Monuments Historiques


Monuments Historiques - The French system of listing Landmark Properties

Buildings of architectural quality or historic interest, usually built in the 18th century or before - Châteaux, Abbeys, Town Houses (Hôtel Particuliers), industrial buildings and churches - may be protected as 'Monuments Historiques'. The most important edifices are 'Classés', and those of lesser importance are 'Inscrit' (listed). Many of the publicly owned Monuments were automatically listed by the authorities who maintained them, but a smaller number, approximately 3,000, are properties, principally Châteaux, Manor Houses, fortified Farms, or Town Houses, which are in private ownership.

The listing of these beautiful buildings was started by Prosper Mérimée at the end of the 19th Century, and often it was at the request of the owners themselves. In some cases, houses which merited protection slipped the net as the owners did not want it, and subsequent owners were, and still are, obliged to ask for this process to be undertaken to ensure the protection of their monument. The immediate environment around a 'Monument Historique' can also benefit from the listing of a property. All land within 500 metres will usually fall into the protected zone, meaning that if any building work is envisaged, it must have approval from the 'Architecte des Bâtiments de France'.

      

To be the owner of a house which is 'Classé or Inscrit M.H.' ensures that it is of high architectural quality, or that there are parts of it which merit protection because of the quality of the design, or of its unusual, sometimes unique, features. The 'M.H.' status gives certain privileges, including fiscal advantages which enable the maintenance costs and restoration work undertaken to be paid for from pre-tax income, and technical aid from the 'Architecte des Bâtiments de France' (a civil servant) or the 'Architecte en Chef des Monuments Historiques' (an architect in private practice, appointed as such, and consequently being entitled to charge fees to the owners.)

If a subsidy is granted for a restoration project on a listed Château, the costs borne by the owners are 100% tax deductable. That is to say, with an income of 100, if 10 is spent on a restoration project, tax is only paid on 90% of the total income. Likewise, if the Château is 'Monument Historique', 100% of maintenance costs, staff salaries and general expenditure is deductable if the property is open to the public, but only 50% can be deducted if the Château is closed to visits.