Buying a house by the sea in France – What obligations?

4 July 2019

You want to buy a villa close to the French Riviera or just right to a lake, do you know that you will be subject to special provisions that may be binding?

975 French municipalities located near the sea or ocean and 237 municipalities bordering a lake are covered by the 1986 Coastal Act. The purpose of this text was to avoid the concreting of coasts and to preserve the landscape. This law provides for two main prohibitions:

A 100-metre stretch of coastline is unbuildable.

It is not possible to build buildings on a 100-metre strip from the upper limit of the shoreline or from the highest water levels for inland water bodies, and urban planning regulations specific to certain municipalities may further aggravate this prohibition.

It is forbidden to build on this strip of land but also to carry out extension work on existing buildings. The construction of a veranda or swimming pool is therefore compromised, and constructions or installations necessary for public services are not concerned.

A three-meter strip is reserved for pedestrian traffic.

Owners of public property along the riverside support an easement on a three-meter wide strip of land to ensure pedestrian access. This right of way allows pedestrians to walk along the shoreline and access the beach where the seafront does not have a public road.

Houses built before January 1, 1976 and whose land was closed on that date are not affected by this easement.

Some exceptions exist, for example, if pedestrians can travel along the shoreline or sea through roads or crossings open to the public. The owners of these properties are required to let the administration establish the road signs and carry out the necessary work to ensure the free passage and safety of pedestrians, and not to make any modification likely to impede their passage.

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