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What is the ‘cooling off’ period for buying French property?

Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt answers a reader query on buying property in France.

Question

What is the ‘cooling off’ period in France?

Answer

I am about to make an offer to buy a property in France. I understand I will get a cooling off period before I am tied in. Could you explain a bit more?

The entitlement to a cooling off period comes from article L 271-1 of the French Code de la Construction et de l’Habitation. It relates to the purchase of a residential property or building plot. It does not apply to a parcel of land not intended to be built on. Only the buyer gets a cooling off period, and this entitlement does not apply to companies or other entities. This includes some SCIs.

If the sale and purchase contract has been prepared by an estate agent, once buyer and seller have signed this, the agent is required to serve a copy of the contract on the buyer together with a cooling off notice. The agent will either do this by sending the copy of the contract and the cooling off notice by registered post or by email with a read receipt. If the contract has been prepared by a notaire and both parties sign the contract at the notaire’s office, the notaire can serve the cooling off notice on the buyer immediately following signature of the contract.

However, in our experience many notaries serve the cooling off notice on the buyer by registered post or by email with a read receipt. The buyer has 10 days from the day after receipt of the notice to withdraw without reason. It requires certain formalities. It must be in writing and sent by registered post or by email with a read receipt to either the estate agent or notaire, depending on what is agreed in the contract.

If the buyer has paid a deposit, the agent or notaire must refund it, normally within 21 days of receipt of the notice of withdrawal. The 10-day period is strictly enforceable, so if the buyer tried to pull out 12 days after receiving the notice, the withdrawal could be considered ineffective and the buyer required to proceed with the purchase or lose his or her deposit.

This article was first published in response to a reader query in The Connexion - August 2020.

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