What can I do in France about the derelict house next door?

Abandoned property in France must be looked after by its owner, however if the situation is more complicated it is usually the mairie’s responsibility

3 February 2021
Responsibility for property upkeep in a situation where the owner has died lies with a government department within the Finance Ministry called the Service des Domaines
By Liv Rowland

Reader question: My next-door neighbour died in 2011 and her house was passed to the state. The property is derelict and threatens my outbuilding. I’ve contacted the mairie and Trésor Public but neither seems to want to pay for its upkeep. Who can I turn to?

As a basic rule, abandoned property must be looked after by its owner.

If the situation is more complicated or no one wants to pay for upkeep, it is usually the mairie’s responsibility to sort out problems arising from abandoned property in the municipality, particularly if they threaten other residents or public spaces.

For example, the mairie has powers to oblige the owner to carry out appropriate maintenance, and can even, if it comes to that, take ownership of the property if its owner doesn’t comply or is unknown.

We spoke to property rights lawyer Bernard Mandeville about your case.

He told us that responsibility for upkeep in your situation lies with a government department within the Finance Ministry called the Service des Domaines.

This is because estates with no heirs are passed on to the state, which then hands their management over to the department.

Mr Mandeville, a lawyer at Drouot law firm in Paris, said: “When a property is acquired by the state following the death of its owner, and the property has no heir or its heirs have refused to inherit, the president of the local judicial court is responsible for appointing the département des domaines as curator of a vacant estate.

“The appointed département des domaines is the one linked to the department of the deceased’s last residence. It is the responsibility of the curator, the département des domaines in this case, to manage the deceased’s assets and to pay the debts.”

There are 17 of these, each taking care of specific parts of France. 

Given the complexity of the situation, the best thing to do would be to discuss your problem with the mairie first.

If the mairie cannot provide advice, you could send off an email to your local service des domaines. If still nothing is done, your best chance may be to contact an avocat de droit immobilier or droit foncier, who specialises in this area.

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