Many small communes in France yet to finalise address changes

The new law means that everyone will have an official address

The law is intended to make all homes safer and easier to identify for emergency services, postal workers, and the rollout of fibre internet

Many small communes in France have yet to finalise changes to street names and house numbers despite having less than a month before they must comply with a new law on the issue, it has emerged.

The law was voted by Parliament on February 8, 2023. All mairies must update a government website with all the new data by June 1.

Until now, there have been an estimated 200,000 streets in France without a name. 

Before now, smaller communes had no obligation to name every street. Only the larger ones were required to submit street name lists to the local property tax authorities.

Which addresses will be affected by the law?

The new law states that all communes - including those with fewer than 2,000 residents - that have unnamed streets and houses without numbers (or ‘official addresses’) are required to rectify this (and update the official government website) by June 1, 2024.

Similarly, addresses that appear not to make sense, or do not correspond to the addresses around them - e.g. an apparently random number - need to be rectified.

The law also includes those private roads not closed by gates, cul-de-sacs, and all lieux-dits – small hamlets distinct from a village centre.

Read more: French village plans to (finally) number its houses and name streets

It means that, in the future, everyone should be able to give a precise address, rather than, for example, ‘the third house along from the church, with blue shutters’. 

However, many communes have yet to confirm these new addresses.

Why the new need for names and numbers?

The law is intended to make all homes safer and easier to identify if, for example, the emergency services need to attend the scene quickly.

There have previously been reported cases where police were called to a crime still taking place, but could not find the house due to an unclear address and a lack of numbering.

“We eventually found it, but the thieves had already gone,” said Oradour-Sur-Vayre police chief Pierre Fournier to France 3, of a recent burglary in the small hamlet of Grateloube, near the commune of Champagnac-la-rivière.

Similarly, the new system will make it easier for post and parcel delivery, as well as the rollout of super-fast internet fibre.

One resident in Haux (Gironde), said in April that “it is good that the mairie is changing addresses” because their current address means that they “have not been able to receive all of our parcels". 

Another said: "We have had issues with mail not arriving, or sometimes having to pay extra tax as a penalty for bills that had not come to the right address."

Read also: Address change deadline looms for one million French homes 

Naming and numbering systems

Mayors have been left relatively free to decide their own name and numbering systems, as long as this is consistent and makes sense.

For example, the commune of Mauzac (Haute-Vienne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) has named all of its streets, and asked local residents for their help in choosing the names. Some of the streets were named after history relevant to the commune.

The numbers system is perhaps even more original. Guy Montet, the mayor of Mauzac who himself used to work at La Poste, has introduced numbers that correspond to “metres on the ground”.

For example, the house at No 3791, route du Kaolin, is 3,791 metres from the start of the road. 

“This system is practical,” he said. “It makes it easy to find the houses. And it avoids bis, ‘ter’ and ‘quater’ numbers in areas where the houses touch.”