How to Apply for a Building Permit in France

Originally posted on & updated on 2nd February, 2024

To be allowed to start a new construction site or transformation of your french house and/or ANY if its annexes (outbuilding, barn, garage, pool, veranda, garden shed, etc.), you must first obtain a building permit from the local authorities.

Anyone who has bought property in France and considered to take on a building project will know that the bureaucracy and seemingly ever-changing regulations can make the understanding and application of this process more complicate that it ought to be, welcome to France! Here’s some information and tips to help you getting started with your project.

Does your Project Actually Require a Permit?

First of all, you must ensure that your project requires such a building permit, this is compulsory for projects with new construction with a gross floor area (called Shob) greater than 20 sq. meters, when the use of a building is changed, for modifications to load-bearing structures or the facade of the building.

In addition, the town planning code lists works that require a building permit (article R.421-1). Note that even a barn or hangar, with no foundations it is not exempt from a permit. If you have a property in mind or that you have viewed, then ask your agent and the owners as well prior to contacting the mairie.

How to Apply for a Building Permit in France?

If your project requires a building permit you will need complete the Cerfa form no 13406 * 01 of “application for a building permit for a detached house and/or its annexes”.

Note that if the operation involves demolitions, you will not need to apply for a demolition permit in addition, this form will suffice. This form is available at the town hall and can be downloaded from the service-public portal. If your project or property is on a classified site, a registered site or a nature reserve, you must produce additional details.

Preparing your Permit Application

You must attach various documents to your request and must provide the following eight documents:

• site plan of where the property is located
• ground plan of the dwellings to be built or modified in three dimensions
• cross-sectional plan of the land and of the dwelling and details if the landscaped is changed/altererred
• notice describing the land and your overall project
• drawings of the facades and rooves
• graphic document showing integration of the project into its environment
• image showing the land in its immediate environment
• image showing the land and property from a distance in the landscape.

Although you are not required by law to appoint an architect, we would recommend you speak to your agent and consider hiring a local architect. They can help with the plans and preparing your application and will typically offer a fixed price to help prepare and submit it.

Submitting your Request

The building permit application must be submitted to the town hall of the commune where the property is located. You can also send it by registered letter with proof of receipt (this is called a ‘Lettre Recommandée avec Avis de Reception). The town hall will issue you with a receipt confirming the submission date and registration number.

Within 15 days, your planning request will be published at the town hall where it will remain for the duration of the investigation, approx. 2 months. If you have not received anything within this period, then you’ll be pleased to know that you have a permit in principle for your project (but a certificate indicating the date of obtaining this permit will be issued to you on request). It’s highly likely that the town hall will write to you to confirm their favorable decision.

In the month following the submission of your file, the town hall/mairie can also send you a letter:

• to notify you that a document(s) is missing from your file.
• to notify you that an extension period applies to allow the necessary consultations
• to ask you for minor changes. These prescriptions must be explained and you will be required to adhere to them.

The town hall can refuse the granting of the permit, or postpone its decision and pronounce a delay. This often happens when planning rules are being changed; the reasons and the new deadline will be written in their letter.

Finally, if you already have a valid building permit and want to make some (minor) changes to your project, then you must apply for a modification permit called Cerfa form n ° 13411 * 01.

Before you Start the Work

Once the permit has been granted (in writing or tacitly), there are still formalities to be completed before starting to work o the project. You must send the mayor a declaration of the opening of the site in 3 copies.

On site, you must display the application with the town hall stamp and install a sign visible from the public road describing your project. This signage must remain there for the duration of the work. There are models from the website of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing. The town hall must display your permit within 8 days of its issue, for a period of at least 2 months. During this period, it may be contested by third parties.

Keep your Building License Up to Date

The building permit are valid for a period of 2 years, so if you do not start the work within this period, or if your work is interrupted for more than a year, your permit will lapse. You will then have to re-apply for a permit at the town hall.

It is possible to extend it for one year, provided that the town planning rules have not changed unfavorably towards your project. To obtain an extension of your license, you must submit an application to the town hall in duplicate, or send it by recorded delivery, at least 2 months before the expiry of the validity period of your license. If you do not get a response within 2 months, you can consider your license valid for one more year.

It’s important to note that a building permit can only be extended once, so take your time, use the appropriate builders, artisans and architects, it will make your life a lot easier, and your project cheaper!

For more information about the buying process, visit our buying guide and register with us if you wish to receive alerts of properties based on your criteria.

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