Renovation Works in France – The Rules to Comply With

Thus, for light renovation works (repairs, internal repainting, laying of new floor etc) no particular authorisation is required. This extends to heavy renovation but not exceeding a surface area of two square meters.

For heavy renovations, namely works carried out with a view to change the use of a construction (e.g. turning a barn into habitation or an office into a dwelling, changing the external aspect of a building, its volume or number of floors, the addition of a balcony or terrace, etc.) all require some form of authorisation, as they fall within the scope of the rules of the Town Planning Code ‘code de l’urbanisme’, the local plan of land occupation (“plan d’occupation des sols” (POS) or “plan local d’urbanisme” (PLU), and in the case of co-ownerships, the co-owners’ regulations (“réglement de copropriété”).

The authorisation required may either be a declaration of works (“déclaration de travaux”) or a planning permission (“permis de construire”).

Declaration of works: A declaration of works will be required for works of a lesser importance such as:

– Constructions or extensions creating a gross surface not exceeding 20 m² (garden sheds, conservatories etc);

– Transformation of over 10 m² of gross surface into net surface (e.g. turning a garage into habitation);

– The change of use of an existing construction without doing any works;

– Works modifying the external aspect of an existing building (re-doing the rendering of the outside walls, changing of woodworks, replacing or enlarging windows and doors, roof repairs, changes on shop windows etc.

In certain cases, such as if the property is in the vicinity of a listed building or a historical monument (i.e. such as a Church), additional formalities will apply (such as notification to the “Architecte des Bâtiments de France”.

The file which needs to be put together in order to file a declaration of works must contain the following documents:

A declaration form, filled in and signed, accompanying with a situation plan showing access roads etc, a volume plan, a description of the works, pictures, indication of where the works will take place (e.g. indication of the location of the future garden shed). Additional documents may be needed depending on the type of work involved:

– for the modification of a front elevation: a plan of the current façade and a plan of the façade after the works;

– for the creation of a fence: an elevation plan of the fence; – for the re-rendering of a front elevation or roof repairs: a quote with a description of the works;

– all the plans of the construction for constructions of less than 20 m² gross surface;

– for the transformation of an attic: plan of the current façade and future façade, section plan of the building currently and after the works.

The services of an architect are not required for a declaration of works.

The file must be sent to the local division of the Direction de l’Urbanisme, du Développement et de l’Habitat, and it must be supplied in three copies minimum. The file is then examined for up to one month (two months if the Architecte des Batiments de France has to be consulted).

If the works are not started within two years or if, after such period, they are interrupted for a period of over a year, the declaration is lapsed and the process has to be started again.

Planning permission: a planning permission is compulsory for:

– Any construction creating a gross surface of over 20 m²; – Including those without foundations; – Changes of destination, accompanied with the works modifying supporting walls or front elevations; – Modifications of the volume of a construction, or the opening or widening of apertures on external walls in certain cases.

It is to be noted that a planning permission is also necessary for constructions with no foundations, buried constructions (such as cellars etc) or unusual structures (such as inflatable structures etc).

The planning permission file must containing a number of documents in four original copies (plus an additional one where the “Architecte des Bâtiments de France” must be consulted). The file must be sent to the Direction de l’Urbanisme, du Développement et de l’Habitat. The documents necessary will be obtained by an architect, the use of which is compulsory.

The time frame for the examination of the file is 3 months from the time the file is complete. The administration has a period of 1 month from the filing of the application to inform you that:

– Additional documents must be supplied;

– And/or that the basic 3 months instruction period must be extended, such as in the following cases:

– It is extended to six months where the project is situated within the perimeter of protection of historical monuments or if it involves a construction receiving members of the public;

– It is extended by one month for works situated within the perimeter of the plan for the preservation and the enhancement of the town.

The permission is deemed granted if the administration fails to respond within the time allocated. The permission will be lapsed if the works are not undertaken within the period of two years from the last date of notification of the decision or from the date of the implied decision (in case of failure to respond), or after that if the works are interrupted for over 1 year.

Both the start of the works and their end must be declared to the administration.

In case the planning permission is denied or if it was contested by a third party, it is highly recommended to use the services of a French lawyer knowledgeable in the area of construction law.