Inheritance: Can I renovate a property that my children have bare ownership of?

Every month, the “Grand Rendez-vous de l’Immobilier” (Capital / Radio Immo) answers your questions in its episode “It concerns you”. Our experts – lawyers, notaries, real estate agents – will solve the most complex legal problems for you and provide you with sound advice on whether you want to sell, buy, rent out or renovate your home. In this sequence, the notary Marie Choplin-Texier in the Cheuvreux office answers a question from Jean de Bayonne. John owns a house. For future transfer reasons, he plans to transfer bare ownership to his children while retaining the beneficial interest. However, as a usufructuary, Jean wants to support the planned renovations at his mansion. Does he have the chance?

To develop her answer, Marie Cholpin Texier first reminds our listeners what the law says. The Civil Code provides that maintenance work is at the expense of the usufructuary, unless the deed of donation contains a clause to the contrary. So everything that does not concern the embellishment nor the construction/remodeling, all other work is the responsibility of the bare owner (605 BGB). With the exception of work that becomes necessary through the fault of the usufructuary. It is often explained in simplified terms: Small tasks for the usufructuary, big tasks for the mere owner, our notary sums it up.

This division between maintenance repairs and major repairs is set out in Article 606 of the Civil Code. Major repairs are listed exhaustively: those of large walls and vaults, restoration of beams and entire roofs. Those of dikes and retaining and fence walls are also complete.

However, it remains possible to deviate from this distribution principle by including a special clause in the deed of donation. It can thus be provided that all work, regardless of its importance, is the responsibility of the usufructuary. In this case, the usufructuary can no longer turn to the mere owner to carry out the work. If the renovation is accompanied by construction, John can fund it all.

Vigilance, especially during construction work. On the death of the usufructuary, the combination of usufruct and mere ownership is generally not taxed. But more precisely, Marie Choplin-Texier, care must then be taken that the usufructuary has benefited from the construction by generating income or living there … You understood it, it is important to establish the rules in the deed of donation depending on Desire of the usufructuary and the mere owner.

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