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Calculating the Surface Area of a French Property

Just what is the legal surface area of a property in France depends on the purpose for which the calculation is required.

There are five main terms used, all of which are expressed in square metres, as follows:

  • Surface de Plancher
  • Surface Taxable
  • Emprise au Sol
  • Surface Habitable
  • Surface ‘Loi Carrez’

Surface de Plancher

The surface de plancher is used primarily in planning and construction, for new build, extensions, conversions and renovation projects.

It is also used to determine the planning taxes that are payable, although a narrower definition applies, based on the actual area created if a new build, or the increase in surface de plancher following an extension or conversion.

It is a relatively new term, having  replaced the previous terms SHOB (Surface Hors Oeuvre Brute) and SHON (Surface Hors Oeuvre Net) in 2012 in order to make it simpler to calculate the surface area of a property.

It is defined in the Code de urbanisme as the total surface area of the closed and covered floor area of the property (for each floor if more than one), calculated from the internal surfaces of the external walls.

The definition excludes certain spaces, notably staircases and stairwells, garage (but only if the space is used solely for the parking of vehicles), terrace, balcony, areas with a head-height equal to or lower than 1.80m, and attic spaces or cellars which cannot be used or converted for structural or technical reasons.

Certain outbuildings are included in the definition, including garden sheds, workshops, and greenhouses/poly-tunnels, but open hangars and similar structures (gazebos for example) do not form part of the calculation.

Surface Taxable

The surface taxable is the total of the surface de plancher, plus garage space.

As the name suggests, this is primarily used to calculate taxes as part of the planning application process for any new construction, but also for ongoing annual property taxes.

Arthur Cutler, of planning consultants French Plans, comments that: "It is important to note that the creation of parking spaces and swimming pools attracts taxes – for parking the tax is calculated for each space created, and for pools on a per square metre basis. These new taxes are not normally high, but they are frequently overlooked by property owners".

Emprise au Sol

The emprise au sol is the footprint of the building at ground floor level only, but including covered terraces and covered balconies, even if they have open sides/walls.

This definition is primarily used in planning, for the assessment of whether an architect is required to prepare and submit an application, and also where there is a regulatory maximum percentage of a plot of land that can be used for construction purposes (the coefficient d’occupation des sols).

Surface Habitable

The definition of the habitable surface area of the property is set out in the Code de construction et de l’habitation.

It is not entirely dissimilar to the surface de plancher, with the exception that internal walls and cupboard space are excluded from the calculation.

The term is widely used, but only in specific circumstances is its use obligatory:

  • The letting of a property which is to become the principal home of the tenant;
  • Contracts for the sale of off-plan new build properties - contrats de vente d'un logement en l'état futur d'achèvement (VEFA) ;
  • The calculation of the local property taxes, the taxe foncière and the taxe d'habitation.

There is no legal requirement for it to be used in the sale of existing properties.

Accordingly, where properties are advertised that state the surface habitable of the property, the figure has limited legal status, albeit courts have found against owners and agents where buyers have been seriously misled by the information supplied to them.

Surface Loi Carrez

The Loi Carrez, dating from 1996, obliges a seller to calculate and to state the private area of a copropriété (apartment, divided house). If the calculation is overstated by more than 5% the buyer can demand a reduction in the sale price. If not stated the sale can be annulled.

The règlement de copropriété are the rules that define the operation of the block and will stipulate those areas of the apartment block which are communal and private.

In determining the ‘superficie Carrez', a fraction of the communal area will be allocated to the property, although those fractional areas smaller than 8m² are not taken into consideration.

Excluded from the calculation are a veranda, balcony, loggia, garden, cellar and garage and spaces with a height less than 1.80m.

Related Reading:

This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 08/08/2017




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