Not respecting planning permission can cost you (a lot) in France

Extensions that go over permitted amounts can be demolished – with owners having to pick up the costs – if neighbours are affected

Be wary you stay within planning permission rules

A homeowner has been ordered to reduce the size of their property extension – despite the hefty costs to do so – after they exceeded approved planning permission rules.

A neighbour complained that the new extension, which saw the construction of a building higher than the authorised planning permission, ruined multiple aspects of their property.

The owner of the extension, however, argued that a demolition order (to place the extension back within the original planning permission limits) was disproportionate, but the courts ruled that it had to be followed.

The case was taken all the way to the Cour de cassation – France’s highest judicial court, who ruled on the matter earlier this year.

The ruling reaffirms previous cases, in that the nature of ‘damage’ to a person does not limit the rules on removing the extension that led to the complaint.

Read more: Next door’s extension will block sun to my French home. What can I do?

Property nearly one metre above allocation

The extension work to the property in the overseas department of Réunion saw a new building constructed after planning permission was approved by the local commune. 

Although Réunion is an overseas department, many of the same rules apply – including for planning permissions – as in mainland France.

However, the building was at least 70cm higher than allocated for in the approval.

The height of the building meant that for a neighbouring property, three quarters of its sea-view disappeared, and the amount of natural lighting in the living spaces was reduced significantly. 

The owner of the newly-constructed extension argued that reducing the size of the building by 70cm – as was originally ordered by the local courts – would cost a significant amount of money, and be unreasonably expensive in comparison to the damage caused to their neighbour. 

He argued that the height of the building being over what was approved via the planning permission should fall into a margin of acceptable error.

Read more: Couple cannot demolish and rebuild French home even if not protected

Several rulings reach same conclusion

The Cour de cassation cited a number of previous rulings on similar cases.

These state that any constructions that break planning permission stipulations and measures – subsequently causing damage of some kind, including to a property’s value – must be demolished or reduced to fit the original planning permission allocations.

Cases such as these fall under civil liability rules, meaning the neighbour’s damages must be overturned, without anyone else incurring a loss (or profit) off the back of this. 

Although demolishing the extension will incur a serious cost, the court does ot count this as the owner making a ‘loss’, because the increased payout is due to breaking planning permission rules. 

In alternative scenarios where planning permission regulations were kept to – but a neighbour still complains – alternative solutions may be found.