Thursday, 28 January 2010

Renovating a house in France – pick the right area according to your project!

When buying a property in France with the intention to renovate it is important to check the PLU (Plan Local d'Urbanisme). Visit the local Mairie to check it out. In some areas the development permitted might be restricted so you might not be able to go ahead with your project.

I recently visited the planning office (DDE) in Dinan (Brittany) with a client who was hoping to convert the outbuilding into a gîte to earn some extra cash. As the property was about 40 m away from a farm, he was disappointed to be told he could not go ahead with his project. The change of use (Changement de destination) was refused. The outbuilding although rather large (10 x 5 m) had to stay in its present condition. As he could not renovate this property he decided to put it back on the market and buy another. This was time consuming and cost him a lot of money as he had to pay the French estate agent’s and the notaire’s fees twice.

The same would apply if a house is within 500 meters of a listed site, building or historic monument. Indeed renovation projects are very restricted. Once you apply for planning, the application gets sent off to the Architectes des Bâtiments de France who are very strict about the architecture and the materials used. Even if you know the local Maire very well, he or she cannot overrule any refusal or condition stipulated by the Architectes des Bâtiments.

My advice about planning:

Don’t assume your application will pass because your neighbour had the same job done (for example: building a conservatory) as he might be in a different ‘zone’ as you.

Don’t start any renovation which needs a planning consent before you get the official go-ahead from the mairie. If you get caught doing some work without permit you may get highly fined and will have to put the building back in its original state.

If you have an unusual project in mind, ensure the French property in not near a historic centre, in a conservation area, or a national park!

1 comment:

  1. Good advice.

    I had a similar gotcha for a garage I wanted to build. The Mairie said my garage had to be 70m from the center line of an adjacent main road.

    Fortunately I was able to sequeeze it in a corner of the garden, but as Rachel says, if you have plans, check with the DDE and the mairie beforehand.