Note or Certificat d’Urbanisme?

The note de renseignements d’urbanisme (NU) and the certificat d’urbanisme (CU) are formalities that are usually carried out by the notaire when purchasing a property. Although they are sometimes considered similarly by certain professionals, the two documents purport very different information and legal consequences and one of them should no longer be requested by the notaire.

The CU was originally an administrative document of information on the planning situation of a given property (originally called “note de renseignements”) that was created on 13th December 1950 and was first used as evidence in liability claims against notaires who failed to request this document and against the administration who delivered it in an incomplete or incorrect manner.

In 1971, the CU was made by law an administrative deed in its own right, giving guaranties to the buyer but the NU was maintained creating confusion as to what they are and which one to request.

Features of the certificat d’urbanisme

There are in fact two types of CU and it is important to distinguish the CU of “general information” (or ordinary CU), which simply states the legal status of the land, and the “outline project” CU (or detailed CU), which in addition of the information contained in the ordinary CU specifies whether a project described in the application can be achieved on the land.

The ordinary CU must be issued within 1 month from the reception of the application and mentions the legal status of the land as regards to planning regulations and administrative rules limiting the right of ownership, listing the taxes and charges to be paid.

The detailed CU must be issued within 2 months from the reception of the application and is never, in itself, a grant or refusal of planning permission: it is solely an information document. Its purpose is not to allow construction or implementation of a planning operation on the land for which it is issued. In fact, there are no legal requirements imposing to receive a CU before applying for a planning permission.

This CU will nevertheless notify if the project is possible (positive CU) or not (negative CU). The positive CU may secure certain rights but does not guarantee planning permission.

The main advantage of a CU is that it “crystallizes” the legal situation of the land for 18 months. As a result, planning rules and regulations will be maintained on the plot of land for that period of time even if the local authorities have changed the ones affecting the rest of the local area. It gives in particular some time to assess and prepare correctly the planning permission without facing an adverse change of rules.

The former note de renseignements d’urbanisme (NU)

Since 1st October 2007, the NU should no longer be applied for as officially its application form no longer exists. In practice, this document is still requested by estate agents or notaires instead of the CU.

This information note was particularly adapted when buying a property if no changes to the building were intended. Normally delivered “quickly” (no time limit of issuance was however set), it was not intended to inform on the suitability for development of the land. It was a purely informative document specifying the planning and administrative limitations of ownership of the land (e.g. public easement, pre-emption right, etc.). Unlike a CU, it does not secure any rights for the future and the information provided was only valid at the time it was issued.

In addition, even if the NU was erroneous, it would not necessarily guarantee a valid claim against the local authority or the notaire.

Whether it is the ordinary or detailed CU (or even planning permission), it is important to make sure that the correct formality is carried out when purchasing a property in France and advice should be sought before signing the first contract (compromis).

It indeed depends on the notaires if they are complying or not with French law. A CU should always be requested; not only because it is the law but because it is a real protection for the buyer and the latter already automatically pays for it anyway.