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Having worked in France for many years, we can recommend, based on personal experience, good and reliable architects, designers and contractors.

During planning and construction work in France, you may encounter differences in approaches and logistics that stem from fundamental differences between France and other countries in approaches and methods in this area.

Potential difficulties:

Building work involving any external alterations to an existing building, or an increase in the habitable floor area and build-up area, requires a planning permission.

Interior alterations that do not affect the exterior of the existing building do not require a planning permission: all you need here is a works declaration.

Before starting any major renovation work, you must obtain either a planning permission or a alteration permit if you intend to alter only the shape of windows or doors or the colour of the facade. This cannot be done once the work has been completed. If you fail to obtain such permission, you risk fines and huge problems, right up to possibly having to demolish the work.

The area of a building is strictly regulated by law: each plot has a land occupation coefficient (COS), indicating the maximum proportion that can be built on. This figure, however, varies strongly from region to region, even within the French Riviera. It is therefore vital to clarify everything from the start. We can obtain a special COS certificate from the local town hall for a specific plot. This document enables the construction to take place and establishes the maximum permitted area.

France also places restrictions on the height of buildings under construction. For a detached house, the maximum height is usually 6.5-7 m to the top of the roof.

Numerous servitudes (the equivalent in a civil law system of common law easements) –legally established restrictions or, conversely, permissions, such as right of way, right of access, restrictions on the height of plants in order not to interfere with a view of the sea, etc., exist in France. Be sure to check which apply/do not apply to your property.

Even if your house meets all the minimum standards, you may still be refused planning permission if its external appearance would not fit in with the existing buildings around it. To avoid this, we recommend dealing only with tried and tested local architects who have a lengthy and successful track record in your chosen region. Thanks to their experience, they can help you to avoid making planning mistakes and wasting considerable time.

Something else to be aware of is that you will not always be able to paint your house the colour you want. Each district allows a choice of a limited range of hues, so as to ensure harmony across all the buildings in a particular location.

10 or more contractors rather than 1. Each package of work is performed by individual companies specialising in a narrow field. In France, the architect does not just work on the design, but also obtains permissions and oversees the construction work, as well as protecting the client's interests in dealings with contractors. He or she is the chief coordinator of the whole process, and the person responsible for quality surveillance. He or she deals with all the administrative issues associated with obtaining permissions and certificates of compliance. The architect must be suitably insured, and must be familiar with the legal aspects of construction.

If a planning permission is granted, a certificate of compliance for the work performed must be obtained at the end of the work. If you fail to obtain such a certificate, you could have problems in the future with the local administrative authorities, as well as with future buyers should you decide to sell the property. The certificate must be obtained by the architect carrying out the work.


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