English language bills in France, insurance and builders activities

Here’s a couple of things for you to think about when you are getting work done on your second home in France…

1 Bills in France should be in French

One thing we didn’t realise until we were having a meeting to discuss any ‘plus-value’ (capital gains) tax that might be payable on our property sale is that all bills need to be in French in order to qualify. A couple of bills we had that were in English – despite being from correctly qualified and registered builders – were tossed aside as worthless.

Pretty obvious really, but in fact lots of English builders working in France send out their devis (quotes) and bills in English, for obvious reasons.

So anyway, just remember that if you might ever need the bills in the future, either for tax purposes or for any other reason make sure you have a proper and valid copy in French.

Note: it is difficult to forecast in advance when this need might arise – one time might be if you are claiming from the builders insurance company during the 10 year guarantee on the work if the builder has since gone out of business, or if the tax bills etc change suddenly in the future.

2. Registered companies can only do what they are registered to do

This is another of those things that is obvious but you might not have thought much about.

We all know that companies or individuals registered to operate in France have a SIRET number, which enables you to check that they are legal, above board, and authorised to work for you. At least for sizeable projects you should check these – see http://impots-service.net/repertoire-SIREN – to be sure you tradesman is authorised to work on your property

I have often checked these myself, but usually consider all to be well as long as I can see the company exists and looks valid. But…there is more to it than that.

Firstly any company is only allowed to carry out certain activities (which is not surprising  – if I am registered for creating websites I can’t start creating swimming pools or architects drawings).


Secondly all builders whose work is to be covered by the famous ’10 year guarantee’ in which we all place such confidence needs to have correctly listed the work they are carrying out, when dealing with their insurance company.

So you might like to check, for example, if your builder is qualified to carry out ‘building works’ can he install a swimming pool? can a kitchen installer also install a bathroom? can a swimming pool installer build a pool house and terrace next to the pool? (see this example from french-property.com)

These are just examples I made up, but knowing how insurance companies and French bureaucracy work I would check quite carefully if I had any doubts – these are the kind of things that came back to haunt you years later when you least expect them (for example, when you are moving house or when that pool house falls on a guest in your holiday rental…)

3. Insurance troubles

Talking of insurance I should also highlight a recent comment that was posted by a holidaymaker to a French gite, who said:

“We rented a house last September, which had all of the shutters down, so was in darkness when we got there. One of our dogs came into the main sitting room with us, and then went back out to the car, as we were unloading. I eventually got the shutters up, and the whole wall was an expanse of glass, our dog came back in and ran towards the window, thinking it was open, and a massive sheet of glass shattered…

… The dog was operated on, but we are faced with a bill for £600, as the French company will not pay, and nor will our house insurance, or our travel insurance, or the dogs insurance, as they think it should be under the french insurance.”