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PROPERTY

French property renovation grants closed to second-home owners

The French government initiative which provides financing for property renovations has closed to second-home owners - but for those living in France, there is still money available.

A Renaissance-era home in the French town of Langres undergoes renovation.
Old French properties might be beautiful, but are they energy efficient? Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

From January 1st 2022, people who own second homes in France can no longer benefit from the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme.

But if you live in a property in France as your primary residence, you can still access significant amounts of financing – up to €10,000 – to perform renovations on your home to make it more energy efficient. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What is MaPrimeRenov?

Launched by the French government back in January 2020, the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme lets homeowners apply for financial help to renovate their homes.

These grants can be used for insulation, heating, ventilation and energy audits of homes. 

From September, some homeowners will need to pay for an energy audit if they want to sell their property. The average cost of one of these assessments is estimated at €700-800.

READ MORE The new rules for selling houses in France

The amount of money you will receive through MaPrimeRenov’ depends on where you live, your household income and the number of people living in your household – this will place you in the bleu, jaune, violet or rose category. 

Those in the bleu category are eligible to receive the highest level of financing – up to €10,000 in total.

In the greater Paris Île-de-France region, you will be allocated into a category according to the following income limits (which change in accordance with the number of people living in your household – composition au foyer). 

Credit: linternaute.fr

Outside of Île-de-France, the earning limits are as follows:

Credit: linternaute.fr

If you are in any doubt, there is also an online simulator which allows you to calculate how much money you could get through the MaPrimeRénov scheme. 

You can use MaPrimeRénov with other financial aid for renovation works such as the Certificats d’économie d’énergie and the Action Logement initiative. If you are eligible for support through MaPrimeRénov, you will often be eligible to receive money from these other schemes too. 

If you access a MaPrimeRénov grant, you can also benefit from a VAT reduction of 5.5 percent of any renovation works carried out. 

People renting property are not eligible to receive money under this scheme. 

What has changed in 2022? 

New legislation that came into effect on January 1st has changed a number of the criteria for accessing MaPrimeRénov grants. 

You can only apply for funding if the building is more than 15 years old and occupied for at least eight months per year. However, the exception to this is that you can apply for funding to a replace an oil-powered boiler if your property is more than two years old – which was previously the limit for all renovation works covered by the scheme. 

Within one year of asking for finance, the homeowner must be living in the property as their primary residence. This means that you cannot access MaPrimeRénov grants if you are planning to use the property as a second home. 

The works must be carried out within two years of applying for financing. If you receive an advance payment, the work must be carried out within one year. 

The earning limits detailed in the section above are slightly changed from previous years. 

How do I apply?

First you must create an account on maprimerenov.gouv.fr

In order to do so, you must have an electronic copy of your most recent tax return, an email address and the names and dates of birth for everyone living in your household.

Once you have created an account, you can submit a quote for the works that will be completed and disclose any other financial aid that you are receiving. You can find detailed instructions for what must be included in the quote under the Vérifier son devis et sa facture section of this page

The works must be carried out by a professional building company certified to carry out energy-efficient works – you can find a list here

READ ALSO: How to convert a rustic barn into your dream home

Do not begin building works until you have confirmation that your request for financing has been accepted. Once it has, renovations can begin. 

Collect the bill from the builders once the work is completed and send it to MaPrimeRénov via your account. You do not need to pay the builder up front – you can wait until you have received your money from the government. 

Where can I get more information?

For more information and to access the grant, go to MaPrimeRénov’. You can also call +33 (0) 8 08 800 700 if you have specific questions on the scheme.

It is possible to set up a free meeting with an advisor to get further information specific to your personal project – you can find your nearest advisor here. It is worth doing this before sending an application for financing. 

Other financial support for energy-saving renovations 

France has a number of other state-backed schemes to help you finance ecological renovations of your home. 

You could access a zero percent interest loan, known as an éco-PTZ, for example. These loans of up to €50,000 will be maintained at least until the end of 2023. They are issued by regular banks, but backed by the government. 

One of the benefits of taking out a loan rather than a grant is that there are no earnings limits. You must simply be the property owner – if you don’t live at the home yourself, you must be renting it or commit to renting it once the works are complete. 

The property must be at least two years old.

Works that can be paid for with an éco-PTZ include: roof, wall, window and door insulation; and installation of renewable-powered heating. 

You can use the same helpline listed for MaPrimeRénov’ if you have any questions. 

The government advice for all energy efficiency related renovations is to begin by isolating your property, before installing new heating systems. 

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MONEY

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

The French government has capped electricity prices rises at four percent - but as with many French rules, there are certain exceptions.

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

Question: I read in the media that electricity prices in France are capped at four percent, but I just got a letter from EDF telling me that my bill is going up by almost 20 percent – is this a mistake?

The French government’s bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield), froze gas prices at 2021 levels and capped electricity price hikes to four percent – it remain in place until at least the end of 2022.

However, there are some customers who will see increases to their bills of more than that – here’s why: 

The regulated tariff rate

The French government involvement in price-setting doesn’t just happen during periods of energy crisis, normally regulated tariff prices are updated twice a year: usually on February 1st and August 1st.

Typically, this value is calculated by the CRE (commission de régulation de l’énergie) and it is based on several different factors, which are explained on this government website. These tariffs proposed by the CRE are then subject to approval by the ministers in charge of energy and the economy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

These affect the state-owned Engie (formerly Gaz de France), the mostly state-owned EDF and some local distribution companies. Around 70 percent of people in France get their electricity from EDF but other suppliers do exist in the market.

These alternative suppliers, like Direct-Énergie, Total Spring or Antargaz, are free to charge more – but don’t usually charge much above the EDF rates for obvious commercial reasons.

Basic rate

The government-set limit in price rises refers only to the basic rate (option base) for electricity.

This plan represents over 80 percent of the 32 million households connected to the electricity grid in France. So, there is a good chance you might be subscribed to this without even realising it. 

If you are on the basic tariff rate, your bill will not increase by more than four percent this year.

Other tariff options

However, other options for electricity bills do exist, including off-peak rates, green deals and fixed energy prices for a certain period.

Typically people who sign up for these will have been paying less for their electricity in the preceding months than those on the base rate.

However, there are certain special deals that are not covered by the four percent cap, and some users will find that their deal period has come to an end, they are then shifted onto the base rate – which is likely to represent a price increase for them of more than four percent.

It’s little consolation when faced with rising bills, but you will likely have been paying significantly less than customers who have been in the base rate for the past few years.

READ MORE: French government to continue energy price freeze until at least 2023

Kilowatt price

Because most electricity price plans are bafflingly complicated, the easiest way to compare is to look at the price per kilowatt-hour.

Your electricity bill consists of a fixed part, the monthly subscription (abonnement) and the variable part, which depends on the quantity of electricity consumed (in euro per kilowatt-hour, kWh). The latter part is what is concerned by the tariff shield of four percent.

Here is an example of what that might look like:

The mid-August base rate price per kilowatt-hour is €0.1740/ kWh, so if you’re with EDF they cannot charge you more than this rate.

Other EDF plans charge significantly less than that – for example the Vert Electrique Weekend deal has been charging €0.1080/kWh on weekends and €0.1434/kWh on weekdays. 

Bill rises

With the tariff shield, the average resident customer on the base rate will see a €38 rise on their bill this year, while professional customers will see an average of €60 rise. 

Without the tariff shield, electricity prices per residential (non-business) customer would likely have increased an average of €330 a year, according to the CRE.

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