Connecting to utilities in France
If you are planning to purchase a property in France, you will need to consider how to set up the supply of utilities such as gas, electricity and water to the property and arrange the payments for them.
Dealing with French utilities companies can be a challenge especially if you are not a fluent French speaker.
It is therefore becoming increasingly common for lawyers and other property professionals dealing with the purchases of property in France to offer services to arrange for the transfer of the utilities, especially if they regularly deal with UK clients buying in France.
If you wish to save yourself the hassle of setting up the utilities to your French property including gas, electricity and water it may be worthwhile asking your French lawyer or estate agent if they provide this service.
We have however provided some helpful basic information below.
Connecting to Water Supply in France
Mains water is available in most towns and cities in France. The French authorities are however committed to increasing this as far as possible. If your property is not yet connected to the central water supply, it may be worthwhile checking if it is possible to get connected if the property.
For the vast majority of properties that are already connected, as a new owner you will need to identify the local provider to have the supply contract set up in your name. You may need to contact your local Mairie (town hall) to find out the details of the local supplier as water supply is the responsibility of each municipality.
Most water supplies in France are metered and the bill contains the costs for both fresh water supply and sewerage.
You should check during the purchase process that the previous owner has paid all outstanding water bills.
If your property has a septic tank you will need to ensure that it complies with the required environmental standards and it is a good idea to have it checked regularly.
Connecting to Electricity Supply in France
Once you have bought your property in France you will need to sign a contract with an electricity company for the supply of electricity.
The best place to start is the website www.energie-info.fr which provides quite a bit of basic information about suppliers and electricity usage etc. EDF is still the main supplier although there are several other suppliers to choose from and differing options available. Electricity is generally one the cheapest in Europe due to France’s place in the energy market.
If your new home is not yet connected to the electricity supply you should contact the electricity provider about getting connected several weeks in advance as connection works may take some time.
In any event you should contact the provider a few weeks before your moving date to ensure that there will be an electricity supply available when you move in.
Most companies will allow registration online or by telephone. In order to set up a contract for the supply of electricity to your French property you will usually need some identification as well as bank details for payment by direct debit.
You should ensure that all previous bills have been paid by the previous owner, that the meters have been read and that the contract is put into your name from the day you take over.
Connecting to Gas Supply in France
Mains gas is available in most urban areas in France, although bottled gas is still a common way of using gas in France, especially in the more rural areas.
With mains gas you will need to contact your chosen supplier to register with then and enter into a supply agreement.
For properties outside the mains gas areas you will usually have the choice of having a gas tank (citerne) on your property or buying bottled gas.
The gas tank option requires a supply contract, as the supplier installs the equipment as well as provides the regular gas refills.
Otherwise bottled gas is readily available in most supermarkets and petrol stations in 6kg, 13kg and 35kg cylinders. There are two types of bottled gas available butane gas, which needs to be stored indoors, and propane gas which can be stored outside.
When buying bottled gas you pay a small deposit fee for the cylinder bottle initially and then return empty cylinders to swap for a full ones as you need. Four 13kg cylinders are normally sufficient for cooking purposes for a year in an average household.
Broadband, telephone and TV
Connecting to Broadband, Telephone and TV in France
Many of us dream of living or getting a second home in France only to be put off by missing our family and friends or even our favourite TV shows. In this digital age, a good broadband connection can bring your family and friends with you to your French property.
Mobile technology combined with online media applications such as Skype and Facetime has brought face-to-face catch ups a daily event.
Having a reliable fast broadband connection can be essential to making your place in the sun a home from home. If this will be an important factor in helping you stay connected to loved ones, make sure that the property that your purchasing has good internet options and speeds.
Internet in some areas of France can be slow or non-existent so it would be worthwhile checking with a service provider that you will be able to connect to broadband and the likely speeds before you purchase.
There are several companies offering a variety of packages and rates, which may include broadband, TV and telephone.
France Telecom (Orange) is the national supplier of telephone landlines. There are also a variety of other companies offering telephone services at competitive rates.
If there is no phone line to the property, check with France Telecom if it will be possible to install one and the likely costs and timescale involved.
Hopefully the above will at least provide you with some starting points. In general however the previous owners of your property in France may let you know how their utilities were set up and who with, which will at least start you off while you find out the most cost-effective options for you.
Most people now chose to pay bills by direct debit from their French bank account. Just make sure that you keep the account topped up so that there is enough to settle any bills to ensure that the service is not disconnected. If you are not planning on being in France full-time, it may be worthwhile giving the service provider your permanent address so they may contact you in case of any problems.
You should also check that you take meter readings as soon as you move in so that you can check this against your bills.
As mentioned above, many French lawyers or estate agents will be happy to assist with setting up connections to utilities and setting up the direct debits for you. It is worthwhile asking them at the outset if you think that you may require this service.
For more information about buying property in France download our free guide.