Vendor`s Disclosure Obligations when Dealing with Property for Sale in France
Be sure that you`ll never buy a house, estate or land in France without being provided with the exact full information about the property you are going to get, because the French law obliges a vendor to make you know everything about his property for sale. So in practice you`ll be put into the four following pictures that we`ll be described in detail below: hidden defects, surface area, easements and tenancies.
And one of the first things you should be informed of is the existence of hidden defects (vice caché) which may influence the total price of the property for sale and make it lower or even give a vendee an opportunity to withdraw from the bargain. The seller must know about this or that defect to warn you of it in advance, and the defect of the property for sale itself can`t just appear at the very time of the real estate deal. So you should be extremely vigilant in the entire process of buying property, because in France under the law you are given only 2 years to find the problem or any other imperfection. But if you have been put in the way of things that there is, in fact, this or that defect when buying the house or land, then this clause can`t apply. Usually there is a clause in the contract about your intention to buy the property en l’état (as seen), in this case you are recommended to ask your own notary officer before signing the agreement, because such a clause literally releases the vendor from any obligation for hidden defects and, what is more, it is introduced in the contract pretty often nowadays. But, anyway, even such a statement can`t guarantee the seller`s being exonerated, especially if he hasn`t acted in good faith. The court can`t exempt the vendor from liability so quickly and easily and the judge generally takes into consideration not only written documents but also the intentions of both the parties concerned. And if in legal proceedings it is found out that the property has been sold with at least one hidden defect which the vendee was not informed about when buying a house or estate, then it`s possible to bring down the price or even declare the real estate deal invalid.
So, to avoid any possible disputes, you should make sure that the contract you`re about to sign doesn’t include any statements that makes the vendor acquitted of latent defects or, on the contrary, you may even insert a clause in the agreement about your being ready to take responsibility for all the problems on the property for sale you have been already enlightened about. But, anyway, do never sign the contract before carrying out a full survey of the house, apartment or land for sale, because first of all you need to learn by yourself what you`re going to buy. But stay focused, all the information stated above is related only to general aspects of buying property in France and this rule doesn`t apply when dealing with new dwellings or when the vendee is a professional in the real estate industry (selling, buying, renting of property and its construction).
One more aspect you must be put wise of when you are going to buy a house, estate or land in France is overall internal surface area. This rule is clearly drafted in the French law loi carrez, and under its clauses if this figure is missed or is inaccurate by more than 5%, then the real estate deal may be annulled. To check what the correct and precise figure is, the vendor may either appoint a professional to carry out the measurement survey or just to do it by himself. But if some skilled practitioners are hired, then be cautious, because quite often such professionals don’t want to be sued by the vendor in case of a possible future post-contract dispute about the surface area and they just err on the side of caution while doing the measurements due to buyer`s being given the protection. But when dealing with the surface area you have no warranties as compared to an ordinary buying an apartment, house or land, and in this case the agreement usually includes a standard clause without any statutory guarantees. So as for the surface area issue in general, then you had better carry out your own measurement survey, but before doing it try to take professional`s opinion on the property parts that are included in the entire calculation and are subjects to measurement.
But sometimes when buying a house, estate or land you may be interested in a planting, for example, access to the road, right of light or water consumption. What is meant here is an easement or a servitude – the right, or restriction of the right, to do or not to do something on the adjoining land which you don`t own. As a rule, a servitude is for the benefit of adjacent lands, then it`s called an easement appurtenant and it`s obligatory for you, as for the vendee. But sometimes it is just for the benefit of a certain individual and in this case the term «easement» is replaced by an «authorisation» or easement in gross and then it`s not binding on you. Usually notary officers are responsible for finding out whether any servitudes exist or not, but sometimes their research is far from the one which is required. And, what is more, vendors do not desire and hurry too much to inform the future owner of the easements, and sometimes even an estate agent doesn’t know about some of them (especially longstanding ones), who, in his turn, has to ask the seller about these rights or restrictions. And if you want to ask the vendor about any easements on the land for sale before signing the sale and purchase agreement, then you are highly recommended to do it before the notary officer, because you must be sure that your rights will be clearly drafted in the agreement if some servitudes exist.
For example, if there is a restriction that you are not allowed to use this or that part of the property, then never reckon on oral assurances but had better make the necessary clause included in the agreement to avoid any possible disputes. But one way or another, you should think in advance when dealing with easements, because if you want to sell this house or land later, then make sure that these or those servitudes will be for the benefit of your successors. And, anyway, before putting the signature in the agreement, satisfy yourself that finally, after the closing of a sale, your ownership of the house or land will be free and clear.
And another important thing you must be informed of by the seller is the existence of tenancies or licences. And, what is more, you had better ask about the existence of them in front of the notary officer to be absolutely sure that after your signing the contract you`ll be provided with the vacant possession of the house or land. Because sometimes one of the family or just some occupiers do not agree to move out the house or apartment they used to live in, or there is just an informal licence, the existence of which is usually omitted and which can be given to a farmer without notary officer`s being informed of. So it`s not referred to any agricultural tenancy if the farmer just makes hay from grass on a certain part of the land, but in case he gets money from this activity in some way, then, in fact, it is referred. So, to avoid any possible tenancy problems, you are recommended to make the contract include the following clause: the vendor will get all the money only when you are granted vacant possession.
From the above reasoning it`s clear that when buying property in France you should necessarily obtain full information in the four spheres discussed above in detail (hidden defects, surface area, easements and tenancies) to be absolutely sure that the house, estate or land for sale is exactly the one you need and want to get in possession of.