Building Registration on Purchase/Tax Fonciere Issue


Hoping someone can help with a question about notaire liability when necessary paperwork is not filed with relevant authorities upon purchase of a property or tax office liability when they make errors in judgement.

We bought a large town house in 2006 and didn’t finalise the purchase until we got the planning permission we needed to turn it into 10 apartments. We bought the building from a company who had been using the habitable part of the house as their head office.

Went to the tax office at Auch this week to complain about an 85% increase in our taxe fonciere bill (it transpired that they hadn’t given us the 2 year exoneration on some flats we’d built so far in the building and this they have promised to rectify).

However, while we were there we had a look at the file and saw that they were also charging us a commercial premises rate for the part of the house that was not yet developed. I questioned this and was told that part of the house is still listed as commercial premises and the notaire should have changed the “etat descriptif de division” at the time of purchase and we were now going to have to get a notaire to make this change. AND we can’t backdate any claim for overpayment so we will only get the benefit from next year.

The crazy thing is that we went into the tax office in 2007 and made a request for a taxe fonciere reduction due to the fact that the house was uninhabitable because we’d ripped out most of the services and walls etc to put in the apartments. We have a note written at the time from the tax office saying we’d told them that the local commercial was no longer existing because of the work we were doing on the place (reference also made to our permis de construire) and that we were making a demand for focniere reduction. We later received a reduction and congratulated ourselves on getting this.

BUT we were told last week at the tax office that the geometre had visited our building at the time and decided that it was still partly commercial in nature and had only given us a partial reduction. We asked why the geometre hadn’t asked for entrance to the building so he could evaluate it fully but we were told he didn’t have the right to do this so made a judgement from the outside. How crazy is that? How can they make such a judgement from looking at a building which probably had all its shutters closed! AND because we were not told we’d only got a partial reduction we didn’t know to complain or at least get it changed for future years.

So our questions are:

Any idea what this change will cost to do and how long does it take to register the change?

Would we have a case for our notaire at the time of sale to do this for us now for free because it was his job to do this? His office is 2 hours away so we need to know it’s worth the effort.

Is it true we can’t claim back any overpayment even though we can prove the tax office knew in 2007? I thought we could claim back overpayments on taxe fonciere up to 31 Dec the following year so at least we should be able to claim for 2010 and 2011.

Hope someone can help by telling us what our rights are in this situation.

Many thanks in advance.


Many thanks for your response Guillaume. Went to see a local notaire who said it would cost around 700 euros to make the change so we went back to the tax office to challenge their assertion that we must make the change.

I argued that nowhere did it state what % of the surface was commercial vs habitable and so I said I'd make a declaration that the commercial part was 1 square metre!

After much discussion, they eventually agreed to remove the commercial tax completely and call it habitable space and, due to the photos I took in to show that it is not in habitable state , they will call it a dependance until the work is complete. So in the end the tax office was very helpful - just need to not be fobbed off, check your facts and go in armed with lots of evidence.

Just wish we'd checked this years ago.......

Dear Kate,

This is a late reply but it may be useful.

As regards to local taxes, the owner who disputes the classification of the property may request a modification upon justification, each year within the period of complaint provided for in local taxes matters; i.e. until 31st December of the year following the one of the payment request.

In other words, until 31st December 2011, you can challenge the tax from the date it is payable in 2010 (usually around October or November of the same year). The success of this procedure very much depends on the justifications you can provide which seem quite straightforward in your case but this would have to be confirmed.
As regards to holding the notaire’s liability, you may have a claim if:

- it is proven that the notaire should have made this change at the time,

- you have not signed any valid document relieving him from his duty of care on this particular point,

- you can evidence a loss resulting from this proven mistake.

I would be very surprised if the notaire admitted he made a mistake and compensated you in any way but it is always good to start from a simple request like this (of which you would keep records of course).

The procedure should not take long to prepare as it is a simple modification of the état descriptif de division and the cost is provided by the notarial fixed tariff and depends on the value of the property (requesting a quote before instructing the notaire).

For the rest, it will be either a mathematical decision (comparing the amount of claimed loss against procedure costs) or a point of principle.

I hope this helps.

You are well beyond my competence. You might want to contact an attorney who is generally helpful to expats, who find themselves in positions similar to yours. He also has a newletter that is valuable. The address is:


Good luck.