Application to an ongoing dispute of the principle of reasonable time of appeal
The beneficiaries of a building permit had lodged an appeal against the title of collection issued for the payment of the local equipment tax, the CAUE tax and the tax for sensitive natural areas. As the appeal was lodged more than one year after the notification of this title, which did not specify the ways and time for appeal, the Montpellier Administrative Court applies the principle recently adopted by the Conseil d'Etat on the reasonable period of time recourse.
Rule 1: The two-month appeal period against a decision is effective against the applicant only when the evidence of information about the channels and time limits for appeal can be reported
According to Article R.421-1 of the Code of Administrative Justice, an appeal against a decision can only be lodged within two months of its notification or publication. Article R.421-5 of the same Code provides that "The time limits for appealing against an administrative decision shall be enforceable only on the condition that they have been mentioned, as well as the legal remedies, in the notification of the decision" . In a very traditional way, the Administrative Court of Montpellier therefore holds that when the notification of the decision does not include the mention of the ways and time limits for appeal, the appeal period of two months is not opposable. In this case, even though the text of the judgment is not explicit on this point, it is understandable that the administration has not been able to prove that the notification of the role imposing various taxes on the Applicants did have the information regarding the time and manner of appeal, or even the proof of any notification, since the judgment states that "the applicants were notified of the role of 24 May 2012 by 18 April 2013 at the latest , when they made a claim to the treasurer. Therefore, the appeal period of two months could not be opposed.
Rule 2: Where the two-month appeal period can not be used, the addressee of the decision may not lodge an appeal beyond a reasonable period of one year
Taking up the recital in principle stated by the Council of State in its judgment of 13 July 2016, MA v. Minister of Economy and Finance, No. 387763, the Administrative Tribunal recalls that the principle of legal certainty implies that a decision that has been notified to, or is known to have become known to, a citizen may not be challenged beyond a reasonable time. The court applies here the important and recent jurisprudence of the Council of State, which has come to limit the possibility of exercising an appeal against an individual administrative decision in time, even if the information concerning the time limits and remedies not mentioned in the notification or in an incomplete way. The Conseil d'Etat has set this reasonable period of time at 1 year from the date of notification of the express decision or the date on which it is established that the applicant was aware of it. In this case, if the impugned roll was dated May 24, 2012, the date taken into consideration by the court to calculate the starting point of the one-year period is the date on which the applicants made a claim to the Treasurer, namely the April 18, 2013, to establish that they were aware, as of that date, of the impugned decision. However, the motion was registered on August 4, 2014, more than one year after April 18, 2013. The court concludes that the application is late and therefore inadmissible. It will be noted that the court applies a jurisprudential principle to a dispute that arose before the appearance of that principle.
Rule 3: The existence of special circumstances is an exception to the principle of a reasonable time-limit
In its aforementioned judgment, the Council of State had made two exceptions, including that relating to the existence of special circumstances: if the applicant can prove such circumstances, the reasonable period of appeal of one year can not be opposite. As the Conseil d'Etat has not provided any details on these "particular circumstances", it will be up to the judges of the merits to define the contours of this notion. Unfortunately, this judgment does not shed any light on this point, since the court notes that the applicants do not mention any particular circumstances.