Dangerous buildings

When the state of a building threatens the safety of the occupants, neighbours or passers-by, the mayor (or the chief of police in Paris) may commence dangerous building proceedings against the owner in order to force them to take the necessary measures.

  • When may a mayor commence dangerous building proceedings?

    • When a mayor is aware of problems affecting a building they may use their special policing powers to commence dangerous building proceedings. The danger must be real and present and likely to cause serious problems for the safety of the occupants, neighbours or passers-by in the near future (special proceedings were also created in December 2008 to cover the collapse of gravestones in cemeteries).

  • What are the main stages of these proceedings?

    • The mayor begins by informing the owner in writing that dangerous building proceedings are going to be taken against them. If the problems persist, the mayor issues a danger order requiring the owner of the building to carry out repair or demolition works within a period of at least one month.

    • The completion of the works stipulated in the order is officially recorded by an expert appointed by the mayor. The expert then submits a report to the mayor, who, in the light of the report, issues a notice formally acknowledging that the works have been carried out and lifting the order, if the works have eliminated the danger and provided a long-term solution to the problem.

  • What is the difference between an ordinary danger and an imminent danger?

    • Which of these two sets of proceedings is most appropriate must be assessed by the mayor in view of the danger posed by the structure:
      - ordinary danger proceedings will be commenced when the danger is not immediate;
      - imminent danger proceedings will be commenced when the situation justifies very rapid action.

    • In this latter case, an expert is appointed, at the mayor's request, by an urgent applications judge. The expert will be tasked with assessing the strength of the building within 24 hours of being appointed. They will have to prepare a report and suggest technical measures to bring the immediate danger to an end.

  • What are the mayor's obligations?

    • Primary responsibility for assessing the urgency of the situation lies with the mayor, and secondary responsibility lies with the expert who prepares the schedule of condition of the building. However, in reality, while it is the mayor's responsibility to commence the proceedings, they are bound by the conclusions of the expert who will determine whether or not the danger is imminent.

    • If the condition of the structure indicates that it might collapse or that parts might fall before the ordinary proceedings have reached a satisfactory conclusion, the mayor must commence imminent danger proceedings. However, if the expert considers that there is no immediate danger, the mayor is obliged to commence the so-called ordinary proceedings.

    • However, urgent proceedings and ordinary proceedings may be pursued concurrently, in order, for example, to allow the mayor to have a section of wall supported as a matter of urgency (the municipality may be held liable if the mayor fails to use their policing powers), even if it means subsequently applying to the administrative court for authorisation to demolish or repair the building that is now being supported, if the owner does not carry out this work.

Frequently asked questions