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A guideline to have your property classified as a historical monument

French cities, towns and villages are full of an extraordinarily rich historical heritage, a symbol of a long and eventful history. Nowadays, as a result, some homeowners who inherited or acquired their property, may find themselves at the head of a potential historical asset. Manors, castles, mansions or apartments can all be subject to the protection of their heritage by the public authorities. For landlords wishing to have their properties classified as a historical monument, here is a quick guideline that you can refer to.

The Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC) is the contact point for real estate historical monuments

The DRAC is the administrative point of contact for historic monuments. It is through its services that it will be necessary to send a preliminary file, after having notified the exceptional character of the applicant property. In order for your property to be classified, the law clearly establishes the fact that it must present, from an architectural and historical point of view, "sufficient interest to make conservation desirable". In the end, it is the Regional Prefect who has authority over the classification or not of a referred property.

A file containing a list of properties that the owner deems important to preserve must be submitted to the DRAC. In the same way, if there are publications or references published on the property, it will be important to mention them, as they will support the application for historical monument status. The DRAC’s role is to then carry out an additional viewing of the property. Once this file is established, it will pass into the hands of several experts who will decide the outcome.

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Two types of ranking are possible to classify historic real estate

Once the file is duly processed, it will pass into the hands of several different reference contacts. Each of them will then give their opinion, which will help to classify the property according to the two possible categories. The first classification as ‘Monument Historique’ (MH) will be dealt with by the ‘Commission Nationale des Monuments Historiques’, an organisation whose scope is national. In this case, the DRAC will pass on the management of the file.

The ‘Commission Nationale des Monuments Historiques’ will then consult the ‘Commission Régionale du Patrimoine et des Sites’ (CRPS) of the territory in which the property is located, which endorses the classification or not as a historical monument. The second classification option for a historic property will be to be categorised in the ‘Inventaire Supplémentaire des Monuments Historiques’ (ISMH), whose management will however remain at a regional level and be dealt with by the DRAC. The difference between the two rankings resides in the exceptional nature and the interest represented in the property, and leads to a very different status for the property that has a significant consequence in terms of possible renovation work.

Impact of the classification of a property as a historical monument with regards to renovation work

The main interest in classifying a property as a historical monument or in the ‘ISMH’ lies in the fact that all or part of the work carried out there can be tax-free for the owner. Nevertheless, there is logically a counterpart to this advantage. Indeed, to undertake work in a classified property represents a very challenging project, which can not be started without the preliminary agreement of the administration. It can only be to preserve the historical or architectural identity of the building.

For a property classified by the ISMH, the Code du Patrimoine (Heritage Code) indicates that its owner can not carry out work without having informed the Regional Prefect at least four months before starting. This official notice must include the nature of the work planned. For classified properties, the rules are even stricter. Indeed, such a property "can not be destroyed or moved, even partially, nor be the object of a work of restoration, repair or modification of any kind, without authorisation of the administrative authority". Similarly, in case of sale of the property concerned, there is an obligation to inform the administrative authorities.

Classifying your real estate property as a historical monument is a decision to think about

There are important administrative steps to classify a property considered to be of historical or architectural interest. It is something that must be well-thought-through beforehand, since this approach generally generates more obligations than it creates rights. By submitting your property to the right of inspection of the administration, you will indeed agree to not be able to make changes as you see fit, in the interest of heritage preservation.

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