Second home owners paying French utility and tax bills

I do wish everybody a very happy new year, although personally I have never understood why we expect anything to change because of a new day on the calendar. :slight_smile:

For the last 15 years I have been responsible for paying a friend’s tax and utility bills for his second home. It has involved him either sending me cash in sterling or euros, or transferring funds to me via Paypal, which I then use to pay the bills. It has become increasingly inconvenient, having to take into account exchange rates, trying to keep track of which money is my account is his, and the possibility of having to explain to the tax authorities where this money comes from.

I want to put an end to this arrangement. He says he is not Internet or computer savvy (even Paypal defeats him). Can any second home owners tell me the simplest way they pay their bills from the UK so that I can explain to him?

TIA.

Wow… well done to you for doing this for your friend over 15 years.

I’m presuming he doesn’t have a French bank account??

I’m sure someone will chime in with good advice…
meanwhile Season’s Greetings !!

EDIT: Can’t his UK bank transfer funds to which ever Utility’s bank account??
If he’s not computer literate, letting his UK Bank do the necessary will be the easiest route I would have thought.

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Happy new year to you.
Seems to me your friend has used you and as you say has left you open to questions about money that isnt yours but in your account.
A messy situation that you need to stop.
My advice would be to say enough is enough and tell him to sort it out this year.
I think you are more of a friend to him than he is to you.

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I would suggest one last push to get them a French bank account then set up prélèvements automatique for all the necessary utilities. They then just have to make sure that the funds are topped up every now & again.

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:slight_smile:
He is a very good friend, just hopelessly disorganised.

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I think the simplest for him would be to set up a credit agricole britline account - which is english speaking and specifically for anglophones. And I think he can do most on the phone.

And then he will get a french cheque book and can either send cheques,or phone them up and get them to make internet payments from his account for a small supplement.

You would probably have to help get this in place, but then would be free!

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Not sure that all utilities companies accept cheques these days? And I thought the tax office insisted on electronic payment for property tax bills over a fairly low threshold, a few hundred I think, and had started fining people who send in cheques for larger amounts.

I agree that direct debits is the way to go.

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There should actually be no reason for him to get a French bank account. If he has a British bricks and mortar bank (one of the high st ones) if he can go in and they’re in a helpful mood they’ll help him set up euro transfers using the businesses IBANs so when the bill comes he can just go in branch and ask them to make the payment (using the correct reference or whatever) or if he has a smartphone he can easily(ish) open a Starling (or Revolut or Wise) account both which have Euro accounts which will take SEPA direct debits. But with France’s old timey banking system most organisations will still give you bank account details and allow bank transfers so his RBS/ Nationwide etc should just allow him to set up and make international payments from his GBP account, and given he’s not IT literate if he still has a branch someone should help him to do it, then he can just in future say ‘can I make an international payment to XYZ for 400€’ and they’ll do it for him using his GBP balance. These days the rates aren’t even as bad as they once were, the fintechs offering market rates have forced the high st banks to be a little more competitive.

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CA Britline will let your friend set up a bank account - with an English-speaking adviser - and, if he doesn’t need a chequebook, it won’t be very expensive (though there’s a monthly fee, of course, which at the moment your friend is allowing you to pay!).

If all your friend needs to do is transfer money, then one of the online financial companies like Wise, Revolut, Starling may be easier and cheaper. Note they aren’t all banks (I forget which are and which aren’t), and the customer service isn’t always as good as a trad bank, but if all he’s doing is making transfers then it may be all he needs.

If he’s smart enough to own a second home then he’s smart enough to pay for it. He needs to give his head a shake!

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I think it’s worth us all recognizing that the time might well come when our bank accounts are “looked into” and we’ll need to be very clear where “such and such” came from and why…

Possibly @SuKe is not the only one helping a friend…
and now might be the time for anyone similarly aiding/whatever… to revisit the situation and get it sorted properly…

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Print out and keep a copy of every single transaction that you have had dealings with that are not of your own income/bank account(s) as yes, the fisc can demand at any time, a look at your finances and ask you for proof of where certain monies have come from. Time going by makes us forget things and its not worth the aggro if this should happen all from helping someone who could really do it himself and wouldn’t even be implicated. Like most who came to France many years ago and bought property, we opened a french bank account and made sure either on visits or by transfer from a british bank that there was enough to cover the bills and then those not on a prélévément, would be paid by sending a french cheque and yes, you can still pay by chèque now.

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Thank you all for your advice.

My friend has never moved into the digital age. he can’t use a computer and he doesn’t comprehend :smiley:

I’ve passed on all the suggestions, and explained I cannot accept any further payments to my account. I think he understands and will now have to find an alternative route.

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My vote goes for Britline and direct debits, along with Wise (or Revolut if you prefer) for transfers into the French account.

Once set up all he has to do is make sure the French account has enough balance to not risk being overdrawn and it will run itself with no further input needed.

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Could you help him get set up, say with Wise or Starling as @kirsteastevenson suggests (my fave would be Wise as easier though it’s not a bank), in his own separate account which you could operate online when occasionally needed and just tell him when and how much he needs to transfer from his UK account to Wise’s UK account to replenish it by? Then you can do the rest.

UK banks IME still charge too much for transfers to foreign even IBAN. Wise’s conversion rates to Eur are 0.4% and likely to stay very reasonable, as I suspect Starling’s would. So he’ll only have to add a little extra margin.

Some just can’t move into the digital age so I have a lot of sympathy with this.

I think I’ve done enough now. :slight_smile: I’ve pointed him in the various directions open to him and will let him sort it out.

I personally use Wise for my own transactions, very happy with it.

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Well done!

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It can be quite hard to stand aside… when one has helped for so long…
Be firm in your resolve.
You’ve been a very good friend and it’s time now for your friend to take on his own responsibilities and be a truly good-friend to you…

best of luck.

I am a bit surprised your bank isn’t asking you questions and saying it isn’t happy, I used to send a little money on behalf of a friend to her student son (who banks at my bank, so free virements) and my bank objected after a while.

UK credit cards will work for most French bills, even local taxes, certainly for insurance, energy and probably for water. Getting the bills sent to a UK address is the first step. We who live in France need to be carefully transparent about transfers of money and paying third parties’ bills. If your friend isn’t able to manage these things, perhaps he shouldn’t be asking you to manage his second home for him?

He has sorted it out now. :slight_smile:

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