France has given a boost to British nationals who own holiday homes in the country as it looks to relax its post-Brexit 90-day visa rule.
Politicians have said British owners of French homes had been ‘punished by Brexit’, with the law currently limiting how long they could stay to 90 days out of every 180. In order to stay longer, Britons must apply for a long-stay visa of up to six months.
Now, the country’s senate has voted through an amendment to the immigration law that will give British second homeowners the automatic right to a long-stay visa.
Mertine Berthet, a French senator who represents the Savoie in the southern Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, put forward the change to the rules after receiving complaints from Brits who own holiday homes in the region.
‘The Britons I have spoken to say the current system is long-winded, difficult and full of pitfalls,’ she said, according to The Daily Telegraph.
France has given a boost to British nationals who own holiday homes in the country as it looks to relax its post-Brexit 90-day visa rule
She also said that the rules are keeping Britons from contributing to France’s economy, and that the restrictions will already add to the rising number of vacant properties in the country’s popular tourist regions.
‘Ties are warming between France and the UK following the royal visit,’ she said. ‘And don’t forget, King Charles reserved his only official speech for the French Senate.
‘The British are privileged partners of France. History has shown this to be the case.’
The amendment to the law still needs to be debated in France’s National Assembly (the country’s lower house) before it can be passed.
Berthet said that even if the amendment fails in the National Assembly, ‘this is at the very least an important first step,’ the Telegraph reported.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has said it will not support the amendment, arguing that the law already makes it possible for British holiday home owners to stay longer than the 90 days out of 180.
The government does not have a majority in the French parliament.
But another issue faced by Brits who own homes in France is increasingly long visa wait times, with visa centres being described as ‘overwhelmed’.
And earlier this year, France hit British homeowners with a rise of up to 60 percent in council tax charges, adding further to their woes.
The Telegraph said that one way the exemption could work would be to require British owners of French homes to carry proof of ownership with them when they arrive in the country. They would then only need to provide these documents once for the long-term visa requirements to be waived, the publication said.
Philippe Bas, of France’s les Républicains (The Republicans) party, said last week that while British second homeowners ‘didn’t have anything to do with Brexit,’ the UK’s choice to leave the EU ‘has punished them’.
‘They must be able to come to France and make the most of their second homes and spend their money,’ he said.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has said it will not support the amendment, arguing that the law already makes it possible for British holiday home owners to stay longer than the 90 days
In August, many Brits felt the introduction of council tax increases represented a double-whammy against them, with one couple saying they may have to sell their home (pictured)
There are some 86,000 British households that own second homes in France.
Q&A: France’s tax on second homes
Who is affected?
86,000 British-owned households in France (and anyone in France who owns a second home).
Do I pay if I still keep a home in Britain?
Yes, the tax is applicable on all properties in France.
How does it work?
Second home owners face an annual charge even if they are not resident there but if their home is habitable. Last year this was about £664 for a house and £808 for a flat.
How will this change?
The tax will rise by a minimum of 7.1 per cent, but local authorities have been given the power to add a surcharge of up to 60 per cent.
What other property taxes are there?
An ownership tax covers things such as refuse collection, similar to council tax in the UK. New-build properties are exempt for the first two years.
Which areas will be affected?
All major regions, including areas that are popular with the British, such as Brittany, Dordogne and south of France.
Pensioners – who once spent several months of their year in French holiday homes – are understood to be particularly irritated by the EU residency restriction.
In August, many felt the introduction of council tax increases represented a double-whammy against them, with one couple saying they may have to sell their home.
Creative director Simon Amster, 55, and his wife bought the five-bed 15th century hideaway in the village of Sauveterre-de-Bearn near Biarritz for just 50,000 euros (£42,000) eight years ago.
The couple, who live in Lewes, East Sussex, said in August that they were paying 1,400 euros in annual property taxes. But they faced a significant tax rise thanks to Macron’s reforms.
Under rules introduced by president in August, tax on second homes could be increased by up to 60 per cent.
This is despite British people being only allowed to visit for a maximum of half a year under the new post-Brexit rules on visa-free travel.
The tax used to be paid only by those whose principal home was in France, but a reform introduced by Macron’s government saw it extended to second homeowners.
The minimum increase in residency tax (one of France’s main two property taxes, similar to the UK’s council tax) was set at 7.1 percent, it was reported at the time.
However, with 3,399 councils being given permission to apply a surcharge, the figure could be much higher and rise by up to 60 percent for some.
Many of the councils listed are in regions that are popular with Brits who own French holiday homes, such as Brittany, The Times reported in August.
Before the change, residence tax was paid by all of France’s homeowners, and last year was an average of €772 (£660) for a house and €941 (£800) for a flat.
But under Macron’s reform, the tax will now only be imposed on those who own two homes in an attempt to dissuade people from using properties as their second homes in areas where locals struggle to rent and buy.
Taking last year’s national average residence tax of €772 for houses and €941 for flats, then a 60 percent increase would mean second home owners would be paying more than €1,200 and €1,500 on their houses and flats respectively.