Important French Terms

Following are some common terms associated with French property and French lifestyle. This is part of a series on the French language, with the main page located at French Language.

AC:        Same as AOC.

AOC:    AOC is the abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. It certifies that a product comes from a specific region (e.g. the name 'Champagne' is an AOC, so sparkling wine can only bear the name Champagne if it comes from the champagne region). It also certifies that the product meets certain standards, which are mainly concerned with how the product is produced (e.g. the bubbles in a bottle of Champagne must be the result of secondary fermentation; if they were produced by mechanically injecting gas the wine could not call itself Champagne). AOC's are mainly for wine, cheese and other food products. One can view AOC as a quality standard (in fact, the main quality standard in France), despite the fact that it is mainly focused on area of origin and method of production rather than evaluation of the end product.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée: see AOC

Are:    An are is a measure of land. It is equal to 100 square meters (approximately 0.025 acres). There are 100 ares in a hectare. For example, one might buy a property with1 hectare and 20 ares (totalling approximately 3 acres).

Assurance décennale: An insurance policy for building work. Although it literally translates as 'ten year insurance policy', this is somewhat misleading since the actual duration depends on the type of work. For major structural work the duration may be 10 years but for less significant work the duration is much less. The assurance décennale must be taken out by the builder with an insurance company; this means that if the builder goes bankrupt, you are still covered in case of defect. When purchasing a new house (or one with major renovations) or having major work done, one should first confirm that the assurance décennale is in place.

Carte d'assurance maladie: Medical insurance card. It is accompanied by an attestation, which states the level of medical cover you are entitled to.

Carte vitale:    Common name for Carte d'assurance maladie.

Fosse Septic:    Septic Tank. Many rural properties are not connected to mains sewage, using a septic tank instead.

Hectare:    A hectare is a measure of land. It is equal to 10,000 square meters (approximately 2.5 acres). Not to be confused with an are.

Notaire:    A Notaire is a public official who performs various duties, including the administrative tasks associated with the sale and purchase of land. He (or she) performs many of the same tasks (e.g. land searches) which in the UK would be the responsibility of a solicitor. However, a Notaire differs from a solicitor in that he is a public official responsible to the state rather than one party or another. As such, he should be completely impartial between the buyer and seller, having as his sole concern that the transaction is carried out legally, accurately and in accordance with the proper procedures. Unfortunately, not all notaires meet these high standards.

Préfecture:    A préfecture is the government office for various matters from getting a residence permit to car tax. One can be found in every city and sizeable town.

Reserve Legale:    Under French law, family members are entitled to a proportion of any inheritance. The minimum proportion which must be paid to family members is known as the Reserve Legale. For further information on this, and means to avoid it, see Legal and Tax.

TVA.:    TVA (Taxe à la Value Ajouté) is sales tax. In the UK, this is know as VAT. The level of TVA varies depending on what is being purchased, but the standard rate is 19.6%. For further information on this tax, and means to avoid it, see Legal and Tax.


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