France has given a boost to British nationals owning holiday homes in the country as it looks to relax its 90-day visa rule post-Brexit.
Politicians have said British owners of French homes have been ‘punished by Brexit’, with the law limiting stays to 90 out of 180 days. To stay longer, the British need a long-stay visa of up to six months.
Now the country’s Senate has approved an amendment to the immigration law that will automatically entitle British second home owners to a long-stay visa.
Martine Berthet, a French senator representing Savoie in the southern Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, proposed the rule change after receiving complaints from Britons who own holiday homes in the region.
“Britons I’ve 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 owning holiday homes in the country as it moves to relax its 90-day visa rule after Brexit
She also said the rules are preventing them from contributing to the French economy, and that the restrictions will already contribute to the rising number of vacant properties in the country’s popular tourist regions.
“Ties between France and Britain are heating up after the royal visit,” she said. ‘And don’t forget that 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 change to the law must still be discussed in the French National Assembly (the country’s lower house) before it can be adopted.
Ms Berthet said that even if the amendment fails in the National Assembly, “this is at 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 allows British holiday home owners to stay longer than 90 out of 180 days.
The government does not have a majority in the French parliament.
But another problem facing Brits who own homes in France are increasingly long visa wait times, with visa centers described as ‘overwhelmed’.
And earlier this year, France hit British homeowners with a rise in council tax of up to 60 percent, further exacerbating their misery.
The Telegraph said one way the exemption could work would be by requiring British owners of French homes to carry proof of ownership when they arrive in the country. They would then only have to provide these documents once to receive an exemption from the long-term visa requirement, the publication said.
Philippe Bas of the French party Les Républicains (the Republicans) said last week that although British second home owners had ‘nothing to do with Brexit’, Britain’s choice to leave the EU has ‘punished them’.
“They should be able to come to France and make the most of their second home and spend their money,” he said.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has said it will not support the amendment, arguing that the law already allows British holiday home owners to stay longer than the 90 days.
In August, many felt the introduction of council tax rises was a double whammy for them, with one couple saying they may have to sell their home (pictured)
There are approximately 86,000 British households who own a second home in France.
Pensioners – who once spent several months of their year in French holiday homes – are said to be particularly irritated by the EU residency restriction.
In August, many felt the introduction of a council tax increase was a double whammy for them, with one couple saying they may have to sell their home.
Creative director Simon Amster, 55, and his wife bought the 15th-century five-bed hideaway in the village of Sauveterre-de-Bearn, near Biarritz, eight years ago for just 50,000 euros (£42,000).
The couple, who live in Lewes, East Sussex, said in August that they paid €1,400 a year in property tax. But thanks to Macron’s reforms, they faced a significant tax increase.
Under rules introduced by the president in August, taxes on second homes could be increased by up to 60 percent.
This is despite the fact that Britons are only allowed to visit for a maximum of six months under the new post-Brexit rules for visa-free travel.
Previously, the tax was only paid by those whose main home was in France, but a reform introduced by Macron’s government extended it to owners of second homes.
The minimum increase in the residence tax (one of the two main property taxes in France, comparable to the British municipal tax) was set at the time at 7.1 percent.
But as 3,399 municipalities have been authorized to apply a surcharge, this figure could be much higher, rising to 60 percent for some municipalities.
Many of the municipalities mentioned are in regions popular with Britons who own French holiday homes, such as Brittany, The Times reported in August.
Before the change, residence tax was paid by all French homeowners, and last year it averaged €772 for a house and €941 for an apartment.
But under Macron’s reform, the tax will only be imposed on those who own two homes, in a bid to deter people from using properties as second homes in areas where locals struggle to rent and buy.
If we take last year’s national average occupancy tax of €772 for houses and €941 for apartments, a 60 percent increase would mean second home owners would pay more than €1,200 and €1,500 for their houses and apartments respectively.