How do I know if a building permit is legal?
Is your neighbor undertaking construction or extension work? Do they have the right to build? They tell you they’ve obtained a building permit, but is it legal? How can I contest the building permit?
In principle, the act of building requires the issue of a planning permission. A building permit is one of these. These authorizations are governed by a legal system set out in the French Code de l’urbanisme, to which you should refer directly for any legal questions you may have.
How to check and contest the legality of a building permit?
1. A building permit is issued following a specific procedure. Has it been respected?
Building or extending a single-family home is not a trivial project. The scale of the work involved can affect people who are directly or indirectly impacted by it. For this reason, anyone planning to build, rebuild or extend a single-family home is required to submit a building permit application to the town hall. This application must be in writing and submitted to the Town Hall, and must contain administrative forms.
In addition, any modification to the building permit application or to a permit already issued requires a new or amended application to the authorities. In principle, movable installations are exempt from this requirement (caravans or cars, for example).
To find out whether a building permit is legal, you need to look at how it is drawn up. Failure to comply with the rules governing the preparation of a building permit will directly affect its validity. An invalid building permit is illegal, and it is therefore forbidden to build under these conditions. Here are the rules to examine to determine whether a building permit is valid and legal.
For major projects, the services of a professional architect are mandatory. The work is considered significant if the floor area created exceeds 150m², or if the total built area resulting from the extension exceeds 150m².
This threshold has recently been modified and only applies to building permit applications submitted on or after March 1, 2017.
Contents of the building permit application file
The application file must contain the regulatory documents required by the Code de l’urbanisme, plus numerous additional documents and the use of administrative application forms.
The file must include at least a descriptive note, a site plan, a ground plan, a section plan, facade and roof plans, a graphic insertion into the environment, close-up and distant photographs of the plot and, of course, a correctly completed and signed cerfa form.
Failure to comply with the contents of the file, or to carry out the work in accordance with the description in the file, will affect the validity of the building permit and may result in an annulment appeal.
Filing and publicity
The building permit application is submitted to the town hall, and posted. It is then notified to the applicant, before being forwarded in various ways.
Please note that, as the building permit application is an administrative act, some people subject to protective measures may not be able to file it alone.
Processing the building permit application
The application submitted in this way will be examined for about 2 months by the relevant administrative authorities, after consultation with certain bodies (architects of the Bâtiments de France, ERDF, SNCF, etc.). For large-scale projects, a public inquiry is required. If the public inquiry is irregular, the building permit is invalid.
The relevant authorities must check that the urban planning rules defined by the Plan Local d’Urbanisme (PLU) and the Code de l’Urbanisme have been respected. Here too, the validity of the building permit is at stake.
2. What was the decision?
At the end of the regulatory review, the requested authorization will either be refused, or granted by an express decision. This decision can only be taken by order of the mayor. In the event of refusal, the order must set out the full reasons for the decision. The decision to grant or refuse authorization is notified to the applicant before being posted.
When authorization is granted, the permit is presumed to be legal, but only until it has been withdrawn by the mayor or annulled by the court. Building permits can only be withdrawn or cancelled for illegality.
It should be noted that if work is not undertaken within a certain timeframe, or if it is interrupted for a certain period of time, the building permit is no longer valid and lapses.
Please note that the fact that the mayor authorizes a neighbor to build or extend their house in no way guarantees that the PLU and the Code de l’Urbanisme are respected.
In many cases, the formal and substantive rules are ignored.
How can I contest the validity of a building permit?
Anyone wishing to know whether a building permit is legal should contact an expert lawyer for an analysis. It is advisable to act quickly. An illegal building permit can be contested, but action must be taken within a certain timeframe (2 months), otherwise it will no longer be possible to contest the permit.
If illegality is detected and the project is disturbing you, you can use a lawyer to assert your rights.
First, you can lodge an appeal with the mayor to have the permit withdrawn.
If this is unsuccessful, you can then apply to the Administrative Court for the building permit to be annulled.
An amicable and confidential negotiation with your neighbor can also be initiated.
Your neighbor is building or extending his or her house? Your neighbor has a building permit, but you’re wondering whether it’s legal? Contact an AGN Avocats lawyer in your area, who will suggest a strategy for challenging the validity of the building permit.