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Property Letting

France - Property Letting

Those who rent out residential properties in France may have to register as a business with the ‘Chambre de Commerce’ in their département. This regulation, however, only applies to properties that are being rented out as furnished and there are still some circumstances where this will not be necessary.

Rental profits gained from letting unfurnished accommodation are considered to be ‘professional’ income so you do not need to register with anybody. The rental of furnished accommodation is categorised as ‘commercial’ income and there are different regulations. This is as a direct result of changes to the letting rules in 2009 which tightened the criteria for becoming a professional landlord.

In order to be a professional landlord you must be registered with the ‘Chambre de Commerce’ and you are referred to as an LMP (loueur en meublé professionnel). Your income from the rented furnished property must be in excess of €23,000 and this must exceed any other earnings that you have. ‘Other earnings’ now also includes any monies received from pensions. Those who have income from both furnished and unfurnished properties will find that each is assessed separately. Your first year will be based on estimated earnings. If for any reason you no longer meet the criteria you need to ensure that you are removed from the business register. There are some tax advantages to being registered as a professional landlord but for social security purposes you will be classed as self employed.

Being registered as a business means that you can automatically receive health benefits from the state but contributions still need to be made. Tax advantages include being able to offset any losses against other earnings, capital gains tax will not apply providing the property has been owned and let for a minimum of five years and the property will not be taken into consideration for wealth tax. As the property is also considered to be a business asset there are different implications for inheritance tax.

A landlord of furnished accommodation has a very specific definition for tax purposes. If there are additional services provided as well as the letting of the property such as regular cleaning, provision of items such as bed linen and towels and breakfast then it is no longer a furnished property but a bed and breakfast business. If the landlord can prove that these things only happen on an infrequent basis then there is no need for the professional landlord to change their status.

As tenants have very strong rights in France it is a good idea to make as many checks as you need prior to them moving in. Insurance is a good idea as it can protect you if the tenant fails to pay their rent. Landlords should secure a month’s rental in advance as well as the same again as a security deposit that will cover any damage to the property. Hiring the services of a notary can help to make the agreement with the tenant more secure and help to protect if the tenant fails to pay. If you obtain one payment by cheque so that you have the tenant’s bank details and you can use these later to help with debt recovery if need be.

It is recommended that landlords have inspections carried out at the start of each tenancy and before the tenant leaves. This will establish if there are any payments due from the tenant for damage to the property. Landlords also need to be aware that tenancies are automatically renewed if there is no formal cancellation and these are usually for a minimum of a year at a time.

A property must by law be in a ‘decent’ standard of habitation but the law also does not detail exactly what constitutes a decent standard and in many areas there is no enforcement of any standards. The basic requirements are that a property needs to pose no risk to the health and safety of the tenant, the structure should not be leaking, all floors, staircases and balconies should be in good repair and there should be a safe utilities supply. There should be no falling material from ceilings, there should be an adequate supply of water and there should be no risk from asbestos or lead.

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