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The Paperwork Behind Home Improvements in France

Regardless of how simple or complicated your home improvements are… they’ll all require some form of paperwork to be completed either before or after the work. Please note that the information we’re covering in this blog does not refer to changing the internal aesthetic of your property - just the sizing and structure.

Prior to starting the home improvement work

Right - you’re at the stage where you’re embarking on some home improvements. Before you start anything, it’s important to note that if you need a building permit or planning permission, you’ll need to apply for a document called the Permis de Construire (PC), issued by the town hall. It concerns new constructions, even without foundations, of more than 20 m². You can submit the document and its annexes yourself for any constructions up to 150 m², but for any surface larger than that, you must work with an architect to draw up the plans for your building. You’ll need this permission more specifically if you’re:

  • Building a new construction.

  • Building a home extension, like planning to extend your house by raising it or building a veranda or garage.

  • Building an open-air swimming pool with a pool area greater than 100m².

  • Building a covered swimming pool with a pool of between 10 and 100m² and a fixed or mobile cover with a height above ground of more than 1.80m.

  • Building a swimming pool enclosure built within the perimeter of an outstanding heritage site.

  • Building a swimming pool where the surface area of the pool is greater than 10m² and less than or equal to 100m².

  • Building a garden shed, garage or hut - essentially in any instance where you are creating a building independent of your house whose footprint or the floor area is greater than 20m².

  • If you’re changing the use of your building: for example altering the load-bearing structure or façade of your building.

  • Changing anything structural.

  • Changing anything on the exterior walls or roof.

  • When you are part of a copropriété.

  • Changing the usage of any space (garage to habitable).

  • Creating any extra structures on your land.

Ah, but the golden question(s) we know you’re all asking… “is it difficult to submit? How do I submit it? Does it have to be in French? How long does it take to process?”

Is it difficult to submit?

Well, how you submit it varies with each town hall, but usually you need to submit five paper copies to the urbanisme department.

Do you have to submit it in French?

Yes, the form has to be in French. With this being said, it’s a fair amount of tick boxes and you’re only required to fill out the sections relevant to your build. It can be quite difficult to know which bits to fill in, so if you have any questions on this part of the process don’t hesitate to get in touch.

How long does it take to process?

The processing time of the PC is two months for a detached house and its annexes and three months for other projects. The planned construction must respect the rules of the Plans Locaux D'Urbanisme (PLU): local town planning plan in force in the commune, and the town hall may get back in touch for further documents or amendments before permission is granted. You can get a copy of the PLU for the location of your property from your town hall (Mairie).

If your plan meets the PLU guidelines, you will receive an “Arrêté municipal” confirming that your planning has been granted. Please note that within three months of the date of the permit decision, the local council can withdraw a permit if it considers that it has been issued illegally.

As soon as you are granted planning permission or a decision not to object, you are obliged to display this permission on your property. You can get a panel that meets the regulations from your local DIY shop. This posting must be displayed and maintained throughout the duration of the work.

How long is your PC planning permission valid?

Your planning permission, once granted, is valid for three years. It expires if you have not started work within three years or if you interrupt the work for more than one year after the expiry date. The period can be extended twice for one year. More information on planning permission can be found here.

What about work that isn’t subject to planning permission?

Work that is not subject to planning permission generally requires a prior declaration of work called a Déclaration Préalable (DP). It follows the same process as the PC and you must inform the Mairie and submit the DP before you start the work.

For this kind of declaration, you’ll require it for any changes to the exterior of your property, and anything listed above that doesn’t meet the size requirements for a permis de construire. For example, if you’re building a garage with a surface area of less than 20 m², or a change of use of a garage to habitation, which does not require structural alterations or anything visible from the outside. For a full list of instances in which you’d need this declaration, please follow this link.

The DP can be made by the following:

  • The owner(s) of the land or their agent: or the person entrusted by another to represent them and act on their behalf;

  • The purchaser of the property;

  • Companies authorised by the owner(s) to carry out the work;

  • Persons in “indivision” or their agent;

  • The syndic and co-owner; or,

  • The beneficiary of an expropriation.

How do you submit the DP?

It varies with each town hall, in some communes it can be submitted via their website, or you may need to submit paper copies to the urbanisme department. In either case, the town hall will issue you with a “récipissé”.

The récipissé includes the registration number of your file and information enabling you to know the date from which the work may begin. It specifies that, within one month of the application being submitted, the town hall may notify you of a different deadline for starting your work. Please note that if you have not received any requests for further information from the town hall within one month of submitting the DP, you can begin the work.

As with the permis de construire, once you start work, your DP must be posted on the site and maintained for the duration.

Like the Permis de Construire, your DP is valid for 3 years. It expires if you haven’t started the work within three years or if you interrupt the work for more than one year.

What if your place is part of a copropriété?

Well, if your apartment or house is part of a copropriété, and you are doing any work that requires a PC or DP, unfortunately, yes, you’ll also need to get permission from your copropriété before starting work.

This is done by the annual Assemblé Générale. We have some more information on this in our previous blog about Syndics, found here. Generally for justification, you’ll need to include the following;

  • A brief description of the project.

  • Your plans before and after the build.

You may accompany your dossier with your PM or DP if it has already been granted, but it isn’t necessary. Please note that depending on the copropriété and what you’re doing, you may be subject to restrictions on when you are allowed to do the work.

You’re ready to start the work, who do I tell?

You need to tell your local town hall once you've started your works with a Déclaration d'Ouverture de Chantier (DOC). As always, they like this to be submitted in paper form, but you'll only need one copy this time.

You’ve completed your work. Now What?

If you have had to acquire a PM or submit a DP for your work, you’ll now also need to declare the end of the works to your town hall via a Déclaration Attestant L'Achèvement et la Conformité des Travaux (DAACT).

The form needs to be filled out and submitted to the urbanisme department at your town hall. Please note that:

  • For building construction or extension works and energy renovation works, you must provide a certificate of compliance with the RE2020 environmental and thermal regulations (RT2012).

  • For new residential buildings or detached houses adjoining or superimposed on another room, you must provide an acoustic certificate.

After all of the necessary paperwork has been submitted, the town hall has three months, from the date of receipt of the DAACT, to contest the conformity of the work. Obtaining this conformity is essential, especially if you have intentions or need to sell the property in the future.

Please note that when you’ve done any of the work mentioned in this blog, it’s a legal obligation to submit the Elusive Property Form after you've sent the DAACT to the Mairie.

We hope you found this blog on property home improvements informative. We know that this has been a lot of information on property development in France and may feel a little overwhelming! If you want to have a look at the forms yourself, they can all be found by following this link.

Speak soon.

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