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French property transfer on divorce holding up sale

Question

When my husband and I divorced in 2018, an English court awarded me our property in France, with my ex-husband keeping a house in the UK. I am now selling the property in France. My notaire has said I have to pay €11,000 to remove my ex from the title deed and that my ex also has to sign by proxy to agree to this. Why, when the English divorce courts have made a judgment?

 

Answer

The notaire is correct: as far as the French land registry and French tax authority are concerned, the property is still registered in joint names.

The existence of the UK court order must be enforced by the notaire in France, so before you can sell the French property, there must be a transfer of ownership from joint names into your sole name.

This response is provided on the basis that you and your ex-husband own the property half each en indivision, which is the default method of joint ownership of a property in France.

If you asked the notaire to include a tontine clause when you bought it in 2017, the position is more complicated and the transfer of ownership deed will need to include a cancellation of the tontine provision.

Where a transfer of ownership from joint owners to the sole name of one spouse is agreed or imposed by a court, there is a transfer tax of 2.5% payable by the spouse acquiring the share of the other.

This means you are responsible for paying the transfer tax, calculated on the full value of the property.

The fee of the notaire is then payable on top of this and can be anything between a further 1-2% of the property value.

Your notaire is likely to insist on the transfer of ownership being completed before he/she will progress a sale in your sole name.

The co-operation of your ex-husband will therefore be required. He can give power of attorney to the notaire’s office to sign the document on his behalf so he does not have to travel to France.

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

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