Real Estate: France debates new consumer protection proposals
Laws toughen for rentals
As The Riviera Times went to press at the end of 2011 for the January 2012 edition, the French Senate were still considering the proposals for reinforcing consumer protection in the housing market drawn up by Frédéric Lefebvre, the junior minister concerned. The proposals had already received a majority vote in favour in October by the French National Assembly. After the Senate, the proposals, which are likely to contain some amendments, go back to the National Assembly for a final vote, following the usual parliamentary law-making process.
One of the original proposals, to allow people to sell their property directly if they signed an exclusive sales mandate with an agent, has understandably met with fierce opposition from real estate agents. It is now likely that this proposal will be amended so that a property owner who finds a buyer themselves, having signed an exclusive sales mandate, will have to pay the agent's commission anyway.
Property owners will also have to be consulted before sales and property management mandates expire, to see if they wish them to be renewed. (They will no longer be automatically renewed by agents when they expire in the absence of any advice to the contrary).
The proposals also look at the existing legislation which protects tenants. The inventory for fixtures and the report on the condition of a property to be rented (l'état des lieux) will conform to a standard 'check-list'. If this official état des lieux form is not completed before signing a lease, tenants can not be held responsible for any damage. They will have the deposit against damages they paid upon signing the lease returned to them in full within two months when the tenancy ends. In addition, landlords will be penalised at a rate of 10 per cent per month (in arrears) of the rent they received for each month, if they do not return this deposit within the two month period.
Tenants of furnished properties will now be covered by the Carrez law, which specifies room sizes to within an accuracy of 5 per cent. If a property is found to be over 5 per cent smaller than announced, the tenant is entitled to an appropriate reduction in rent.
A recent relaxation of the requirements for building permits, which is not part of Monsieur Lefebvre's proposals, will interest a lot of people who want to extend their existing property. Since 8th December last year, building permits are no longer required for extensions up to 40m2, and as a bonus the interior floor area, excluding the thickness of the outside walls, is what counts.
A simple déclaration de travaux deposited at the town hall is all that is needed. However, properties that after the extension have a surface area of over 170m2 will still require a building permit and plans by an architect. Extension plans by an architect are still recommended, and the regulation distance from neighbouring boundaries and the total built-on surface area allowed on your plot must still be respected.