A guide to setting up utility services in France
How to set up essential utility services when living in France, such as electricity, gas and water in your new home in France.
To open an account for any utility, you must provide proof of your identity (passport, residence permit) and your address (justificatif de domicile). The latter can be your rental agreement, rent receipt, another utility bill or anything that demonstrates proof of home ownership.
For all utilities, it is common to receive a bill every two months. You pay a flat rate in advance, abonnement, and for consumption retroactively. You can request to pay monthly to reduce each bill's total and/or to have your bill automatically debited from your bank account.
Consumption is often estimated based on your previous bills; twice a year an inspector will visit the premises to check the compteur (you need not be home). Your actual consumption, relevé, is then noted on a bill adjusted up or down from your estimated consumption.
It is often mandatory to notify service providers of changes or termination of service in writing; it is advisable to send such requests with the equivalent of a return receipt, accusé de réception.
If you are moving into a home being vacated by someone else, they should either provide you with a document specifying the end date of their service contract or allow you to call the supplier and replace their name with yours on the existing contract to insure no interruption in service.
The French government partially privatised its utilities, Gaz de France (GDF) and Electricité de France (EDF), as two separate companies.
Many countryside houses have central heating systems that use fuel oil, chauffage au fioul. You must set up a contract with a private supplier for regular deliveries. Many of the large supermarkets operate such services.
You can find your local EDF office through the phone book or online. Call for general enquires at Tel: 08 10 12 61 26 (local rate). Service can generally be established within 48 hours.
You can find your local Gaz de France office through the phone book or online . phone Call for general enquiries at Tel: 08 10 14 01 50 (local rate). Service can generally be established within 48 hours presuming the gas line is already in place.
A 24-hour repair number, dépannage, for both services is indicated on both bills.
Electricity costs less at specific overnight hours, les heures creuses; les heures pleines means the more expensive daytime hours. You'll see consumption broken into both categories on your bill. You may also be eligible for tax deductions if you install certain kinds of water heaters; check with GDF for details.
The French domestic electrical current is 220 volts AC. All modern sockets and plugs are three-pin. If you are arriving with appliances from the UK, you are likely to need an adaptor and, in the case of appliances from North America, a transformer.
If you're buying new appliances after arriving, note the étiquette énergie; those labelled 'A' are the most economical.
Water is delivered by private companies who sign contracts with local authorities; call your town hall, mairie, to find the designated supplier for your area. Your water bill is calculated by the number of cubic metres of water consumed. Rates vary enormously and can sometimes be expensive; most companies bill only once or twice a year.
French people usually opt for bottled drinking water mostly for reasons of taste. Domestic supplies are potable. During the past two years of drought, many préfectures have imposed water restrictions and breaking them can incur a fine.
Homeowners pay for service through the annual trash removal tax, taxe d'enlèvement des ordures ménagères. Renters usually pay through the form of charges or communal upkeep fees, but occasionally pay directly as well.
In Paris, rubbish collection is daily, but in small towns it is often only a couple of times per week. In all cases, rubbish is collected from outside your residence and bins should be placed in the street the night before. The local authorities provide the plastic 'wheely' bins free of charge.
All apartment buildings have a bin area. In large buildings it is the caretaker, gardien or concierge, who looks after the collection.
Recycling of cardboard paper waste, glass and plastic is widespread, but depends on the local authorities to provide recycling bins, which can be found in most neighbourhoods and shopping centres. Some towns also provide 'curbside' recycling for some items; ask your mairie for details.
It is illegal to dispose of dangerous substances, including batteries and motor oil, in domestic bins. Most supermarkets, and every town hall, have used-battery bins. A full list of collection points can be found at the mairie.
Nearly every town organises a regular collection of large domestic throw-outs, from old chairs to TVs, les objets encombrants. You can also drive to the local rubbish tips, décharge. Lastly, dispose of unused medicines at any chemist shop.
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