Beginner’s Guide To Owning French Property

 

Essential Reading

Beginner’s Guide To Owning French Property

So, you’ve had your French mortgage approved, signed the Acte de Vente on your purchase, and you are now the owner of a house in France—congratulations! So, what happens now? Whether you are using your property as a holiday home or moving to France to live—this beginner’s guide covers everything you need to know about owning French Property.

What homeowner’s taxes do you need to pay? Which home insurance should you choose? How do you set up the gas, electricity, and water at your French home? What legal responsibilities or maintenance tasks should be on your to-do list as a French homeowner?

Use this guide to get a general step-by-step overview of owning French property, then follow the links to learn more about each stage of the process.

Moving into Your French Home

Your journey to French homeownership doesn’t end when you pick up the keys—there’s plenty to do in those first weeks and months after your property purchase. Our handy French homeowner’s checklist will help you get organised, but these are the first things you will need to consider as a French homeowner:

  • Taking out French homeowner insurance
  • Paying your French property taxes (Taxe Foncière and Taxe d’Habitation)
  • Setting up utilities and paying your household bills
  • Undertaking legal responsibilities for maintaining your property and land

Don’t worry; we’ll talk you through each step.

Moving day

Whether your property is destined for use as a holiday home or as your new primary residence, there’s still a lot to think about when moving to and furnishing your French house. Our Removals to France zone has all the information you need on overseas removals and packing.

Before moving, be sure that you are aware of exactly what will be left behind (it’s a good idea to visit the property before signing the final Acte de Vente to be sure). It’s typical in France for the previous homeowners to take everything with them, right down to fitted kitchens, light fittings (and sometimes even lightbulbs!), and other fixtures—if you’ve previously purchased a property in the UK, US, or another country, this may not be the standard practice you are used to, so it pays to be prepared. You don’t want to find yourself arriving at your new property and being without the essentials.

Owning French Property: Home Insurance

In France, all property owners and renters have a legal responsibility to take out home insurance with a minimum of Third Party or Civil Liability Insurance (responsabilitée civile propriétaire). This covers you if something happens on your property or land that accidentally damages or causes injury to a third party (a tree falling on a neighbour’s fence, for example, or a leak between apartments). If you’ve bought a property, you will likely already have been asked for details of your home insurance policy by your notaire or French mortgage provider.

There are several different insurance options and insurers available, but the most common policy is a multi-risk home and contents insurance. These contracts typically cover repairs and rebuilds in the case of a fire, natural disaster, burglary, or unforeseen events such as storms, burst pipes, or floods. Most multi-risk policies will also include the aforementioned civil liability insurance, and policies are typically quite affordable, with annual premiums starting from around €170.

Holiday home insurance

If your property is a second home or holiday home and will be vacant for long periods of time, you must discuss this with your insurer to ensure you are covered. All home insurance policies in France have a maximum period of time that the home can be left empty—often, this is a little 30 days, and it is unlikely to be more than 90 days. If you go over this, you will not be able to claim on your insurance.

Holiday home insurance policies are available from some insurers. To lower your insurance premium, you might consider additional security measures such as installing security cameras, fencing in your property, or adding an alarm system. Insurance companies will be able to advise you on your options.

Read our articles:

French Home Insurance: Primary Residence and Holiday Homes

French Insurance Companies: Which One is Best for Your Needs?

Homeowners Taxes in France: Taxe Foncière and Taxe d’Habitation

All homeowners in France are subject to property taxes, the most notable of which are the Taxe foncière, a land tax payable by the owner of the property, and the Taxe d’habitation, a residence tax, payable by the resident of the property.

The Taxe foncière is payable annually and is calculated based on the rental value of the property and land, and a regional tax rate set annually by your commune. This tax is payable on both primary and second residences and is the responsibility of the owner, regardless of whether you live in the property, rent it out, or use it as a holiday home. You must pay this tax whether or not you are resident in France.

The Taxe d’habitation is payable by the person who occupies the property, so if you rent the property out, it will be the responsibility of your tenant to pay this. In the case of a vacant property, the owner pays. The Taxe d’habitation is calculated depending on your annual net income and is currently only payable by high-income earners. The government is currently phasing out this tax, and by 2023 no household will pay the Taxe d’habitation on their primary residence.

However, all second homes (including those owned by non-French residents) will remain liable for the Taxe d’habitation, and there may even be additional charges if you own a second home in an area with a known housing shortage.

Property owners will also likely have to pay the Taxe d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères (TEOM), or refuse collection fee, payable to the local commune in exchange for waste collection services. This is typically included in your Taxe Foncière bill and may be recharged to the tenant in the case of renting the property.

Properties with a TV or other device using a television receiver will also need to pay their annual TV licence orContribution à l’audiovisuel public (CAP).

Both property taxes are billed in the fall (Sept/Oct) and must be paid by a specified date, usually in October (taxe foncière) and November (taxe d’habitation)

See our article French Property Taxes: Taxe d’Habitation and Taxe Foncière for more details.

Utilities: Setting Up Electricity, Gas, and Water For Your French Property

Before you move into your French property, you will need to set up the utilities and/or transfer any existing gas, electricity, and water contracts into your name. This is a good time to shop around for the best tariffs and find the most suitable supplier for you, so don’t feel you must go with the same utility provider as the previous occupant or those suggested by your notaire.

Electricity

You should notify your electricity provider a minimum of two days before moving into your property (ideally a week or more before) and request a meter reading (relevé de compteur) and a start date for your electricity contract. This can be done over the phone or online, and you’ll need to provide your address and property details, move-in date, and PDL number (Point de Livraison – the 14-digit meter number found on your electricity meter and electricity bills). Expect to pay a small set-up fee.

If you are connecting a new build property to the grid for the first time, you will need to contact Enedis to request a meter connection (demande de raccordement).

Electricity tariffs and suppliers

The state-owned EDF (Electricité de France) is France’s largest electricity supplier and (along with Engie) is the only supplier to offer state-controlled regulated tariffs (tarifs réglementés). However, there is now a wide choice of electricity providers in France, many of which offer more competitive market-based prices (tarifs de marché) or green energy solutions. It’s highly recommended to shop around and find the best deal to suit your needs.

Electricity in France is supplied (and priced) based on the power supply required (options for domestic properties typically range from 3kVA up to 36kVA) and the type of tariff (many suppliers offer both a basic tariff, as well as Peak/Off-peak and Tempo tariffs, where rates vary depending on the day or time).

While many French homeowners still choose EDF, it’s important to note that there is no mandatory engagement period for electricity contracts in France, and you are free to switch electricity providers at any time without incurring any fees or needing to give a reason.

Read our article Electricity in your French Property for a more in-depth look at your options.

Gas

Many French properties still use gas as a primary or secondary energy source, and there are three options available. Connecting to the mains gas network (gaz de ville) is the easiest option, but this is mostly available to those with properties close to cities or large towns. Rural properties with a suitable outbuilding may also have a gas tank installed, with suppliers delivering gas to the property as required. The final option for small-usage consumers (for example, powering a gas cooker) is to purchase bottled butane or propane gas.

France’s largest gas supplier is state-owned Engie, but, as with electricity suppliers, there are many other gas suppliers on the market, so it’s worth looking around for the best deal.

Read our article Gas in your French Property for a more in-depth look at your options.

Heating

There are several different options for heating your French property, and which you choose will depend on a number of factors, including the size and location of your property, the cost and efficiency, and ecological considerations. Many older rural properties still rely on gas or oil central heating systems, while some smaller well-insulated homes and apartments may have electric central heating.

However, there is a shift towards more ecological and sustainable heating systems in France, and new legislation introduced in 2021 prioritises biomass, heat pumps, and solar heating for new build properties. Around one in four new homes now opt for a wood- or pellet-burning stove (poêle à bois or poêle à granulés) or boiler, and the French government is currently offering grants to property owners looking to replace gas, electric or oil central heating systems with a heat pump (pompe à chaleur).

Read our article Heating Your French Property for a more in-depth look at your options.

Water

Mains water is provided by one of three companies depending on your location – Saur, Veolia, or Suez, and is overseen by the local Mairie. Water is charged by the cubic meter, and rates are set by the commune. If you own a rural property with land, you may also have a well or spring (source d’eau), in which case you are entitled to use the water from this as a primary or secondary water source.

Read our article Water Supply and Drainage at Your French Property for a more in-depth look at your options.

Phone, TV and Internet

France’s historic telecoms provider is Orange (formerly France Telecom), who still control the phone lines in most regions and remain the largest provider of TV, internet, and landline phone services. In some regions of France (particularly in more remote rural areas), you may find Orange are the most reliable option for your broadband internet connection. However, those closer to large towns and cities will find many different options to choose from.

Package deals that combine all three services (and perhaps your mobile phone contract and cable TV subscriptions, too) tend to be the most popular (and best value) options available. Most are payable via a monthly subscription fee (abonnement) and require a minimum 12-month engagement period, so it’s important to find the right deal for you before you sign up.

Read our article Setting Up Your Phone, TV, and Internet in France for a more in-depth look at your options.

Paying Your Utility Bills in France

The easiest way to pay your bills in France is by setting up a direct debit (prélèvement) from your French bank account. Typically, this is organised by your supplier at the time of opening your utility account. You will need to provide ID, your French bank RIB, and sign a form mandating the supplier to set up the direct debit from your bank.

Alternatively, some utility providers will also allow payments by card or cheque.

For more on banking and payment options, read our article: Managing Your French Bank Account: Withdrawals, Payments, Overdrafts.

French Home Maintenance, Land, and Security

As a homeowner in France, there are certain responsibilities and maintenance tasks that you will need to carry out in order to maintain your property and land. Some of these may also be legal requirements.

We’ve laid out some of the basics below, but for any further questions or advice over your rights and responsibilities, it’s a good idea to visit your local Mairie (town hall) before moving into your new home. The Mairie will be able to advise you on many aspects of local life, property laws, and planning permission, as well as being your first port of call for any complaints, queries, or requests concerning your local community.

Garbage Disposal and Recycling

Most properties benefit from some kind of waste collection service, which is overseen by the Mairie. In France, there are often strict rules over waste disposal and recycling, with separate collection dates and times for general household waste and recyclable waste and regulations for disposing waste at your local dechetterie (tip or recycling centre).

Read our article on Recycling, Waste, and Refuse Collection in France for all the details.

Sewage Treatment Systems and Septic Tanks (Fosse Septiques)

There are around 5 million rural properties in France that are not connected to the mains sewage system. As an owner of one of these properties, you have a legal responsibility to install and maintain a fosse septique or sewage treatment system that meets the official standards. Your sewage treatment system is subject to inspections by the “SPANC” (public service of non-collective sanitation) every four years (or at least every ten years), and you must carry out any repairs or upgrades to ensure your system meets the current standards.

Read our article French Septic Tanks, Fosses Septiques, and Sewage Treatment Systems for more on this.

Land Maintenance and Boundaries

If you are planning to buy French property with land, it’s a good idea to obtain the plans cadastraux (the title plans) for your property prior to purchasing (your local Mairie or notaire will be able to organise this for you). This will give you an idea of your property boundaries and any public access paths, rivers, water sources, or public land that lie within it. There may also be laws concerning access or maintenance that you are obliged to follow – your Mairie will also be able to advise on this. For example, if access to a neighbour’s property or right of way is through land that you own, you are legally required to allow them access, known as a ‘droit de désenclavement‘.

The type of land is important too – if you purchase land designated as ‘agricultural land’, for example, it may be more difficult (or even impossible) to obtain planning permission if you later desired to build a swimming pool,  garage, or other building. For more on this, visit our Building and Renovations Zone.

Gardens, boundary walls, and fences

In the instance where your property or garden adjoins those of your neighbours, both parties have a responsibility to maintain the boundary walls, hedges, or fences that separate their properties. Trees and bushes that are two meters high or more must be kept at least 2 meters from your neighbour’s property; for smaller bushes, this is reduced to 50 cm.

There are strict rules concerning the boundaries of properties and the placement and type of boundary fences, walls, or hedges you may wish to erect too. Disputes between neighbours over boundaries are quite common, so it’s a good idea to talk to your neighbour and check the guidelines with your Mairie before carrying out any building works.

Swimming Pools

If you have a swimming pool on your property, you are legally required to install, maintain and use an approved security device on your pool. This may be a suitable barrier, a reinforced pool cover, a pool shelter, or a drowning alarm and must be fitted by an approved company to meet the legal standards.

Home Maintenance Requirements

There are also several legal requirements for household maintenance in France, and while many of these are rarely monitored, they are nonetheless good practice for all homeowners. Failure to meet these standards may also violate the terms of your home insurance, meaning you would not be covered in the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster.

French properties must be fitted with at least one smoke detector (ideally more), and you should check it periodically to ensure it is functioning correctly. All boilers in France should be serviced once a year, and all chimneys must all be swept at least once a year – both of these services must be carried out by a registered tradesman.

For apartment owners or some housing blocks, there are often associated monthly charges (charges mensuelles) payable by all owners or renters in the building. These cover things such as garden maintenance, elevator servicing, and other general tasks, and must be paid by all homeowners or tenants.

French Second-home owners

If your property is a second home, you may find that you are not always present to carry out general maintenance tasks or security measures. You might be lucky enough to have local friends or neighbours willing to help maintain your property for you, but another option is to use a property management company. Property management companies can carry out everything from minor maintenance tasks on a vacant property to periodic inspections, and they will be able to advise you on the best way to secure and maintain your property during your absence.

Visit our Second Home zone to find out more about the options available.

Second-home owners who earn their income or hold their financial assets in a currency other than the Euro also need to think long-term about the best way to manage paying their bills and/or French mortgage. Fluctuations in currency exchange rates make it difficult to predict your monthly or annual outgoings, and transfer fees can quickly add up over the years. Opening an account with a currency exchange specialist will not only give you access to the best rates and lower (or sometimes zero) transfer fees but also give you options to manage recurring payments.

Visit our Currency Exchange zone to learn about the different options available.

Own a Property or Second Home in France?

Our Essential Reading articles cover everything you need to know as a French homeowner from property taxes and home insurance to paying your bills. Perhaps you also need recommendations on removals to France, advice on building and renovations, or tips for managing a second home? FrenchEntrée is here to help! We can even advise on selling your French property.

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