Advice for those undertaking a major or specialist renovation

IMAGE: Tips on what to expect when adding a major renovation

If you’re thinking about a renovation, consider the paperwork that is involved

We’ve already covered the basics of doing a superficial renovation here, but how about if you wish to undertake a major project? Firstly, as well as bearing in mind all the things detailed in our previous article, any work that increases the external surface area of the apartment, creates new surface levels or affects the exterior in any way will require formal authorisation (a construction permit). The same applies for any work at all on a building considered a ‘Landmark’ (managed by the Architectes des Bâtiments de France).

Also, if the property has more than 170 square meters of habitable space, it must be inspected by an Architecte Diplômé Par le Gouvernement, who will draw up the plans and make the application on your behalf. However, this is a process with which we can assist – and, in fact, even if your property is smaller in size, we always recommend the use of an architect, interior designer or project manager. These are all services that we offer in-house, and it means that we can co-ordinate aspects of the project including:

The first step

In any event, the first step is to find out whether it’s the local Town Hall (la Mairie) or the DDE (Direction Departementale d’Equipement) who deal with permit responsibility. Then you can find out what the local plan (Plan Local d’Urbanisme) will allow. This provides the framework for local planning rules.

The next task is to apply for a Certificat d’urbanisme – a planning advice certificate that gives general information on a particular site. There are two versions of this certificate – the basic Certificat d’Urbanisme d’Information and the Certificat d’Urbanisme Pre-operationnel for more major works. Whilst this is most definitely not planning permission for a particular project, it will help pave the way.

Finally, the last stage in the process is to apply for the all-important Permis de Construire. In most cases, it is normally the mayor (or an authorised town board member) who will formally sign the consent (or refusal) on behalf of the public authorities.

It’s worth remembering that it is a criminal offence to undertake works requiring a construction permit without getting prior consent, with a maximum penalty of a €300,000 fine and two years in prison. Whilst it would have to be something pretty serious for that to happen, at the very least you’ll be made to apply for a construction permit retrospectively – which could mean having to destroy your beautiful new terrace/rooftop skylight/spiral staircase etc.

False economy

Don’t be tempted to get the work done on the cheap either – i.e. by offering cash – it’s just not worth it. Whilst the initial outlay may be less, the contractor will not provide you with any guarantee. This means you will have no way of claiming against the contractor if any problems arise. Also, the same invoice may be needed for the tax authorities, for example when you sell.

When it comes to insuring the work, each contractor must be covered by two different insurance contracts:`

In either case, it is important that all work undertaken complies with safety, sanitary, hygiene and energy consumption regulations. The code of practice for this is set out in the Documents Techniques Unifiés (DTU).

Finally, for any renovation involving demolition of a wall, the opening of a supporting wall or the replacement of a window, a representative from the règlement de copropriété will have to be involved, and they may insist on using one of their own architects. As a matter of fact, the walls and windows are considered as part of your private property, but they are also part of the main envelope of the building. In conclusion, always review the rules prior to do that type of work.