Renovating a French property: be aware of planning rules before buying

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Question: I am looking to buy and renovate a French property. Is there anything I need to know regarding local planning rules? 

Many buyers have big plans for their new French property and may have done some research into the planning rules which might apply to their project.

The national planning rules (règlement national d’urbanisme) are supplemented or superseded by local planning rules (such as a plan local d’urbanisme). The applicable rules dictate which works necessitate planning formalities such as a declaration of intended works (déclaration préalable de travaux) or a more onerous application for planning permission (such as a permis de construire).

Properties which are in situated in a protected area (secteur protégé) can be subject to additional restrictions, much like conservation areas in the UK. Localities can be protected due to proximity to historic monuments, the public importance of heritage sites (designated for their historical, architectural, archaeological or artistic value) or because they are within a nature reserve or National Park.

In these areas, most projects, particularly those which would alter the exterior aspect of a property but also including some internal works, require the additional consent of a specialist group, the Architectes des bâtiments de France (ABF). If consent is granted it can be subject to conditions to ensure the visual harmony of the area is respected. To take the example of windows; the consent may dictate the shape of the windows, that the windows must be wooden (not uPVC), and that the woodwork must be painted from a limited colour palette.

Depending on how important the proposed works are to their future plans for the property buyers may choose to make their purchase conditional on receiving a Certificat d’urbanisme d’information (known as a CUa) which indicates that a future planning application is likely to result in a favourable outcome.

We ask our clients what their intentions are for the property following completion of their purchase and whether they would still go ahead with the purchase if they couldn’t convert the cellar or barn, extend into the garden or otherwise improve or alter the property as they have planned. We discuss the additional costs and delays which may be associated with the relevant planning requirements. Based on our clients’ responses we can negotiate the necessary amendments to the initial contract to give them to option to withdraw from the purchase without penalty if they learned that their project was not possible.

Contact our French law solicitors today

If you have any questions or would like advice on creating a French Will, cross-border estate planning or buying/selling a French property, please get in touch with our specialist French Legal Services team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0768.


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