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Living France - - Contents -

Our ex­perts an­swer your ques­tions, in­clud­ing set­tling a child into French school and buy­ing com­mer­cial premises

OPEN FOR BUSI­NESS

QMy wife and I are mov­ing to France and are look­ing for com­mer­cial premises as we plan to open a restau­rant. What do we need to know in terms of ob­tain­ing the rel­e­vant per­mis­sions (not all of the prop­er­ties we’re con­sid­er­ing are cur­rently used for this pur­pose so would we need a change of use?), and what should we know about health and safety re­quire­ments, fire safety, dis­abled ac­cess etc? Brian We­ston

AIf the prop­erty is cur­rently be­ing used as a restau­rant, then per­mits are re­quired for any changes to the in­ter­nal lay­out or ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance, but no change of use will be needed. How­ever, you will need to check if the li­cence to sell alcohol is still valid if the premises are closed and not trad­ing, pend­ing a sale. As a rule, the li­cence will re­main valid for up to three years fol­low­ing clo­sure.

Lay­out changes and up­grades to the prop­erty will re­quire plan­ning ap­proval. Con­form­ity with fire and dis­abled ac­cess reg­u­la­tions will also be the sub­ject of a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process. In France, any busi­ness which is open to the pub­lic is known as an ‘ERP’ ( étab­lisse­ment re­ce­vant du pub­lic), and there are spe­cific ap­proval pro­cesses to fol­low. One of the most im­por­tant fac­tors is dis­abled ac­cess, in­clud­ing WC fa­cil­i­ties. Many busi­nesses of this type have closed in France in re­cent years be­cause they do not con­form to re­quire­ments, so take ac­count of this in your re­search for a suit­able prop­erty, or en­sure you have ad­e­quate funds for any con­ver­sion/ren­o­va­tion works to bring the prop­erty up to stan­dard.

As own­ers of the busi­ness, you will need to at­tend a course in or­der to ob­tain ei­ther the trans­fer of any ex­ist­ing liquor li­cence or a new li­cence if none ex­ists al­ready. This is usu­ally three days or so, and is con­ducted in French. A good level of French is re­quired in or­der to un­der­stand the con­tent, and there is a test at the end.

All of the above ap­ply also where the prop­erty does not cur­rently have com­mer­cial sta­tus, but in ad­di­tion, a change of use will be re­quired and is not guar­an­teed (each ap­pli­ca­tion is dealt with on its own merit and sub­ject to lo­cal plan­ning reg­u­la­tions). ARTHUR CUT­LER

SET­TLING INTO SCHOOL

QI’m in the process of mov­ing my whole fam­ily to Dor­dogne and I’m worried about school­ing for my el­dest child, Char­lie. He’s nearly four and like all three year olds, he can be dif­fi­cult at times – we have tantrums, he strug­gles to share and is gen­er­ally very bois­ter­ous. From ev­ery­thing I’ve heard about the French school sys­tem, I’ve got the im­pres­sion that French chil­dren are gen­er­ally per­fect! Are they?! I’m worried how Char­lie will ad­just to a French school and how they would han­dle him. What if he never fits in? Any ad­vice from other ex­pat fam­i­lies who’ve made the move to France would be much ap­pre­ci­ated. Leanne Bradley

AIt’s easy to buy in to the per­fect pic­ture of French chil­dren painted in the me­dia. It’s true that French chil­dren are of­ten very well be­haved, par­tic­u­larly in pub­lic places such as restau­rants. How­ever, they are still chil­dren and en­joy run­ning, be­ing bois­ter­ous and aren’t im­mune to the odd scrap ei­ther.

Hav­ing said that, I know how you feel. De­spite the fact that my twins, Tim and Joe (who turned four in March) had been at­tend­ing a lo­cal crèche one day a week be­fore they started in their lo­cal mater­nelle (nurs­ery school) last Septem­ber, I was very con­cerned about how they might cope – es­pe­cially Joe, who by the sounds of it would get on very well with your Char­lie!

How­ever, the teach­ers in my lo­cal mater­nelle school are kind, re­late re­ally well to the chil­dren and, de­spite a few tears at first, the boys have both adapted to school very well. At first, Joe had a few prob­lems with his con­cen­tra­tion, but he is now a dif­fer­ent boy – he’s still happy and high-spir­ited, but with a greater un­der­stand­ing of how to con­duct him­self in more for­mal sit­u­a­tions.

In my opin­ion, the French mater­nelle schools of­fer an ideal start for chil­dren. Rather than leap straight in to heavy school­work, they learn about their place in the school, how to con­duct them­selves and build valu­able re­la­tion­ships with other chil­dren. The work seems fairly straight­for­ward, but pro­vides a great foun­da­tion on which they can then build. In this way, although three years old seems an aw­fully young age to start school, chil­dren are given a gen­tle start to their ed­u­ca­tion.

I sus­pect your Char­lie may feel a lit­tle out of sorts at first, hav­ing not been ex­posed to French be­fore, but if your mater­nelle school is any­thing like the one my chil­dren at­tend, the teacher and as­sis­tant will have the ex­pe­ri­ence and pa­tience to give him a great start to his school­ing. Good luck with your move and try not to worry! GIL­LIAN HAR­VEY

IN IT TO­GETHER

QI’m buy­ing a prop­erty in France with my part­ner and un­der­stand that there are sev­eral op­tions for joint own­er­ship. What are the dif­fer­ences be­tween ‘en in­di­vi­sion’ and ‘en ton­tine’ and what are the ad­van­tages/dis­ad­van­tages of each? How do we know which one would be most suit­able for us?

Buy­ing en in­di­vi­sion or en ton­tine are the two usual ar­range­ments un­der which prop­erty can be jointly pur­chased in France. Which method to use will gen­er­ally de­pend on whether you both wish the sur­viv­ing part­ner to in­herit the whole prop­erty.

In very sim­ple terms, en in­di­vi­sion is sim­i­lar to buy­ing a prop­erty in the UK un­der a ten­ancy in com­mon ar­range­ment. Each joint owner, known as in­di­vi­saires, owns a dis­tinct share of the prop­erty. The ac­tual share that each part­ner would own in the prop­erty is nor­mally rep­re­sen­ta­tive of your con­tri­bu­tion to the pur­chase price.

How­ever, this can be mod­i­fied by sign­ing a shared own­er­ship agree­ment drawn up by your no­taire. The agree­ment can also make pro­vi­sion re­gard­ing the main­te­nance obli­ga­tions of each owner and the cir­cum­stances when the prop­erty might be sold. With­out such an agree­ment, one part­ner can force a sale. This cir­cum­stance might arise if the re­la­tion­ship breaks down, or if one of you dies and the part­ner’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries want to sell the prop­erty.

On death, each part­ner’s share of the prop­erty will pass un­der their wills, or un­der the French in­tes­tacy rules. There­fore, if you are not mar­ried it could re­sult in com­pli­ca­tions for the sur­viv­ing part­ner if the share in the prop­erty has to pass to a child, or if you fail to make a will, to their fam­ily un­der the French in­tes­tacy rules. These is­sues can be mit­i­gated by mak­ing a will and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the new EU suc­ces­sion rules which came into ef­fect last Au­gust, if you are a UK na­tional.

Con­versely, en ton­tine is sim­i­lar to a joint ten­ancy ar­range­ment in the UK. To take ad­van­tage of this ar­range­ment you would have to specif­i­cally ask the no­taire to in­clude the ton­tine clause in the pur­chase con­tract. If you have al­ready pur­chased the prop­erty it is too late to take ad­van­tage of this method. It works as a con­trac­tual ar­range­ment be­tween each owner so that when the first part­ner dies, the sur­vivor au­to­mat­i­cally in­her­its the whole prop­erty. This is even the case where the joint own­ers are not mar­ried and de­spite the pro­vi­sions in the part­ner’s will or in­tes­tacy rules.

It can sim­plify the suc­ces­sion process but it does not af­fect the suc­ces­sion tax li­a­bil­i­ties, which can be as much as 60%.

If the part­ner who dies first has chil­dren from a dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ship, the ton­tine ar­range­ment can be chal­lenged on death. It can be dif­fi­cult for a child to be suc­cess­ful in a claim but not im­pos­si­ble, as un­der French law it is seen as cir­cum­vent­ing the forced heir­ship rules.

As a pru­dent mea­sure, each part­ner may also wish to write a will elect­ing a choice of English law to en­sure the prop­erty passes to the sur­viv­ing part­ner, if the ton­tine ar­range­ment is vulnerable to chal­lenge from stepchil­dren.

Dur­ing the pe­riod of own­er­ship all desi­cions must be agreed upon and made jointly. If there is a dis­agree­ment, the ton­tine clause can be can­celled so that one part­ner may choose to buy the other out. SI­MON LOFTHOUSE

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