What do I need to know about doing a basic renovation?

IMAGE: View of a traditional Paris property

It’s important to have the right paperwork in place before embarking on a renovation project

Words: Marion Emin / Caroline Harrap

It’s highly likely that once you get the keys to your new apartment, you’ll want to think about doing a renovation. It’s not unusual for French owners to live in the same apartment for many years, without having done much to keep it up to date, or if the place has been rented out then it may be showing signs of wear and tear. Also, it’s these types of property that tend to be the better bargains – if your place is ‘move-in ready’, you’re going to be paying heavily for the privilege.

In any case, undertaking a renovation project means that you can design the apartment exactly to your own tastes. Alternatively, if your apartment was purchased as an investment for long-term rental, you can plan accordingly for that too. With all that in mind, here is what you need to know about doing a basic renovation – i.e. nothing that would affect the structure or exterior, which we go into in more detail here, and assuming that you live in a normal building with no special historical significance.

Getting under way

The first thing to say is that you should expect to be on the premises almost daily – to ensure the work is being done correctly and on time – or if you live abroad then find someone else who can lead the project management. Here at VINGT Paris, this is one of the many services we can provide for you in-house and it’s something that we do normally recommend. Having a dedicated project manager is a very worthwhile investment, as not only can they can help out with every aspect of the work, but even with the negotiation of the quotations from the different contractors. In addition to that, we have trusted partners in all areas of design and renovation with whom we can put you in touch.

There’s also some important paperwork of which you need to be aware. Whilst a straightforward redecoration doesn’t need any permits, small improvements such as replacing windows and doors or doing a basic attic conversion will require a Déclaration Préalable, usually acquired at the local town hall. For any major work, a construction permit (Permis de Construire) will be required (more details of which can be found here). Equally, to make changes to this, once it is approved, will require a Permis de Construire Modificatif.

Whilst there are no fees for those permits per se, there is a tax that applies to any work requiring permission to build, be it the Déclaration Préalable or full Permis de Construire. The Taxe d’Aménagement is composed of various amounts, levied by agencies at local, regional and national levels, and is issued on the day of authorisation.

Keeping on track

Once renovation work starts, a Déclaration d’Ouverture de Chantier (a declaration that the work has begun) must be submitted and the Permis de Construire should be displayed at the entrance. The authorities (CRAM, Inspection du Travail, town board etc…) have the right to inspect the work to check that it complies with the terms of the document. Then, once the renovations are complete, a Déclaration d’Achèvement des Travaux (declaration that the work has ended) must be completed within 30 days. Finally, a Certificat de Conformité will be returned by the authorities within three months. If any of these documents fail to be secured, a fine may be imposed or worse.

So now that you have the relevant paperwork in place, you’re all set to spruce up your new Parisian pad and make it into ‘home sweet home’. And you can also rest safe in the knowledge that any structural work done by professionally registered builders or artisans is insured for 10 years.