Newsletter Subscribers



Survival Home in Paris

Visit our partners




May 2019

The album Burn was released in February 1974 by Deep Purple. I always find it interesting that lyrics can be understood in a way totally different from their intent when they were written. Reading the lyrics of this album’s title track once again, I felt it could apply poetically to what happened to Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The sky is red, I don’t understand
Past midnight I still see the land
People are sayin’ the woman is damned
She makes you burn with a wave of her hand
The city’s ablaze, the town’s on fire
The woman’s flames are reaching higher.

It felt like the whole world watched the cathedral burning. Almost everybody was talking about this tragedy, and rightfully so. Now France needs to start the rebuilding. I hope it is well done, with the finest craftspeople doing the work. Almost certainly, the Compagnons will be called upon – possibly the same guilds that built the cathedral in the first place. Many guilds were created in about AD 1000 to make the building of churches and cathedrals possible. I find it reassuring that they have been able to maintain their traditions and craftsmanship through the centuries.

For about seven years, when I had an office near the Place Saint-Georges, I rented the other room out, usually for about a year at a time and no longer than two years. Most of the people renting it were creators of start-ups, consultants or independent contractors who needed this place to make their professional transition. I always liked being able to offer a professional setting at an affordable price and thus help people launch their careers.

As many people know, my current office has three rooms: one is where I meet my clients, one is my workroom with files, printers and a large desk, and the third contains a kitchen corner and my assistant Sarah’s workspace.

For almost a year now, I have been interested in purchasing a place in close proximity to my office in the same building. I have just received the seller’s approval from the real-estate agent. As long as the sale goes through, I should be able to offer the use of a completely independent space very near my current office. I cannot say more until I have the presale contract. But I am already thinking about offering a small discount to any of my readers who might like to use this space as an office space or Airbnb place to stay.

I will probably not have much of a summer vacation, as I will be working on this project so as to have everything ready for September. It will likely be necessary to do some renovation so that the place offers a comfortable setting.

The Office Français de l’Intégration et de l’Immigration (OFII), the part of the French administration dealing with the side effects of the immigration procedure, has gone completely paperless, as many of us have long wished. There is no longer a paper form; instead, an electronic procedure is activated once you arrive in France. When you receive your passport with the visa for France in it, on the next page is the URL of the website where you go to ask for an appointment once you arrive in France. It asks for your date of entry into France, and you will be asked to prove it, if possible. This seems to have shortened the time it takes to obtain an appointment.

French immigration law has always put an emphasis on the health insurance coverage valid in France. The most recent evolution is creating some serious problems for the foreigner holding a ‘visiteur’ immigration status. I had hoped that the prefecture had taken a definitive position after taking into consideration the vast changes set in motion by the creation of PUMA. Sadly, the prefecture has once again changed its position on whether people withvisiteur status must provide proof of health coverage.

The starting point is simple. To obtain visiteur immigration status, you have to prove that you have a certain minimum income, often retirement funds or other assets. You also have to prove that your health care is covered by a policy valid in France, and that the premiums for it are being paid regularly, either directly or indirectly (as part of a retirement package, the person often gets coverage for life, whether or not an amount is deducted from the pension for it).

Before the protection universelle maladie (PUMA) went into effect on January 1st 2016, each person covered by the couverture médicale universelle sent in an income declaration and the cost of the premium was 8%. The coverage was (and still is) free for those with annual earnings below 8,951€, which is pretty much poverty level. With the prefecture looking for annual income of at least 14,000€, the system was set up so that a foreigner covered by the public system called Assurance Maladie would easily be able to prove payment of some premium and therefore comply with the requirement.

Since the 8% of income used to calculate the premium does not include retirement income, many American retirees with visiteur immigration status can sign onto PUMA and be covered for free even if their global income is $100,000 or more, way over what the prefecture requires as a minimum.

URSSAF handles PUMA billing and collection, as it is the collection agency for social charges in France. Instead of receiving a special declaration of income, as before, they now get the information from the French tax office. This leads to several crazy situations. Some foreigners who declare their worldwide income to France without paying anything have received bills from URSSAF even though they have always been covered by the private sector. Under the old system, some foreigners paid their premiums in order to be covered by French public health program. These same foreigners now pay nothing because they do not declare their income to France.

Because of the craziness of the situation and the fact that for about two years URSSAF did not send a single bill to anyone, the prefecture agreed to renew people’s immigration ‘visiteur’ status without proof of health coverage. But my experience is that since the beginning of this year the prefecture has once again been asking for such proof. Several of my clients’ requests for renewal are up in the air, and they are waiting for the prefecture to decide about this situation. Some foreigners have ample income but do not pay anything for their public French health coverage. If that describes you, and you are about to go to the prefecture, be ready to face this issue.

The prefecture has added to the list of documents required to be registered as self-employed, opening up a can of worms much bigger than you might think. The first requirement has long-lasting effects and creates serious problems.

Domiciliation professionnelle
The prefecture has a clear tendency to treat self-employed people registered in France as consultants, as if they were opening a shop, or as a limited liability corporation. Now it is asking applicants to submit a statement under oath that their business is domiciled in the home, even though all the other paperwork proves that this is the case.

The next step is that the prefecture may ask to see a lease or other document proving the grounds for the person’s tenancy. Leases almost always state that the apartment is residential and that no businesses can operate on the premises. So the prefecture requires the statement ofdomiciliation professionnelle to be signed by the landlord, authorizing something that is prohibited in the lease, as if a consultant’s activity were the same thing as having the public enter a shop or operating heavy machinery.

This has damaging consequences. Often landlords and even property agencies have people sign a hosting agreement (attestation d’hébergement), when all the utilities and local tax liability remain in the landlord’s name. Getting them to sign a domiciliation professionnelle document is close to impossible. Formerly, one way to block unscrupulous landlords was to have a business registered in the home. This meant declaring income for tax purposes and billing of business taxes at that address, documenting that the person was staying there as their primary domicile and therefore giving them domiciliary protection. This is no longer possible, however, and one might quickly need to find a new place. Thus, for people with this kind of profile, instead of risking being put out on the street, you may want to get yourdomiciliation professionnelle from asociété de domiciliation professionnelle, which may cost about 10€ to 20€ a month for the base service, equivalent to a PO box corporation in the USA.

By doing this, one gets the carte de séjour and the right to work, but gives up the right to deduct a substantial portion of the rent from one’s taxes, which can represent a significant loss. Considering how difficult it is to find lodging in Paris, this adds considerably to the existing problem.

Attestation de vigilance
This is a completely counterintuitive request regarding a review of the payment of taxes and social charges required of those with the self-employed immigration status. Until recently, URSSAF readily made available a statement of what was paid and how much the social charges were. If the statement indicated that the outstanding balance was zero, the person was paid up. The prefecture accepted this was proof of good standing.

Now the prefecture wants another document that does not show any figures but states at the bottom of the second page that the person has complied with all the requirements linked to their status. I would like to raise a couple of questions:

What other requirement could be as important as being up to date on your payments, when one knows that not declaring means getting a fine?

Would not it make more sense to match the four individual URSSAF bills, one for each quarter, with the statement wrapping them all up so as to see if anything is missing?

Regarding the more mundane topic of income tax, I would like to remind everybody that the paper version of the 2018 income declaration must be filed in France by Wednesday, May 17th midnight. The declaration forms are available at You can file your declaration on this website, provided it is not your first time. To do so, you need your tax ID number and some access codes.

Note that if you file online, the deadline is later. The schedule depends on your postal code:

  • départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight on May 22nd
  • départements 20 to 49 by May 29 th
  • départements 50 or higher by June 5th

An important reminder: if you are a French fiscal resident (i.e. if you hold acarte de séjour or an immigration visa validated with an OFII stamp, and comply with the requirements), you must declare your worldwide income to the French authorities even if you have no income in France and do not have the right to work in France. There is no penalty for neglecting to file, but not meeting this obligation is illegal and can have consequences.

You are a French fiscal resident if you:

  • 1. Staying in France for 183 days in a calendar year, whether you have legal immigration status or not.
  • 2. Having immediate family members who reside in France (a spouse and/or children).
  • 3. Having a French employer.
  • 4. Running a French business, even something like tutoring schoolchildren in English.

Current government-sponsored advertising campaigns refer to paper forms as thing of the past. For now, declaring electronically gives you an extension of a few weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, while attending one of Stephen Heiner’s monthly entrepreneurs’ lunches, the topic of naturalization came up and I could see that there is a misconception about the naturalization procedure, especially when comparing it to obtaining the carte de résident, which is loosely the equivalent of the American green card.

Many people read the requirements and conclude that the naturalization procedure asks for almost nothing, as the current requirements are: 

  • 1. Having had a permanent legal stay in France at all times.
  • 2. Being a French fiscal resident.
  • 3. Mastering the language at B1 level (the government is thinking of increasing it to B2)
  • 4. Having lived in France for five consecutive years, or possibly two consecutive years for applicants who have received a master’s degree in France.

The carte de résident requirements are much stricter: 

  • 1. Having had a permanent legal stay in France at all times.
  • 2. Having lived in France for five consecutive years, without exception (years holding a student carte de séjour do not count).
  • 3. Showing four consecutive avis d’imposition, the French income tax statement, with a consistent annual income at least equal to French minimum wage, the SMIC.
  • 4. Mastering the language at A2 level.
  • 5. Preferably owning one’s home, or renting with a full lease.
  • 6. Preferably being covered by the French public health care system.

The requirements for a carte de résident are more numerous, more demanding, and more rigid than those for naturalization. This confuses a lot of people. They do not understand why becoming a French national looks so easy, when even asking for carte de séjour can entail a longer list of required documents.

My explanation of this apparent oddity is that the naturalization procedure is like a funnel: the entrance is wide but the exit is tiny. What I mean is that it is true that the requirements for submitting a file requesting naturalization are simple, but the ones for obtaining it are strict. There are a lot of unwritten requirements that are not mentioned in the documents the prefecture gives you when you ask for the list.

By contrast, the carte de résident procedure is like a straight pipe: If you qualify to submit the file requesting it, it is nearly certain to be approved.

Finally, in my experience, many people do not know the rights associated with the carte de résident. It gives you various types of right to work and guarantees that you can live forever in France; you can even live in another country without losing the right to live in France.

I would say the objective when asking for naturalization is to prove complete allegiance to France and, ideally, to have all aspects of your life grounded in France. Hence some of the unwritten requirements when asking for naturalization, such as holding a carte de séjour salarié as well as vie privée et familiale, which gives you a better chance of success. Otherwise, asking first for the carte de résident is pretty much an obligation. Another is earning most, if not all, of your income from a French source, ideally as an employee. This is just to give an idea of what is truly required, but, to be fair, miracles can happen, so if you think you have a special profile that offsets what is missing, you should still apply.

I would like to remind my readers who hold a ‘visiteur’ immigration status that after a lawful presence of five years and compliance with all the abovementioned requirements. They can easily get the 10-year carte de résident because they already comply with everything on the list by virtue of their annual renewals. Some prefectures can be extremely lenient with American citizens who can often renew their immigration status without complying with this abovementioned list. So this is one of the first things to check. Then the only thing that is left uncertain is their competency in French. This said, an A2-level of competency can be presumed after a presence of five years in France.

The article I cite below has a direct link with the section of my January 31st issue in which the gilets jaunes movement is discussed. Their members still demonstrate every Saturday, regardless of what the government proposes. Clearly this is not something that can dealt with by announcing last-minute changes. Several other countries have also been experiencing weekend demonstrations, notably Algeria. What is going on there deserves much more attention than the Western media, including French media, are giving it. Western economies need a radical new way to address taxation, especially taxation of income and wealth. These are the tools that enable countries to deal with their primary mission of national security and inhabitants’ well-being. I am happy to see that terms such as socialism, taxation and wealth regulation are no longer considered obscene and taboo but have become issues to discuss and review. The definition of well-being varies by country but the constant decreases in the services and protection the state guarantees its people now has a visible result: multinationals have more power than many countries and their money controls democratic elections more and more, stripping away what democracy should be: the voice of people.

The following article was published in the Guardian on February 1st 2019.
Rutger Bregman had not really intended to stick it to the global elite. He never meant to have a pop at the idea that inequality could be solved by philanthropy or inviting Bono to Davos. But when the Dutch historian decided to go off-piste at the World Economic Forum and tell the assembled billionaires they should stop avoiding paying tax, he became an overnight social media sensation.

“It’s been a crazy week and just for stating the obvious,” said Bregman, when asked about a panel discussion at the WEF last month in which he said the issue was “taxes, taxes, taxes, and all the rest is bullshit in my opinion”.

Bregman had not been to Davos before. He was invited on the basis of the book Utopia for Realists, which argued for a basic income and a shorter working week, ideas that have been taken up by some of the Silicon Valley billionaires who show up for the annual event in the Swiss Alps.

But he grew more irritated as the week wore on. Bregman gave a speech to a dinner of technology chief executives and then spoke at one of Davos’s private sessions, off limits to journalists. There he was surprised and maddened by the pushback when he mentioned tax. “One American looked at me as if I was from another planet,” he said.

As a result, Bregman decided to change his plan for a panel on inequality organized by Time magazine on the final morning of Davos. “I went to my hotel room and memorized what I wanted to say by heart,” he said.

“I more or less ignored the question asked by the moderator and gave my speech instead. It was mainly to ease my own conscience: someone has to say what needs to be said.”

What Bregman said, put simply, was the Davos emperors have no clothes. They talk a lot about how something must be done about inequality and the need to address social unrest, but cavil at the idea they might be a big part of the problem.

He told his audience that people in Davos talked about participation, justice, equality and transparency, but “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share. It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water.”

Nothing happened over the weekend. Bregman went back to Amsterdam wondering whether his colorful language was a mistake, but then a video of the Time panel went viral, and it has received millions of views on Twitter alone.

Bregman, 30, is not entirely surprised at the reaction. He said he is part of a generation not traumatized by the cold war and radicalized by the financial crisis of a decade ago. “When we say what’s needed are higher taxes and the response is ‘that’s communism’, we say ‘whatever’,” he said.

“I am part of a broad social movement. Ten years ago, it would have unimaginable for some random Dutch historian to go viral when talking about taxes. Yet here we are.”

As a historian, Bregman noted the most successful period for capitalism occurred in the years after the second world war, when the top rate of tax in the US was above 90%.

“This is about saving capitalism,” he said. “Most innovation has come about through government spending. During the golden age period [after the second world war], there were way higher taxes on wealth, property, inheritance and top incomes. That’s what we need today if we are going to tame this beast called capitalism.”

Bregman was born in 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall came down. He grew up in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer, studied history at Utrecht University and contemplated doing a PhD before deciding he was not cut out for a career in academia.

“I didn’t want to waste four years on an insignificant subject nobody cares about,” he said. Instead, the global financial crisis pushed him in a different direction.

“I thought that we needed historians to take the stage and explain what’s going on. When I watched the crisis on TV, the only people being interviewed were economists, and these were the guys that didn’t see it coming. I thought that we needed some historians there, so I left academia,” Bregman said.

He spent a year working on a left-of-centre Dutch paper before joining a new journalism platform that paid him a basic income and provided the freedom to write about anything he chose. Utopia for Realists was the result.

Bregman is working on a new book in which he intends to challenge the view that humans are inherently selfish. It is not true, he said, that people revert to their true, nasty selves when the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away.

“If we assume the best in people, we can radically redesign our democracy and welfare states,” he said.

Bregman bridles at being called an optimist. “I prefer the word possibilist,” he said. Optimists are the sort of chief executives found at Davos, who think globalization is working, neoliberalism is a good idea and inequality is on the decline, he added.

“A lot of great things are going on. In many ways, the past 30 years have been the best in world history. But we can do much better. I prefer the word hope over optimism,” Bregman added.

So, would he make a return visit to the WEF next year?

“I would definitely go. I would just give the same speech. It is going to be a dilemma for them. If they don’t invite me, it will prove my point. If they do, I’ll say the same thing all over again,” he said.

The office will close for slightly over two weeks for this occasion. It will start on Friday June 14th evening and will reopen on Tuesday July 2nd morning. As always, I will only be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters as I will be out of France. The service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed. I have not figured out how I will send the July issue considering the situation.

MY SUMMER VACATION: THE OFFICE IS CLOSED from July 19th to August 19th
The office will be closed for one month starting Friday, July 19th, reopening on Monday, August 19th. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. The service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed.

I plan to change some aspects of my business when I reopen the office on Monday, August 19th. The main reason is to allow my assistant to do some tasks more systematically. One of them is to accompany the clients to the prefecture, URSSAF, CPAM and other public offices. She already handles most of the dealings with the offices where self-employed people are registered. She has also accompanied my clients to the prefecture several times. As her fees are lower than mine, this should compensate for the increase in my fees. On October 1st, I will raise my initial retainer from 270€ to 300€ and the hourly rate from 110€ to 130€.

Best regards,


There is what the law says and then there is what can be enforced, and how. In France, especially in Paris, a toolshed cannot become a lodging without a very strict procedure being followed.

First, one must submit a request for a building permit to the city, which can refuse it. The way the conversion was done would certainly have been refused, because a sustaining wall must be built if the structure is going to be a small house like yours, to avoid all the problems you have listed and are suffering from.

If the building permit is accepted, it must be posted in plain sight of the public, which often means next to the sidewalk, so that the neighbors know about the project and can read about it. This is a public document and everyone has access to the related files and decision.

If the construction does not comply with the permit issued, anyone can inform the city and can take the owner of the building to court, as you will have an interest in doing.

That is what should happen, according to the law. The reality can be distressingly different.

Contacting the person and stating that the construction was illegal will probably have no effect on the situation. His behavior indicates that he does not care.

Within the Paris city limits, this is almost certainly part of the copropriété condominium type. There is a property manager called the syndic, whose mission is to enforce the bylaws and keep the building safe. Ordinarily, once the syndic is informed of the situation, he or she should visit the place, see the new construction and act against this clear violation. But if the dwelling was erected in a private garden, i.e. not in a common area of the building, as seems likely, the syndic’s mission is more complicated. Sad to say, most syndics I know of would do nothing about it, since it does not directly interfere with their daily tasks.

Another option is to raise the issue with your own copropriété and hence your syndic. There, in theory, you might get more support. Your brick wall is part of the common area, as it delimits the property. Weakening it creates a danger to people living there, i.e. the two of you. But even though your syndic’s mission is to enforce security, I am afraid you may have to lobby for a long time before you get some response, and even if a motion for the syndic to act is approved in a general meeting, it is possible that no action will be taken.

An obvious solution is to take the matter to the court and sue the person. The court chooses an expert to review the situation. Between paying a lawyer and the expert, a lawsuit would cost you about 10,000€. Even if the report is 100% in your favor, the man may refuse to accept defeat, keeping the place as is. Then you need to start a new procedure, based on the report, asking the court to rule in your favor and impose daily fines if the situation is not rectified by the court deadline. Such procedures can last for years and be very expensive, even when you win the case, as the court compensates only a fraction of your legal fees.

The one possible solution about which I am a little more hopeful is to get things going in your favor by contacting the building permit office. In Paris, you would go to the Pôle Accueil et Service à l’Usager, which is part of the city planning department. I still have some trust in the integrity of the civil servants working in that office. If you have tried personal contact, sending two or more registered letters, and if you have tried to get both syndics involved without any visible action, and if you can lay out very clearly the scope of the violation and the danger it creates, you may get a positive response from them.

Keep in mind that your case will not be their top priority, given that there are entire buildings ready to collapse, situations where buildings need to be evacuated, cases where the structure must be reinforced to avoid collapse, and so on. Objectively your problem is minute compare to these, but I believe the officials will pursue it slowly and silently until they order a visit on the premises to see the extent of the violation for themselves. They may decide that the danger is less than what you stated and requires only minor work such as soundproofing, if there is something against the wall to hold up the structure. But they could equally rule that the complete structure must be tore down, with the possibility of a criminal sentence if the person does not comply.

If you choose this option, you will need unlimited patience, as you will have next to no communication with the office for months. You must also put together a perfect file that shows technically why there is danger and how big the building is, and contains pictures taken from your windows, copies of all the letters you have sent, minutes of copropriété meetings and so on.



After several years of living in France, I finally made the bold move of buying an apartment. Finding a decent place at a decent price felt like going through combat, as some places were beyond horrific.

At the time of signing the presale contract, la promesse de vente, we discussed whether anything would be left in the apartment in terms of appliances and furniture. There was an amazing refrigerator. I cannot remember seeing such a big and fancy one before, including in the USA. It was over 6 feet with the all features one could dream of. The seller valued it to be worth 1,000€ second hand. I had no idea if this was the right evaluation, as I understood that the higher we all agreed to value the appliances and furniture, the less I would pay in frais de notaire, which are in fact mostly taxes, with a tiny fraction being the notaire’s compensation.

I was shocked, when I visited the apartment minutes before the closing, to see a broken tiny refrigerator instead. I was fuming as I entered the meeting to sign. The man, the seller, never budged during the entire meeting. Both notaires tried to explain that the presale contract gave the list of appliances and furniture and it was binding. His answer the entire time was that the contract says a refrigerator and there is one, so the contract is being met. I was told by the notaires that they did not have any coercive power and there was nothing they could do. So, in the end, I gave in and signed, but I am mad as I believe I was the victim of a dishonest person. Could things have turned out differently? What should I have done?


I understand how you feel. I would like to focus on the complete procedure of buying real estate in France and explain how things could have gone differently.

There are three steps in the purchase of real estate in France.

1 – Acceptance of an offer, when both the buyer and the seller agree on what is sold and for how much. At that time, preliminary agreement may be reached on what the property being sold includes, and what will or will not be left in the place, if anything. Some buyers want the place completely empty while others, like you, want some of the appliances and furnishings, which may have been custom made for the place and thus both difficult to move out and handy for the buyer to have.

2 – A presale contract is signed; it can be either a promesse de vente or a compromis de vente. Thepromesse de vente, legally speaking, means the buyer is buying an option to purchase the property under certain conditions. Like a futures contract, it can be exercised or not. If it is exercised, the initial payment goes towards the final payment on the purchase on the day of the closing. The compromis de vente is a final contract with some waivers, either mandated by law or added because the parties agree to it.

In both types of contract, the seller describes what is being sold, which is the property itself, as well as whatever is to remain inside. There is a list on which each item is mentioned and is given a value, exactly as in your case. Even though this list is not part of the real estate transaction, it is part of a contractual agreement, which is binding for both parties and cannot be changed unless both parties agree.

3 – The closing contract is in effect the title, since the notaire drafts a new title for each transaction. Also, the presale contract carries some provisions about defaulting on obligation. Depending on the contract the dates and amounts can be different. One thing is certain, if the seller does not meet his obligations, as in your case, there are penalties to pay. I am not sure how much you understood of what the notaires were saying. They are not there to enforce the contract and have no power to do so, but they could have explained better that if you waited, probably for a couple of weeks, and had the breach documented by a bailiff (huissier), you could have received financial compensation.

In short, the outcome would have been different if you had stated that there was a change in the contract against your will. At the same, I would like to ask if going through a legal proceeding, even a rather short one, would have been worth it just for a refrigerator, regardless of how gorgeous it was and how much you wanted it. Perhaps; it is not for me to say.

I would advise people in your situation to:

1 – make sure everything that matters is drafted and detailed in the presale contract so that it is binding on both parties,

2 – always make a last-minute visit to the place and check everything, including the cellar and maid’s room if included, to avoid last-minute surprises, and

3 – rely on the notaire to explain that the contract is binding and that there are financial consequences for breaching the contract; you might not go there but the threat is real and have the notaire read those provisions out loud several times if needed.

One last point: the notaire only deals with the purchase as defined in the contract, but there is also a need to settle the account between seller and buyer as regards the taxe foncière, condo charges paid and so on. The amounts owed on both sides may be such that the price of a refrigerator or whatever else is at stake can be compensated for in this way.


Survival Home in Paris

Visit our partners



Newsletter Subscribers