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Why nearly 2 million addresses in France are set to change

The Local France
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Why nearly 2 million addresses in France are set to change
A square in Les Éparges, named after French writer Maurice Genevoix (1890-1980), secretary of the Academie Francaise. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of home addresses across France are set to change due to a new law that is coming into force that means no more nameless roads in French villages.


Officials of villages in France with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants have until June 1st to fill out a government website with updated information about street names and house numbers, which includes naming roads that were previously nameless.

The changes are a result of the 3Ds law – so-called because it relates to Différenciation, Décentralisation, Déconcentration – which was adopted in 2022, and requires communes to allocate formal addresses to houses on the estimated 200,000 or so streets with no name.

Until this law, smaller communes had not been obliged to name individual roads, or number individual houses, giving rise to some interesting addresses – that are more like descriptions – in some hamlets.

From June 1st, however, ‘house with green door after the bakery by the church’ will no longer be acceptable as an address. Good news for property owners who have had trouble getting packages delivered.

How common are unnamed streets in France?

There are plenty. According to La Poste, there were about 1.8 million French households had no exact formal address at the end of 2023 – a figure that's down from 3.5 million in 2017.

In all, it said, 20,000 of France’s 34,000 or so municipalities had at least one unnamed road. As recently as February, more than half of local authorities with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants still had to update their database.

Communes with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants had, until now, no obligation to name streets, or even squares. From June 1st, all roads must have a name; and all properties must be numbered. 

Most of the time, a lack of street name in a hamlet is unproblematic. Everyone knows everyone in smalltown France, and postal workers know their areas well. But, in emergency situations, for example, it can be an issue.

Under the 3Ds law, communes have to deliver their ‘local address database’ – which in turn populates a national database – by June 1st, 2024. This has been known about for a while, giving communes time to agree any new street names.

What does it mean for people living in these areas?

There's a bit of admin work coming your way, if you live in a currently unnumbered house on one of the currently unnamed streets.

Once your street has a name and your house a number, you will have to tell any employers, utility suppliers, telephone operators et cetera that your address has been updated. How and when you do this is up to you.


But I like my ‘lieu-dit’ address!

It’s okay. There was some early confusion for some mayors, but lieu-dit - which simply means locality - addresses are fine. The rule of thumb is if emergency services can find it quickly and easily, an address is good. 

In future, rather than your address being “Lieu-dit Les Essarts”, the address will change to “[house number and street name], Lieu-dit Les Essarts”.

Do I have a say in my street's name and house number, then?

No. That would be a local authority matter. But you could end up with an unexpected property number, depending on where you live. This is because the database is intended to help emergency services and delivery companies find a particular address easily.

If you live in splendid isolation in the only house on a one-lane road that’s a kilometre after the crossroads, you may find your house is number 1,000 – because your property is 1,000m up the road.

This is going to get expensive, isn’t it?

It won’t be as pricey as first feared. Under original plans, local authorities were obliged to pay for street signs and house numbers, but the house number requirement has been dropped, and it’s up to local mairies to decide how many street signs are necessary.

However, if you want to arrange a house number for yourself, be aware that the mairie can dictate what it looks like, so that all properties remain in keeping with the village’s rural aesthetic. 

READ MORE: How to get planning permission for your French property

Who can access the database?


Anyone. The database is in open data format. Public and private entities will use it to find your property to deliver goods and services – everything from parcels and letters, to connecting properties to the fibre network, and getting to you in an emergency.

The data available is limited to house number, street name and commune. No other information will be available, or required, as this law refers only to the location of a building.



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