How to get your French holiday let spring ready: 6 winter tasks
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Make the time now to review your letting practices and get any property maintenance done on your French holiday let or gîte before the first spring guests arrive, says Mary Hall
1 It’s important to keep up to date with relevant legislation and tax issues. Ignorance of the law is no excuse - it’s your responsibility to comply with the rules and regulations. Don’t assume your maire or your French neighbour knows everything - they don’t.
Owners who run gîte complexes or B&Bs as their main business in France should review their position annually to make sure they are registered under the most advantageous tax and social regimes for their personal circumstances. If you have an accountant, make sure they’re working for you, advising you on the best options, not just ticking the same boxes as last year.
2 Did your guests mention anything or hint at anything you could have done better? Was there anything in the visitors’ book you should take note of? If you use cleaners, caretakers or a pool company, have they reminded you of something that you may have forgotten or overlooked?
One job that often gets overlooked is updating the file you leave for guests, telling them where the stopcock is, what to do if the power trips out etc. You might have moved the pool alarm key, for example. Check that your information on local doctors and hospitals is still valid, and add in the vet if you allow pets.
Verifying when restaurants are open and which ones are still good is a nightmare as so many close-down and change hands, but you can do your best. Are the directions to the property that you give your guests still correct? And for satnav users, warn them if there are two villages called Villefranche, for example. Tell them to enter your postcode followed by Villefranche to ensure they get to the right destination.
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3 Inside items needing attention might include bathrooms - check sealant and grout around basins, baths and showers, make sure chrome fittings aren’t rusty, and ensure the WC is in working order - which should be checked after winter non-occupation. In the kitchen, check grout, sealants, adjust cupboard hinges. Take a look at the bedrooms. Tatty headboards are off-putting, so reupholster them for an instant facelift. And finally the living rooms: launder loose covers, cushion covers and curtains, smarten up a tatty woodburner, using the appropriate paint, and get the chimney swept.
4 If you’re clever, you should only need to redecorate part of the property each year and, if you’ve kept enough spare paint, or know the colours, you can quickly tidy up heavily used areas, such as by the kitchen bin, for example, without doing the whole room.
5 You’ve probably already got plates, mugs and glasses on your shopping list - they always take a hit in the summer, but linen stocks need checking too. If you’re in a location where guests fly-drive, offer pool and bathroom towels. They are weighty to pack and a lack of them could lose you bookings. Little things like lampshades often get forgotten, but they do get dirty and will let your house down.
6 Outside, wooden sheds and summerhouses benefit from regular treatment. Paths, steps and terraces need checking for loose slabs and moss, and make sure handrails are secure. With Easter lets, you’ll need to get the garden looking tidy when sometimes there isn’t much new growth. If you’re an absentee owner, warn your gardener in good time, because a great first impression is vital when your guests arrive.
Mary Hall is a chartered surveyor Tel: 0033 (0)5 65 24 66 46 hall.bureau@neutfr
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