Law

When buy­ing a prop­erty in France, you’ll al­most cer­tainly sign a doc­u­ment called the com­pro­mis de vente, but what does it all mean? Ann Ed­mond­son spells out the first few para­graphs

French Property News - - Contents -

Un­der­stand­ing the pre-sales con­tract

If you are mov­ing to France or buy­ing a hol­i­day home there, the com­pro­mis de vente is one of the most im­por­tant doc­u­ments you will ever sign. Set­ting out a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of the prop­erty and the re­quire­ments of the pur­chaser, this pre-sales con­tract is legally bind­ing, though you will have a cool­ing-off pe­riod dur­ing which you can pull out of the sale with­out penalty.

For the pur­poses of this ar­ti­cle, I have as­sumed the pur­chase of res­i­den­tial prop­erty only. This month we’ll be look­ing at the first para­graphs, cov­er­ing: The civil sta­tus of the par­ties The cool­ing-off pe­riod The de­posit, no­taire’s fees and gov­ern­ment taxes The de­scrip­tion of the prop­erty The use of the prop­erty

Civil sta­tus of the par­ties ( état civil) This para­graph will in­clude: Full names and wife’s maiden name if ap­pli­ca­ble Ha­bit­ual res­i­den­tial ad­dress Na­tion­al­ity Whether you are fis­cally res­i­dent in France or not Mar­i­tal sta­tus Mar­i­tal regime (this is im­por­tant un­der French law as it will de­ter­mine who is re­ally buy­ing the prop­erty, who will own it and what will hap­pen to the prop­erty in the event of di­vorce or death) Pro­fes­sion Date of birth In order for the no­taire’s of­fice to draw up the civil sta­tus de­tails, both par­ties will be re­quired to pro­vide valid iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Where ap­pli­ca­ble you may also be asked to pro­vide a mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, di­vorce af­fi­davit, death cer­tifi­cate and/or af­fi­davit of ca­pac­ity if you were born abroad.

The civil sta­tus check by the no­taire also en­ables the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the true iden­tity of the seller, en­sur­ing that they are the true owner of the prop­erty and that they have the right to sell it. For ex­am­ple, the owner may have re­ceived the prop­erty through a gift by a donor who is still alive, and who has for­bid­den the sale of the prop­erty in their life­time. The cool­ing-off pe­riod ( fac­ulté de re­trac­tion) Also known as the pe­riod of re­flec­tion, the cool­ing-off pe­riod was in­tro­duced as a statu­tory right in 2001 and is now 10 con­sec­u­tive days. The law was in­tro­duced to al­low the con­sumer to ‘cool down’ af­ter mak­ing any heat-of-the­mo­ment de­ci­sions. Af­ter its sig­na­ture the pre-sale con­tract will nor­mally be sent by reg­is­tered post with ac­knowl­edge­ment of re­ceipt. The cool­ing-off pe­riod will start the day fol­low­ing the first pre­sen­ta­tion of the doc­u­ment at your ad­dress – re­gard­less of whether or not you are there to re­ceive it – and will run for 10 con­sec­u­tive days. If the 10th day falls on a Sun­day, the dead­line is ex­tended to the Mon­day.

If dur­ing this pe­riod you de­cide not to go ahead with the pur­chase, you have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of in­form­ing the no­taire or es­tate agent by reg­is­tered let­ter only. The date of postage will be proof that you have given no­ti­fi­ca­tion within the 10 days. In this case your de­posit will be re­turned to you, and the seller will be re­leased from their un­der­tak­ing to sell the prop­erty to you.

Af­ter the 10-day cool­ing-off pe­riod, you are bound to the sale, and if you change your mind for any rea­son af­ter this pe­riod, it may be much more dif­fi­cult to get the de­posit re­turned to you. On the other hand, the seller is bound to the pre-sales con­tract im­me­di­ately af­ter hav­ing signed it. They do not ben­e­fit from the cool­ing-off pe­riod.

The de­posit ( dépôt de garantie) A de­posit of 5% - 10% of the pur­chase price is usu­ally paid at the time of sign­ing the pre-sales con­tract. If sign­ing in front of the no­taire, and if the de­posit is more than €3,000, you will be re­quired to pay by bank trans­fer. How­ever, if the amount is un­der €3,000, you can still make this pay­ment by cheque. No­taires’ fees and gov­ern­ment taxes ( frais de no­taire) Mis­tak­enly called no­taires’ fees, the con­veyanc­ing costs about 7.5% of the pur­chase price. This is made up of gov­ern­ment taxes and no­taire fees. When sign­ing the pre-sales con­tract, the no­taire will make an ap­prox­i­mate cal­cu­la­tion of their fees, the gov­ern­ment taxes and sundry dis­burse­ments, and you will be re­quired to make a pro­vi­sional ad­vance pay­ment to cover these costs. The bal­ance due will be cal­cu­lated for the completion. On a sale of up to €300,000, for ex­am­ple, the no­taire fees and taxes can be roughly bro­ken down as fol­lows: – Pur­chase price: €300,000 – Taxes: €18,458 – No­taire fees: €3,193

De­scrip­tion of the Prop­erty ( des­ig­na­tion) The ex­act ad­dress of the prop­erty will be stated in this de­scrip­tion, known as the des­ig­na­tion, and the cor­re­spond­ing sec­tion num­bers un­der which the prop­erty is reg­is­tered at the land registry to­gether with the sur­face area of each sec­tion. It is im­por­tant that you check that the ref­er­ences given in your pre-sales con­tract cor­re­spond to the plans you may

Any works car­ried out in the past decade will carry a 10-year in­surance guar­an­tee so be sure that your seller pro­vides you with this doc­u­ment

have or any checks that you have car­ried out your­self at the land registry ( cadas­tre). There will also be a fairly pre­cise de­scrip­tion of the prop­erty you are buy­ing, be it a house, or an apart­ment in a co-own­er­ship. If buy­ing a house with land, en­sure you know where, if any, the bound­ary mark­ers are lo­cated, and if you are sub­jected to any ease­ments (rights of way) across your land by a third party, or if in­deed, you will need to have right of way across a neigh­bour’s plot of land for your own ac­cess to any an­cil­lary build­ings or plots.

If you’re buy­ing in a coown­er­ship ( co-pro­priété), the de­scrip­tion will in­clude the floor on which your apart­ment is lo­cated, and the size of your apart­ment, your no­tional share of the build­ing, and any cel­lars, garages or base­ment units be­ing sold with your apart­ment. Be sure to check unit num­bers cor­re­spond to any plans you al­ready have.

In­surance checks Whether buy­ing a house or apart­ment, if your seller has car­ried out any ren­o­va­tion works that have re­quired plan­ning per­mis­sion, en­sure that the works con­form to the au­tho­ri­sa­tion given in the per­mis­sion. You may find your­selves the un­wit­ting vic­tim of hav­ing to pay for square me­tres that your seller has not of­fi­cial ti­tle to. Any works car­ried out in the past decade will carry a 10-year in­surance guar­an­tee. Be sure that your seller pro­vides you with this doc­u­ment. Any ex­ten­sions or build­ings con­structed with­out proper plan­ning per­mis­sion will not be covered un­der in­surance in the event of de­struc­tion, by fire or oth­er­wise, and you will find it dif­fi­cult to re­place build­ing work that did not legally ex­ist.

Use of the prop­erty The no­taire will check your in­tended use of the prop­erty. If this should change be­tween the pre-sales con­tract and the completion, and re­quire either plan­ning per­mis­sion or the agree­ment of the co-own­er­ship, this may de­lay the completion, and cause no­va­tion (a new pre-sales con­tract be­ing writ­ten to re­place the pre­vi­ous one). The seller has the right to refuse as it means that they will re­ceive the sale price later than orig­i­nally agreed.

How­ever, if the in­tended change of use has no im­pact on the seller, this is usu­ally straight­for­ward. It is al­ways wise nev­er­the­less to keep your no­taire and seller in­formed.

Ann Ed­mond­son guides buy­ers and sell­ers through the prac­ti­cal el­e­ments of set­ting up life in France ann@auc­tus.co.uk

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