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Whether you’re plan­ning your move to France, or are al­ready liv­ing there, our panel of pro­fes­sion­als aims to keep you fully in­formed with the best ad­vice for ev­ery even­tu­al­ity

Living France - - CONTENTS -

Our ex­perts give their ad­vice on in­sur­ance, child ben­e­fits and es­tate agents’ com­mis­sion

TAKE COVER

QI own a prop­erty in France and am con­sid­er­ing rent­ing it out, ei­ther as hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion or on a more long-term ba­sis, and I’d like to know what sort of in­sur­ance cover I would need to have in place? Mau­reen Dowd

AIt will de­pend on the small print of your own in­sur­ance pol­icy. In the vast ma­jor­ity of cases, when a prop­erty is a ‘ maison sec­ondaire’ the in­sur­ance put in place when you bought it will carry an au­to­matic cover for it be­ing let out as a hol­i­day home. A longer-term let may well re­quire a small amend­ment to your pol­icy, so in ei­ther case you will need to ask your in­sur­ance com­pany whether you are cov­ered. I’m afraid even in France – some might say, es­pe­cially in France – there is a lot of small print, and ask­ing the ques­tion direct to the rel­e­vant in­sur­ance com­pany is the only way you can be sure you are cov­ered.

Ten­ants of a French hol­i­day rental are not obliged in law to take out in­sur­ance and few land­lords in­sist on it as a con­di­tion of tak­ing the ac­com­mo­da­tion. As a re­sult, most land­lords seek to cover their risks through an as­sur­ance mul­ti­risques habi­ta­tion, whether for the prin­ci­pal home let out on a tem­po­rary ba­sis, or for a sep­a­rate rental prop­erty. If the prop­erty is your own home, most of these poli­cies do con­tain a clause that al­lows you to let out the prop­erty on a sea­son­able ba­sis to third par­ties for up to a max­i­mum of three months. You will need to ad­vise your in­surer of the de­tails of your let­ting pe­riod. How­ever, such poli­cies nor­mally con­tain an ex­cess and ex­clu­sions, which is one of the rea­sons why the vast ma­jor­ity of land­lords de­mand a de­posit from their guests against dam­age or loss to house­hold ef­fects or the prop­erty. Pub­lic li­a­bil­ity ( re­spon­s­abil­ité civile) in­sur­ance will cover ac­ci­dents or in­jury to third par­ties who may be in your prop­erty, or dam­age to neigh­bour­ing prop­erty, ac­ci­den­tally caused by you (or a mem­ber of your fam­ily) be­cause of your neg­li­gence or im­pru­dence. An all-risks ( mul­ti­risques) in­sur­ance pol­icy will cover not only your pub­lic li­a­bil­ity, but your home, per­sonal be­long­ings, and those of your house­hold. The risks cov­ered will in­clude those of fire, ex­plo­sion, theft and flood­ing, leaks, storms, snow, van­dal­ism, bro­ken glaz­ing, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and acts of ter­ror­ism.

Can I add, if you opt for a long-term rental, the laws con­cern­ing ten­an­cies of un­fur­nished prop­er­ties are heav­ily weighted in favour of the ten­ant, so that may help you de­cide whether to let the prop­erty for short-term hol­i­day rentals or a longer-term let. If you rent out prop­erty, or you are a ten­ant, the law re­quires that all ten­ants of un­fur­nished ac­com­mo­da­tion take out (at least) pub­lic li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance ( risques lo­cat­ifs) cov­er­ing their own re­spon­si­bil­ity for dam­age to third par­ties and the prop­erty.

In gen­eral, their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties would be best cov­ered by an all-risks pol­icy ( mul­ti­risques d’habi­ta­tion) that they could take out to also cover their own per­son and pos­ses­sions. This rule does not ap­ply to ten­ants of fur­nished prop­er­ties, or those rent­ing a hol­i­day home. SALLY STONE

CHILD BEN­E­FITS

QMy hus­band and I have re­cently moved to France with our three chil­dren and I’d like to know if we can claim any child ben­e­fits here in France? If so, how would we go about it and what would we need to pro­vide in terms of in­for­ma­tion and doc­u­ments? Laura Roberts

AThe short an­swer is yes, you would be able to claim child ben­e­fits. Any­one can claim child ben­e­fits as long as they are le­gal res­i­dents in France or, in the case of non-Euro­peans, have a valid carte de séjour.

Ac­cess to child ben­e­fits is claimed via the Caisse d’Al­lo­ca­tions Fa­mil­iales (CAF). The first port of call when look­ing to claim any type of ben­e­fit would be to visit the CAF web­site, caf.fr. This is where you can claim your rights to ben­e­fits and find the cerfa doc­u­ments ( listed be­low) that you will need to start the process with the CAF. If your lo­cal CAF of­fice is open to vis­its, then just pop in and see them. If not, then send the ap­pli­ca­tion by reg­is­tered post. Once your file is com­plete, which can take some time, any ben­e­fits will be back­dated and then pay­ments will be au­to­mat­i­cally trans­ferred to your bank ac­count ev­ery month.

Bear in mind that since July 2015 ac­cess to child ben­e­fits is means-tested and the amount you would re­ceive de­pends on your joint house­hold in­come. To cal­cu­late your rights, the CAF would look at your joint in­come for 2015 to de­ter­mine your fi­nan­cial allocation to child ben­e­fits for 1 Jan­uary 2017 to 31 De­cem­ber 2017. This means you will need to pro­vide proof of earn­ings for the two years pre­ced­ing your ap­pli­ca­tion. There are ex­cep­tions to these rules, such as the loss of em­ploy­ment or the sud­den death of a spouse where they will re-eval­u­ate based on your cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

Doc­u­ments would vary de­pend­ing on your sit­u­a­tion, but the min­i­mum would in­clude your bank RIB, so­cial se­cu­rity doc­u­ments, work con­tract, in­come tax re­turns for the pre­vi­ous two years, proof of ad­dress, mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, and the birth cer­tifi­cates for all mem­bers of the fam­ily.

Some doc­u­ments may need to be trans­lated by a le­gal trans­la­tor, but ask your lo­cal CAF of­fice if you wish to avoid the costs. The most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent for this process is pa­tience! Some of­fices have a back­log of deal­ing with cases of up to six weeks. Good luck. TRACY LEONETTI

ON COM­MIS­SION

QI’ve re­cently made the de­ci­sion to start look­ing for a prop­erty to buy in France and am a bit con­fused about the es­tate agent’s com­mis­sion. How much is this likely to be, and who pays it? As I un­der­stand it, the com­mis­sion can be paid by ei­ther the buyer or the seller, so how is this de­cided and how will I know? Also, do I have to en­ter into any sort of con­tract with the es­tate agent? Robert Miles

AYou have made an ex­cel­lent de­ci­sion, and given that the sys­tem in France dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from that in the UK, it is im­por­tant that you are aware of the process that you will go through.

Es­tate agents’ com­mis­sions can ap­pear to be a con­fus­ing sub­ject to those not used to the French sys­tem. For starters, they of­ten seem to be very high when com­pared to those in the UK, but in gen­eral it is an un­fair com­par­i­son. Es­tate agents in France are highly reg­u­lated, qual­i­fied, sub­ject to an­nual train­ing re­quire­ments and fre­quent com­pli­ance au­dit­ing and, in fact, of­ten do the first part of the con­veyanc­ing. This cou­pled with the breadth of the ser­vice sup­plied all comes at a cost.

You are right that the com­mis­sion can ei­ther be paid by the buyer or the seller – this de­pends en­tirely on how the prop­erty in ques­tion was brought on to the agent’s port­fo­lio. The con­tract that the agent has with the seller dic­tates who is to pay the fee and this can vary from re­gion to re­gion. In our part of south-west France it is stan­dard for the con­tract to state that the buyer is re­spon­si­ble for the com­mis­sion. Each agency will have their own scale – usu­ally a per­cent­age of the net price (the higher the net price, the lower the per­cent­age com­mis­sion). An agent is free to set their own scale, but once set it should be ad­hered to and pub­lished in their win­dow dis­play and on their web­site. This rate can vary from per­haps 4% to 10%.

If it is the buyer who pays the fee, French law re­quires this to be clearly in­di­cated in the ad­vert. The ad­vert must show the full price (the net price with the agent’s com­mis­sion added) fol­lowed by the let­ters HAI ( hon­o­raires d’agence in­clus – agency fee in­cluded). As of 1 April 2017, ad­verts where the fee is to be paid by the buyer must also show the net price and the rate of agency fee as a per­cent­age. But the agent will ex­plain this to you in de­tail, should you wish to make an of­fer on a prop­erty and it will all be set out in any agree­ment that you sign.

In the nor­mal course of events a buyer does not en­ter a con­tract with the agency directly. How­ever, once the first sales agree­ment, the com­pro­mis de vente, is signed, you are en­ter­ing an ar­range­ment to pay the agency’s com­mis­sion at the point of com­ple­tion.

I wish you the very best of luck in your search for your French home. CHARLES MILLER

Above: On the mar­ket with Char­ente Im­mo­bilier for €346,500, this prop­erty in Mérignac has a 5% com­mis­sion fee that is payable by the buyer

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