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French property: How planning permission rules change in 2022

The process of getting planning permission for works on your French property is set to become more straightforward as communes in France begin accepting online applications.

A French worker renovates a Parisian property. Planning permission applications will become easier from January 1st.
A French worker renovates a Parisian property. Planning permission applications will become easier from January 1st. (Photo by Boyan Topaloff / AFP)

In France, you need a building permit (permis de construire) or a pre-declaration of building work (Déclaration préalable de travaux) to legally construct properties or make renovations. 

A permis de construire is mostly targeted at people wanting to build a new house but can also apply to an extension, large outdoor buildings such as garden sheds or installing a swimming pool. You can find a full list of reasons as to why you would need this permit here

A déclaration préalable de travaux is mostly targeted at people looking to do works on existing houses and covers most renovation works, barn conversions, installation of solar panels, fence building, hedge growing and even requests to add a door or window. You can find a full list of reasons of why you might need to submit a declaration here

In the past, requests for planning permission had to be made in person at the closest mairie. 

But from January 1st 2022 that changes. In theory, all communes will allow for planning permission requests to be submitted electronically. This can be done either by email or via an online form.

There is, however, no central website for planning application, so you will need to check on your local town hall website to see the process in your area, and whether you apply using a website or an email. It will still be possible to go to the mairie in person or send a letter. 

In practice, some communes – especially the smaller ones – will probably be a little slow on the uptake of the new electronic system, but according to the director of the new service, almost all of them will have implemented it in the first few months of 2022.

Planning authorities in communes with more than 3,500 people will also be obliged to provide you with advice, communicated electronically, to get planning permission if your initial request is denied.

We recommend that you contact your local mairie before submitting an application for planning permission, as this can make the whole process far more straightforward and most mayors are help with advice on how the process works.

The French government says the new system of online requests will speed up the planning process and make it more transparent. 

“A building permit is subject to an enormous amount of regulations including environmental codes, heritage codes, health codes and construction codes. All of these factors must be considered before advice for planning permission can be given,” said Jean-Baptiste Lasne, who is in charge of the new electronic service. 

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Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Towns and villages through France are raising property tax rates for second-home owners, with many areas voting for the maximum 60 percent increase.

Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Even though France’s taxe d’habitation (householders’ tax) is in the process of being phased out for most French residents, second-home owners are still required to pay it.

This year more towns have voted to increase it, and others have recently gained the ability to add a surcharge for second-home owners, with French daily Le Parisien reporting that the residence tax “continues to soar.” 

Municipalities in zones tendues (areas with a housing shortage) have the ability to choose to increase taxe d’habitation by up to 60 percent for second home owners.

From 2023, several new areas – including Nantes – will join the list of zones tendues, meaning they will be able to vote to increase taxes for second-home owners.

This year, large cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Arles and Saint-Jean-de-Luz saw their city councils vote to increase the tax at the maximum 60 percent.

READ MORE: Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

Some areas have still not chosen to apply the increase, but those looking to buy a second home in France should beware that these municipalities could vote to increase the taxe d’habitation in the future.

In 2020, cities on average voted to increase the residence tax on second homes by 248.50, in comparison to €217 in 2017. This year, that amount is expected to be even higher.

On top of the taxe d’habitation, second-home owners also have to pay the separate taxe foncière property tax, which is itself rising sharply in many areas.