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Free rental in Normandy - crazy idea?


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Morning all

I have a detached house near Flers/Bagnoles de L’Orne in Normandy. I’ve owned it for 14 years, and made some improvements - central heating, extension with two bedrooms, and had the garden cleared up.

Problem is - I have no time at all to get over there and do all the jobs I want to do. I need replacement windows, a rewire on the ground floor, an en-suite needs fitting, and a host of other smaller jobs.

I used to use Les Bons Voisins to arrange things and get the place looked after, but they stopped covering my area.

So, I was thinking of this. If there were a sensible couple or family that were thinking of buying in Normandy, I quite like the idea of letting them live in the house (probably for free), providing they arranged the work that needed doing, they did the gardening, and get the house up to the condition I want it. With me paying for things, naturally, but they live there and arrange it all.

Does anyone think that’s a terrible idea? Are there even people out there who would do a bit of work in exchange for rent?

Has anyone tried this?
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Call it "creative" rather than "crazy" :)

Nice area to have a house in, anyway.

I can think of drawbacks but you could look on these as problems to be overcome.

You would be investing a lot of trust in people you don't know.

It would be difficult to check up on the standard of work.

Probably the main one, though, would be French property laws - would you not risk them getting a tenancy you didn't want them to have?

Might you be better paying a professional to oversee all the work?

Just some thoughts. I hope you manage to get a solution that works!
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I would look very carefully into french law before doing such a thing.

There are so many things about french law that still feel rather alien to me, and I have no idea as to how this would be treated and what sort of contract you would need to have. A french one, that was water tight.

Who could make such a watertight contract up  for you is beyond me as my dealings with notaires leaves me with the feeling that they do what they think and IF they get it wrong, that they know that there will be little retribution.

I say this as it has crossed my mind that these rent free people may feel like they are actually working for you and maybe even the state may think so too............. and perhaps you could end up having to pay them as house minders....... had you thought of that???

Also there are laws in France about kicking people out between Nov and March called the Treve Hivernale, nigh on impossible to do.

Frankly I would not do it.

I am not trying to be negative here, but practical. Sadly people end up in awful situations, too good natured and never imagining that X Y or Z could happen to them.

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As said.

Firstly there is the risk of you being taken advantage of.

Secondly, "do a bit of work in exchange for rent" doesn't really fit with France's big emphasis on workers' rights because if they're doing a bit of work, what about their social security contributions, what about their healthcare? If they work for you that means you're an employer, and employers have obligations. And what about their tax, because France has a formula for declaring "payment in kind" eg for au pairs/caretakers etc who get accommodation and food in return for au pair/caretaking duties, and have to declare and potentially pay income tax on those benefits. They won't want to declare income they don't actually get in the bank and you won't want to meet employer obligations so you would all have to keep quiet about the arrangement, and having to keep things secret long term can get a bit stressful for all concerned. Particularly since if you live in France you seem to be forever having to tick boxes on forms to say whether you're a property owner or a tenant or if you're being accommodated for free and if so who by, whether you're working or not, what income you have, etc. Being a Brit living in France is a bit different from being a Brit living in the UK, especially with Brexit coming up.

I'm not saying don't do it, I'm just saying, don't do it without understanding the situation and being aware of what rules you might be bending, and making sure that potential "tenants" are aware as well.
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When we bought our house in France 28 years ago, we were living on a canal barge near Rickmansworth. We befriended a New Zealand chap who was living on a converted ships life boat opposite our mooring. He was a good bit older than us but very handy with his hands. He had run a tobacco farm in Rhodesia, fought there, been ejected and had 3 valid passorts. One weekend we brought him across to France to see our "project". He then tried to take his electric powered boat across the channel, got to Calais but ran into difficulties, so he cycled down to our house, turned up at the door and camped in the garden till we came across.

We let him stay for 5 years, rent free. He "converted" the bread oven in the orchard into his dwelling and landscaped the 3400 sq m garden. We bought the gear, he did the work. Everyone in the village knew him, he spoke little or no French.

It all worked fine until we arrived with our two very young children to live here full time. He continued to live in the cottage, played cards with our eldest (who was three by this stage) and worked with us. Unfortunately he prefered the solitude of our house and had put up with our holiday visits. Us living here full time put too much strain on the relationship. We came back one day to find a note saying he had gone.

So the idea worked for us, but times change.

Was having coffee with the retired village carpenter/coffin maker two weeks ago, he and his wife asked if we had news of him. He left us in 1998!
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Another factor to consider is that, if the house is a second home, when you come to sell it you would not be able to offset the costs of labour and materials against any capital gain if you were not able to produce receipts from French artisans.

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  • 1 year later...

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