Cash in the attic

If you’re thinking of renovating a property in France then you could be eligible for grant aid. But remember – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Kate McNally throws the spotlight on the grant aid available to help ease the cost of renovating property in France

If you plan to buy or renovate a property in France that will become your main residence then you may be eligible to benefit from a range of different grants and loans. However, as with most government-led financial aid schemes: if you don’t ask, you don’t get; and in order to ask in the first place you need to know who to go to and have an idea of what to ask for.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide, not least because the goalposts are constantly moving and with a newly elected French government, more changes could be on the way. But hopefully it will give you a good starting point and once you get the ball rolling in France it’s often surprising what you turn up.

First port of call

L’ANAH (Agence Nationale de l’Habitat) should be top of your contact list. This is the government body that oversees the majority of housing-related grants and the various organisations that either implement them or offer advice.

The three principal types of project considered eligible for grants are: to make your home more ecologically efficient, to make it more habitable improving safety and hygiene, or to adapt it for a disabled resident. Grants for installing solar panels are no longer available. However, up to 50% of costs can be reclaimed via tax credits (see below). Unsurprisingly, decorative work is exempt.

Grants are nearly always subject to means-testing, often require a level of matched personal investment and usually require both labour and equipment to be provided or bought from registered professionals with all invoices provided and justified. Qualified or experienced building professionals may be permitted to undertake the work themselves as long as it is overseen by a registered third party. Each project is approved – or not – by the local ANAH committee and the amount of any grant is decided in accordance with a variety of factors.

Most Read

Owners, landlords and co-owners of communal buildings can apply for these grants as long as the project has an estimated minimum cost of €1,500 and as long as household earnings do not exceed specified minimum thresholds. These are divided into three categories – very low income households, low income households and low income households with a higher limit allowance. For details of the current limits, visit the websites detailed at the end of this article.

If eligible, in general, owners can obtain grants for between 20% and 70% of costs, landlords for around 15% and co-owners from 35% to 70%. The maximum grant for improvement work is €10,000 for owners and €14,000 for owner landlords, rising to €25,000 and €28,000 respectively for more extensive building work. Again this can rise substantially in the case of extreme health and safety needs or if adapting lodgings for a disabled occupier. And the good news is that these grants can be combined with other loans and financial aid; the exception being if you have benefited from a State-assisted 0% mortgage loan to acquire the property (see below).

But beware. These grants come with some fairly stringent fulfilment requirements, particularly in terms of occupancy time periods. Owners must continue to live in the property for a minimum of six years following improvement work, while landlords must keep the property available for rental for a minimum of nine years post renovations. In exceptional circumstances, this requirement may be waived, but generally non-adherence will incur hefty penalties and potential legal action, so don’t request a grant unless you are sure you want to stay put for a while!

Loans

L’�co-pr�t � taux 0% (zero interest eco-loan)Introduced as one of a raft of initiatives to improve energy conservation in France, the zero interest eco-loan is available to anyone undertaking energy-saving or ecological home improvements. There is no means-testing involved and you can apply for the loan directly at most French banks. It might be a good idea, however, to contact your local ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Ma�trise de l’Energie) branch or ADIL (Agence D�partementale d’Information sur le Logement) for an initial assessment of your plans.

The loan can be sought to help finance projects such as insulation, double-glazing, more efficient heating or installation of renewable energy systems. It is available for homes built before 1990 and requires two or more energy-saving measures to be implemented at the same time (known as a ‘bouquet’ of improvements). The maximum amount on loan is €30,000, with amounts depending on the level of work involved. The normal repayment period is 10 years. However this can be extended to 15 years or reduced to three years and there is no set-up fee. Any work should be completed within two years of arranging the loan and again it must be carried out by professionals with all invoices supplied to the bank.

You can also apply for the eco-loan to help finance the updating or renewal of a septic tank. The French authorities have begun a systematic assessment of septic tanks and any that do not meet the necessary hygiene standards must be replaced, which can prove an expensive process. Everything to do with septic tanks is overseen by the public sanitation body known as SPANC (le Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif) and you should contact them initially to assess costs. You can access an eco-loan for up to €10,000 for sanitation-related improvements.

It is worth noting that this is a ‘once only’ loan so, if you can afford it, it is best to include as many improvements as possible in your ‘bouquet’ to get maximum benefit from the zero interest rate. The eco-loan can be combined with the zero interest mortgage.

Le pr�t � taux z�ro plus PTZ+ (zero interest mortgage) This State-assisted zero interest mortgage is only valid for the acquisition of someone’s first home in France and it must be the principal residence. It is available also to families looking after a handicapped person and to people who find themselves homeless due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster.

Primarily available to buy a new house, to have a house built or to adapt an existing building for use as living accommodation, the 0% loan is assessed and the repayment period set according to income, as with a normal mortgage request.

The amount of the loan is also linked to the overall cost of the home, its energy performance and to the number of people who will live in it. In some circumstances, you can obtain the loan to buy an older building but this is less usual. You must be living in the property within one year of purchase or completion of building work.

Cr�dit d’imp�t d�v�loppement durable (tax credits for sustainable development work) While many grants and loans favour those with minimum financial resources, the tax credit breaks assist France’s medium to higher earners who can reclaim up to 50% of the cost of a variety of products and services in the form of tax deductions when they pay their tax bill at the end of the year. Clearly it is of less interest to lower earners who may not pay sufficient tax in the first place to benefit.

The sustainable development tax credits cover many energy-saving projects; for example the installation of solar panels, as mentioned above, or water recycling initiatives. Once again, services and products must be sought from approved suppliers and invoices provided.A single person can claim back up to €8,000 and a couple up to €16,000 in tax credits over a period of five consecutive years. Add to these figures, a further €400 for any additional people living in your home under your care; for example children or elderly parents. LF