Transforming a window into a French window: what does the law say? is the SCIA needed?


Emma Potter

The transformation of a window into a French window turns out to be not a simple aesthetic intervention but a real structural modification that has a profound impact on the façades of a property.

Recently, the Council of State clarified, with sentence no. 467 of 24 January 2022, that such modifications do not fall within the scope of free construction, but require the Certified Report of Start of Activity (SCIA), falling under extraordinary maintenance interventions.

So let's see what needs to be done to transform a window into a French door.

Window transformation not declared in SCIA

The case in question concerns a property owner who had submitted a SCIA for ordinary and extraordinary maintenance work, including a “modest expansion” of a room. At the end of the works, a municipal inspection highlighted significant discrepancies between the works carried out and those declared in the SCIA.

In particular, the window transformation existing in French windows had not been communicateda non-negligible detail that led the municipality to suspend the works and subsequently cancel the SCIA with an order to restore the state of the places.

This scenario led to the decision of the Council of State. The municipal offices acted in self-protection, highlighting how the failure to report these changes constitutes a violation of building regulations, as they involve substantial changes to the external façades of the building.

There ruling of the Council of State, with sentence no. 467 of 24 January 2022, not only confirmed the TAR's decision, but also reiterated a fundamental principle in the management of building interventions: the transformation of a window into a French window, although it may seem like a minor intervention, falls into the category of extraordinary maintenance pursuant to art. 3, paragraph 1, letter. b), of Presidential Decree no. 380/01.

This classification imposes theobligation to submit the SCIAas the intervention modifies the external appearance of the building.

Condominium authorization is required to replace a window with a French door?

In condominium management, the replacement of a window with a French door often raises doubts about the need to obtain authorizations.

Unless the condominium regulations explicitly provide for prohibitions on such modifications, The approval of the condominium assembly is not required to proceed with these works.

Even if the perimeter walls are considered common parts of the building, the installation of a French door does not require specific permission from the condominium. However, it is essential to obtain the proper municipal approval.

According to thearticle 1102 of the Civil Codeeach condominium owner has the right to make improvements to their real estate unit, as long as the interventions comply with current regulations and do not compromise the structural stability of the building, thus guaranteeing the safety of all inhabitants.

Article 1102
Use of the common thing

Each participant can use the common thing, as long as it does not alter its destination and does not prevent the other participants from equally using it according to their rights. To this end he can make the necessary modifications at his own expense for the best enjoyment of the thing.

The participant cannot extend his right to the common property to the detriment of the other participants, if he does not carry out suitable acts to change the title of his possession.