Chimneys in France have to be kept clean and most communes have bylaws imposing cleaning by a professional sweep once or twice a year.
Home insurers will also usually require you to produce a certificate showing such maintenance in the case of a claim related to the chimney and some require you to send them copies on a regular basis as part of their fire coverage (check what your contract says).
A standardised form of local regulations exists, which may be tweaked by some communes, and it states that interior and exterior chimneys have to be kept in good condition, and be swept periodically to ensure the good functioning of equipment, to ensure toxic gases do not enter the building, to reduce the risk of fire, and to reduce the emission of toxic particles into the atmosphere. The regulations can be consulated at the mairie or prefecture.
When houses are rented out, it is the tenant, not the owner, who has responsibility for organising the chimney sweeping, and if the owner arranges it he or she can charge the tenant for it (if you are a tenant, your rental contract may specify your obligations). The owner, however, must check that the chimney has been swept in between two rentals.
When you have the chimney swept make sure sweeps give you an official certificate that the sweeping has been done, which should in theory be kept in a fire-proof box (or you could copy it and keep it digitally).
Professional sweeps must hold relevant certificates, including a CAP or BEP qualification in masonry, plastering and maintenance. They should have a certificat technique des métiers de ramoneur (CTM) issued by the chambre des métiers et de l’artisanat or have been awarded the title of ramoneur-fumiste by COSTIC. A Qualibat certification for ramonage is another proof of a good quality service.
In some regions of France, itinerant sweeps still make regular rounds, but it is advisable to ask them what qualifications they have.
Prices vary across France, from €60 to €100 per chimney, with the highest prices being found in areas like Paris. Sweeps often charge more to clean chimneys linked to oil-fired boilers, which are more difficult to clean.
Not maintaining chimneys poses a risk that your insurance could be invalid if you make claim related to the chimney, and it is also possible to incur a fine of up to €450, or worse penalties if your failure to maintain causes a serious fire.