Non régularisation de travaux - worth the risk?

I imagine there’s a lot of people here who have bought property in France - I would really appreciate your advice!

I am looking to buy a mid terraced house. I have put in an offer and it has been accepted. The compromis is not yet signed.

The current owner bought the house in 2018 and has done a lot of work to it - it has been renovated (as far as I can tell, at least!) to a high standard. It would require no work on moving in.

However when I took the compromis to the notaire he noticed that there were no annexes showing that any works done had been given planning permission (certificats d’urbanisme, I think!). I went back to the estate agent asking if the owner would be happy to get this sorted and he replied saying that he would be do so for the works he did on the front of the house (windows, doors, roof) but not for the work he did on the extension at the back.

The extension at the back, as far as I can tell, existed when the current owner bought the house but was not heated / connected to the electricity - evidence being a difference of 6m2 between the purchase in '18 and the current advert for the house. He also re-cladded it ans replaced the windows (fairly sure of this at it all looks very new, the cladding is wood…)

As far as I can tell there are two possible reasons why he doesn’t want to do the it administratively regularised :

  1. He did work to it that he didn’t get planning permission for (heating, elec, cladding)
  2. The previous owner did the extension and didn’t have planning permission for it

Either way, he would be liable for it. The latter , I suppose, is potentially worse as it could be ordered for demolition if it was in the last 6 years.

So I am trying to weigh up whether it’s worth the risk purchasing this property part of which potentially doesn’t have planning permission… What’s fruatrating is the lack of info: how can I find out if it’s just scenario 1 or if its both, for example?

And what are the chances of the mairie finding out, within the next 5ish years?

If anybody knows how I can get more info to have a better grasp of the risk that would be really helpful, also any advice generally would be gratefully received!

Oh dear. New Owners sometimes find that work has been done without the official permission/checks and/or done by unqualified folk (with no guarantees)

The results of such might mean that work is substandard/not suitable/wrong… and, of course, any extras to a property can mean extra house-taxes to pay. (increasing the value or adding living space etc etc…)
~Either or both mean more outlay for the Buyer…

I do hope your Notaire digs deeply into this. It is certainly something for the Seller/Owner to sort out with the local council/whoever… before you sign anything.


When the fisc catch up with it (as they surely will with the change of owner and the completion of form H1) YOU will become responsible and any uplift on the local taxes will be YOUR responsibility.
Your move…


Thanks both, hadn’t even considered the tax side of things…

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When we bought our (18th C) last year this time our notaire was quite keen. She listened to our concerns and noted in record the various items of concern- in our case it was neglect rather than house additions.

Our price came down a few times because of her Knowledge base and diligence.

As you are in the process and active with notaire… I would advise you to be VERY open and PRESS the notaire to press the selling agent.

As was said above, once the sale is complete, the onus belongs to you (donc)

So I’ve now had an updated compromis stating that the only work done in the last ten years was the reroofing. This is clearly not the case as only a cursory glance at the house would tell you… What could the owner be trying to avoid here? The diagnostique technique is all up to scratch as far as I can tell.

This is great advice, thank you

From a personal point of view, I would most probably walk away, as if the owners aren’t coming clean about something which you mention is quite obvious, then I would certainly question what else is lurking beneath the surface??? Unless of course the price reflects a level of risk.


A house is usually the largest financial investment of your life and the days are long gone when such a purchase will see your stake increase to any degree. You can never be sure what you are buying is all that it seems however in this situation you are already doubting your reasons to buy and asking what others might do which is only a decision you can make and live with.
As you are asking what others would do my advice is WALK AWAY.


I thought exactly the same as letsmile. If they’re lying about this that’s a really bad sign that there are other things that are not right.

I haven’t read everything to find out how much you’re “invested” here, but my advice is walk away.

There are many properties available in France all the time. It’s not like the UK where there’s a dearth of properties. We only found out we were being fraudulently sold to when we diligently followed up the answer to a very peripheral question. This feels like that.

There is always another opportunity.

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I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole personally. I don’t deal with shifty people. :slightly_smiling_face:

I would be concerned about this. It is not just that you have no decennial insurance to cover any of the works, as if it looks as if it has been done well then may not need it. But the planning permission could be worrying, particularly for the extension. In extreme cases (and this would be extreme) authorities can demand that illegal structures are demolished. And of course if out of the norms this would make an equal problem for you to sell in future.

You also don’t know on what basis the property taxes have been calculated, as if a lot of things have been done then the owner should have submitted an H2 form to allow these to be reassessed. If a planning department has concerns about a property they can ask for this to be redone, and if you try to rectify the situation then the will certainly ask for one. Improvement works can also be subject to a one off taxe d’aménagement, as well as increasing taxe foncière.

Planning permission can be applied for retrospectively. Ask the notaire how you can be assured that the house complies with planning legislation, and whether this can be done before you sign.

(Are these people English by any chance?)

Thanks everyone for your advice.

The difficulty is it seems that with this type of house in this area (urban area with very few planning restrictions) it is quite ‘normal’ to find work done on a house which has not been regularised. If no neighbour is bothered by any of the work it will usually go unnoticed by the mairie. With this in mind I knocked on the doors of the two neighbours, both of whom said they’d had no problems with any of the work that had been carried out.

It seems that I will need to be fairly pragmatic about this if I want to buy a house in this area.

The seller has not purchased assurance décenalle , but this doesn’t mean he’s not liable in case of any serious hidden defects , right? What are the rules on this?

The notaire has said that we will ask for the definitive list of works carried out, who did them and completion dates, along with details of the extent to which they affect the exterior appearance of the house to be included in the acte de vente. This to me seems quite satisfactory and will help me assess the liability I’m taking on, providing of course that the seller agrees. However I have a few questions:

  1. It seems a bit weird that you can go from a compromis which says 'no works carried out in the last ten years ’ to an acte de vente which details work carried out in the last ten years. Does the acte de vente just cancel out the compromis?

  2. How does the acts de vente differ in terms of detail from the compromis? What details does it contain exactly?

  3. To what extent is it a negotiation? What are the rules for the buyer if he decides to pull out? How much does the decision to pull out need to be justified?

Thank you all again!

If you’ve not signed the first “yes, I want to buy it”… walk away fast.

If you have signed the first “yes, I want to buy it” advise your Notaire to tell the Seller that you are walking away from the property because it is definitely NOT as described …
and then walk away.

From the manner in which you are wavering, it seems to me that you want this property no matter what…

Surely you know sufficient to put the whole project under a cloud… which means that nothing should come as a surprise in the future… and if you go ahead and Buy… I seriously doubt that any future claim you might seek against the Seller would stand up to scrutiny.

Work which should have gained permission and/or Permits, but did not…(no matter that the neighbours don’t mind) is simply a no-no and that’s it, when one is considering purchasing.

At some stage, this will come home to roost. The fact that you know about it and by continuing with Purchase are accepting the situation puts you in the line of fire when said chickens finally land.


Caveat Emptor

There is no way you can guarantee holding any seller to any liability once they have sold to you.

I think you need to take a very big step back and remove all emotion from this, as it appears you may be letting your heart start to rule your head, which never plays out well, in my experience. You need to be pragmatic, and just look at the data.

If there was a great shortage of properties to purchase in France, at a stretch, I could understand some possible compromises, but properties are abundant, and also at reasonable prices, without all the baggage that this property has. Why on earth would you expose yourself to all the potential risk and financial exposure etc???

If I look at your last message, you seem desperate to try to make it work, despite all the very obvious alarm bells, so just step back, and my advice would be to be clinical, and just consider if you would make the same decision if it was a business decision and not simply personal.

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Why not take the bull by the horns and go and have a word with the person responsible for planning at the mairie? The fact that the neighbours don’t have any issues, does not necessarily mean that the planning department will overlook it.

In theory he is liable (unless you sign a waiver agreeing not to hold him responsible) but if remedial works would cost more money than he happens to have, then no matter how much money time and stress you put into pursuing him through the course, he will never be able to pay even if wanted to.

Have you signed the compromis? And was it more than 10 days ago? In the first 10 days you can cancel for no reason at all, after that it is if a conditional clause has not been met. Or in this case that there was a big fat lie. If the compromis mentions no work was done, and it has been, then that error should be sufficient reason to cancel without loosing your deposit. The notaire may well say not, because it’s a hassle and many notaires like an easy life, but you can be ferocious.

If the work looks ok the issue for me is not the decennial insurance but that work is not aux normes which could cause problems later down the road. What do the diagnostics say? There is also the possibility that there is a large amount of underpaid taxes lurking which you may end up liable for. I have a feeling that these are linked to the property not the owner, so do not vanish on a sale but remain due by owner of the property. This needs to be clarified.

A different approach if you are beyond the 10 days could be to say you wish to cancel your compromis (because it is fraudulent) and want your deposit back. But would be happy to sign another one and buy the property once these issues are resolved.

The other issue to consider is whether you will be happy in a house where there is a feeling of having been duped? How much of a bad taste will it leave?

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And that’s why it’s even worse if you sign the Acte with the unapproved works listed. That proves that you knew about them and accepted to buy knowing about them.

You won’t be able to claim vice caché. Because it wasn’t caché any more, was it :-).

I am also beginning to wonder about the neutrality of the notaire. signing with the vices added it looks like putting you as the buyer in a worse position.

Walk away. This stinks.

Trouble is… if a Purchaser seems “really keen no matter what” (eg: as in this case) a Notaire will do his best to ensure the Purchaser really does know what he is purchasing (whether it be good or bad).

It was the Notaire who brought to the Purchaser’s attention that there was something iffy…

anyway, I’m stepping back.