Legalities and Taxes
If you own real property in France, you will be liable to pay income tax on the income derived from your French property.
In most cases, this income is made up of the rent you receive if you let the property.
French tax laws enable owners of rental property to reduce the amount of taxable rental income through a limited number of deductions that can be taken from annual rental income, for example:
Many of VINGT Paris’ US clients are surprised when they find out that Notaires have a (virtual) monopoly on property transactions. I think it’s because they think that a Notaire is the same as a US Notary, a rather humble public official one uses to have signatures verified and the like. The good news is that their “monopoly” means litigation concerning property transactions is very rare in France.
The Loi Carrez (named, not for the unit of measurement, but for the minister of housing who introduced the law) is a protective measure for the buyer in France.
The sale agreement relating to the purchase of a property must state the surface area of the property, in square meters. In 1996, a law was passed establishing a standard way of measuring that size, defining what is and is not “livable” surface area.
When you purchase a property in France, French inheritance laws apply to that property.
These laws, which are very different from the Separate Estates laws in other countries, can have an impact on the use of the property in the event of a spouse-owner’s death. Unless specified beforehand, a surviving spouse/partner residing in France will not automatically become the legal beneficiary of the property prior to any children’s rights.
French homes may be purchased on an individual or on a collective basis. However, if you intend to buy a home collectively, all buyers will be asked to jointly apply for the mortgage. For purchases made by two people or more, it may be advantageous to buy the home through a Civil Real Estate Company (“Société Civile Immobilière”, or “SCI”).
Make sure that you are properly insured while living in France, where personal insurance is a legal requirement for a number of cases.
The French insurance market offers a wide choice of companies and policies to choose from. All the major companies offering insurance, called assurance, have high street offices and are big enough to offer an umbrella policy for all your needs as well as just a specific policy.
There are two taxes on all residential property. These are collected by the State for the local authorities. These taxes are assessed at individual rates according to location and can vary substantially. It is a good idea to check these two details when you are assessing a property to buy.
When a seller puts their property on the market, certain authorities have the right to purchase the property in priority. This is called the “Droit de Droit de pre emption“.
There are two rights of Droit de pre emption – the right quoted by the Law of 31st December 1975 and the right granted by the Law of 6th July 1989.
The viager system of French house purchase accounts for around 10 per cent of all private property sales in France. Under this system, you, the buyer, contract to purchase the property from the vendor in one of three ways, but do not usually take possession until the vendor’s death.
It might seem astounding but the system helps elderly people, who may be living alone, to realise the value of their house while still alive, and yet remain in their property. It effectively acts as a pension top-up.
If you own property here in France and derive rental income through it, it’s necessary to file a Tax Declaration for a non-resident. The law says to file, and it is especially necessary if the funds are deposited in his French bank account. If the property is financed, there may be no tax to pay. Interest and expenses are fully deductible.