Land Registration in France - 'Cadastre'

  1. What is the 'Cadastre'?
  2. Viewing the Cadastre
  3. Obtaining Information on Ownership
  4. Obtaining Information on Property Prices

1. What is the 'Cadastre'?

The cadastre, is the nearest equivalent in France to title plans.

They are maintained by the French public land registry (Service de Publicité Foncière) under the auspices of the French tax authority, the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques (DGFiP).

The plans are called plans cadastraux, a graphical plan of the boundaries of land parcels in France.

The plans show numbered plots on which the ownership of land is based.

The plans themselves do not provide details of the owner of a property or (necessarily) all the land parcels in a single ownership.

Whilst they will show buildings, the size of the plot and the place name (lieu dit) of the property to which it belongs, the boundary description on the cadastre may often be vague or even non-existent.

Moreover, the cadastre does not show the precise boundaries between properties and, as a result, they are not a definitive statement of the legal boundaries of a property, which can only be established by a land survey.

This reflects the origins of the plans, which were created in the Napoleonic era for the purposes of calculating land tax.

As a result, in formal terms the cadastre is only an administrative documents which do not give rise to rights and does not constitute a title deed.

Accordingly, whilst in most cases the cadastre does the job you need it to do, it will not on its own be able to resolve a boundary dispute. Cadastre plans can be contested.

If there is a need to determine the boundaries of a property because the cadastre is unclear, it is disputed, or a plot is to be broken up into different ownerships, the process is known as bornage.

If this occurs, it is obligatory to engage the services of a land surveyor (géomètre) to undertake a formal determination of the boundaries and division of the land.

You can read about this process at Determination of Boundaries.

2. Viewing the Cadastre

A copy of the local cadastre will be held in the local mairie and the Centre des Impôts Foncier to which you have a right of access.

The local notaire will also have a copy, although you have no automatic right of access in the same manner as above.

You can also view and download the land registry plans on-line at Cadastre France.

Using this resource you can view land and building plots, measure their surface area, order hard-copy versions of the plans, or print off from the site.

Some departments also have archive cadastre records on-line, which you may find of use and interest.

However, those of you who may be familiar with the UK land registry on-line plans are likely to be a little disappointed, particularly with rural cadastre plans, where the level of topographical information is poor.

Nevertheless, you can also use the site of Geoportail where you can obtain a lot more useful information about a property from comfort of your home.

One of the features on the Geoportail site is the ability to super-impose cadastral parcels over the aerial photos.

It is also possible to super-impose the high level cartography of the maps from Institut national de l'information géographique et forestière onto the photos. Geoportail is a child of the IGN.

You many also be interested to read our article Buying an Empty/Abandoned Property.

3. Obtaining Information on Ownership

As we have said, the French land registry plans do not show title boundaries.

Neither do the plans provide personal information on the owner, the easements over a property, nor the price paid by the present owner.

Accordingly, if you type in the address of a property, you may be lucky enough that the plots offered up correspond to the title of the property, but to not bank on it. You may get more or less than all the plots in the current ownership of the owner. To get accurate information you also need the plot numbers that correspond with the title.

If you wish to find out the owner of a particular property or parcel of land in a particular commune you need to consult a document called the Demande de renseignements.

You should send this form to your the local land registry office, called the Service de la publicité foncière.

You could also visit your local mairie who are obliged to provide details, although strictly speaking only on written request.

However, in recent years, with pressure on the land registry offices, the service is not operating satisfactorily, and we have found the form is not available.

Accordingly, you may find it necessary to visit the Service de la publicité foncière in the administrative area where the land is located. We suggest you ring them before you visit their office.

You have a right of access to this information, so do not be put off by local officials who may be difficult about it. The law states:

Toute personne peut obtenir communication ponctuelle, le cas échéant par voie électronique, d'informations relatives aux immeubles situés sur le territoire d'une commune déterminée, ou d'un arrondissement pour les communes de Paris, Lyon et Marseille, sur lesquels une personne désignée dans la demande dispose d'un droit réel immobilier. Toute personne peut obtenir, dans les mêmes conditions, communication d'informations relatives à un immeuble déterminé. Les informations communicables sont les références cadastrales, l'adresse ou, le cas échéant, les autres éléments d'identification cadastrale des immeubles, la contenance cadastrale de la parcelle, la valeur locative cadastrale des immeubles, ainsi que les noms et adresses des titulaires de droits sur ces immeubles. (Décret n° 2012-59 du 18 janvier 2012).

If you are trying to obtain the information from abroad you will need to get the co-operation of the seller to provide the plot numbers, or the estate agent selling the property. Agents are probably going to insist that you sign a visit form, before they will supply you with the co-ordinates on Geoportail or the plot numbers from the plans.

The information on the plan cadastral may not be completely up to date, as it can take several years for a change in ownership, new developments or other changes to be entered on to the land register.

It is also possible to obtain a copy of the actual conveyance (the acte authentique), but this information is not available from the same source, nor obtaining it quite so straightforward.

4. Obtaining Information on Property Prices

In 2019 French land registry records were opened up to the public, granting free on-line access to the sale price of property.

It is now possible to obtain brief details of property sale transactions that have taken place since 2014.

The transactions include all sales, for houses, apartments, land and other buildings.

The information provided includes the sale price, date of sale, size of property, number of bedrooms, land area and plot number. It does not give the name of the seller or the buyer.

The prices shown do not include stamp duty, notaire fees or estate agent fees, except in the minority of cases where the estate fees are paid by the seller, in which case they are contained in the price shown.

Although there is no information prior to 2014, going forward the database will be updated twice a year in April and October. Sales prior to 2014 may also be available in due course.

To obtain access to the data you need to go to Demande de Valeur Foncière, which opens to an interactive map of France. You can then either click on the relevant department for your search, or enter search criteria in the left-hand column of the page.

Using the map you can scroll down to a property. If there has been a sale within the last 5 years it will be coloured blue on the plot(s), for each section of the register.

Where there are multiple plots in a sale, the price shown on each plot will be the sale price for the whole transaction, so some care is needed in tying the complete sale together, which is possible by using the date given for the transaction.

The information will be of use to prospective buyers and sellers, particularly in urban areas, although as François Gagnon, Président of national estate agents ERA has stated: "Même si un particulier peut avoir accès aux résultats de son test sanguin, il aura toujours besoin d’un médecin pour les interpréter.

In terms of the price of properties in rural areas, you will also find it useful to read our France Insider article Making Sense of French Property Prices.

Next: Determination of Property Boundaries

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