking at a tiny Paris flat, a toxic seaweed, a EU court decision and why high energy efficiency houses cost more
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High energy efficiency can add almost 10% value to a house

House prices that have a good energy efficiency rating can be worth around 10% more than those with a poor energy efficiency rating, a property valuation startup has claimed.

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 its size.

A recent study by start-up PriceHubble shows that, for example, a G-rated house in Lille could be as much as 8.8% cheaper than an equivalent B-listed property.

It is similar in Montpellier, where the difference could be around 8.64%, or in Quimper, 8.79%.

This large difference is mainly for houses, with apartment prices less impacted by the DPE rating, in part due to the fact that renovations on flats can be harder as they often require approval from other tenants in the building.

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

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.

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.

Read our guide to getting grants to renovate French properties here: How to apply for a renovation grant for your French home.

Read more: French grants covered 30% costs to replace my old oil-fired boiler

Toxic seawide is a ‘hidden fault’

The sale of a seaside property in France has been cancelled after the prospective buyers discovered that a type of seaweed that can emit toxic gases when decomposing regularly washes up on the shore near the house.

France’s supreme court of appeal, the Cour de cassation, ruled in favour of the buyers, judging the presence of the seaweed to be a hidden fault (défaut caché).

The court stated that it did not matter that the hidden fault was a natural phenomenon that occurred outside of the property, it still amounted to being an issue that meant the property was not fit to be lived in.

This, and the fact that the seller never mentioned the seaweed during the sale process and so deceived the buyers, led the court to rule that the sale should be cancelled.

Read more: French property: How long after buying can I claim for hidden faults?

The seaweed in question is called Sargassum and it releases hydrogen sulphide gas, usually during the decomposition stage after it washes ashore, which can cause respiratory, skin and neurocognitive symptoms in people.

The buyers of the property stated that they had respiratory problems and that the Sargassum was a danger to their health.

The house is within 100m of the beach.

French state held accountable for seized chateau damages

The French state has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to pay €19,000 for damages incurred to a chateau while it was under seizure as part of a criminal investigation into its owners.

The Château du Francport in Choisy-au-Bac (Oise) was bought by a group of people under the status of a Société Civile Immobilière (SCI). The French press have named the head of this SCI as businessman Ronald Popely.

Mr Popely was recently banned from running a business in the UK for 25 years for a “questionable” investment scheme linked to a British hotel that left investors millions of pounds out of pocket.

In 2002 the French state seized the Château du Francport as part of an investigation into the owners for money laundering, misuse of corporate assets and bankruptcy. In the end, the SCI head, reported as being Mr Popely, was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for bankruptcy.

The chateau remained in the state’s possession between 2002 and 2006.

In 2010, the SCI, back in possession of the property, sued the French state for €5.5million for damages incurred to the chateau while it was in the state’s control, but lost the case.

The ECHR has now ordered the French state to pay the SCI €19,000 in compensation.

Landlord’s legal battle backfires

The owner of a flat in Paris took his tenant to court over unpaid rent but ended up having to pay over €10,000 to the tenant because the flat was just 6.89 square metres – less than the minimum size for a habitable property of nine square metres.

The flat in question is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris and only has a habitable surface area of 4.24 square metres. The tenant agreed to pay €350 per month for it but stopped paying, judging the flat to be too small.

The landlord demanded payment and took the issue to court.

The Paris judicial court found that the tenant was liable to pay €10,800 in back rent between December 2020 and May 2022.

However, it also ruled that the landlord was at fault for renting out such a small flat and ordered him to pay the tenant €177.04 for each month the tenant had lived in the flat between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2022, equalling a total of €10,799, cancelling out what the tenant owed the landlord.

It is not known how the situation will be resolved going forward.

Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor of Paris, tweeted his approval for the court’s decision to fine the landlord, saying the verdict “made his day”.

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