You've fallen in love with a flat or a house? It's within your price range? Before making a commitment, you will need to consult the following documents:
- f you are buying an apartment, the statement of common expenses (relevé des charges) and the minutes of the last general meeting of unit owners (procès-verbal de l'assemblée générale des copropriétaires).
- This will tell you whether the flats are managed correctly and whether works have been voted recently;
- The building's maintenance record (carnet d'entretien de l'immeuble): since 1st June 2001, the seller must provide the maintenance record on request. It is kept up-to-date by the building manager (syndic) and indicates the year in which major works are carried out (restoration of the façade, addition of a lift, etc.).
- The latest land tax (taxe foncière) and local services tax (taxe d'habitation) notices
- The asbestos survey
- The termite survey, which is compulsory in areas contaminated by termites.
If you intend to buy a house, you should contact the local council in order to find out the town planning regulations and any works that are scheduled for the neighbourhood.
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Exchange of contracts or preliminary agreement
There are two sorts of contracts that can be exchanged when buying a property :
- The first, called a promesse unilatérale de vente (unilateral promise of sale) is not binding upon the buyer. It simply gives him an option to buy the property during the period stipulated in the contract, which he is free to exercise or not;
- The second, called a promesse synallagmatique or compromis de vente (bilateral promise of sale) is binding upon both signatories to the contract: the seller must sell and the buyer must buy once any conditions suspensives have been fulfilled
Since 1st June 2001, any (non professional) buyer of an already existing property who has signed a private contract has a 7-day withdrawal (or "cooling off") period (délai de rétractation).
During this time, no money is paid, except when the contract is handled by a professional who has to reimburse any sums received within 21 days in case of withdrawal from the agreement.
Completion of sale
Completion of the sale before a notaire (a publicly appointed official who is responsible for ensuring the property has good title, i.e. that there are no irregularities in the ownership, and that the purchase or sale is correctly transacted) is the last step before registration and legalization of the sale.
The buyer will then take possession of the property and the seller will receive the sales price.
If no contracts have been exchanged previously, the notaire must allow the buyer a 7-day reflection period (délai de réflexion) after notification of the draft deed of sale (project d'acte).
In practice, it is usually the seller's notaire who handles the deed, assisted, as the case may be, by the buyer's notaire.
The other costs incurred by the sale (notaire's fees, stamp duty and registration fees) are paid entirely by the purchaser.
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Commonhold or copropriété
Definition of copropriété or commonhold
A copropriété is a block of flats or freehold estate divided into units and common areas, with each unit owned by a unit-holder (copropriétaire) and the common areas owned by the commonhold.
It is governed by the French law of 10th July 1965 and the decree of 17th March 1967.
A set of regulations called the règlement de copropriété defines the purpose of the freehold estate and determines the rights and obligations of the unit-holders, in relation to both their units and the common areas, as well as their share of the running costs of the building.
The unit-holders are members of an association called a syndicat, which is a legal entity.
It draws up the building regulations if necessary and its purpose is to maintain the property and manage the common areas.
Decisions are made at membership meetings (assemble générale), usually held once a year, and are executed by a syndic or managing agent, under the control of a conseil syndical, elected by the association of members to assist and supervise the syndic.
The syndic is the legal representative of the unit-holders, both in civil and legal affairs.
What the syndici does
The syndic is mainly responsible for the following:
Ensuring that the regulations and decisions made by membership meetings are respected;
Managing the block of flats, including general operation of the building, maintenance, repair and caretaking, and having any necessary emergency work carried out at its own initiative;
and having any necessary emergency work carried out at its own initiative;
Keeping the building maintenance record up to date (carnet d'entretien);
Drawing up the proposed budget for the association of members for submission to the annual meeting and providing separate accounts for each syndicat, in accordance with the accounting regulations.
Common areas and units
The units are the parts of the building and land designated for exclusive ownership of a given unit-holder.
They are the exclusive property of each unit-holder.
However, it is the building regulations which define the exact boundaries of each unit.
The common areas are the parts of the building and land allocated for the use of some or all of the unit holders.
If no specific mention is made or in the case of a contradiction between deeds, the following are deemed to be common parts :
- Building hallways and corridors;
- Staircases, lift wells;
- Parks and gardens;
- Access roads;
- Building envelopes, casework, ducts and chimney stacks;
- Technical premises (bin rooms, for example);
- Passageways and corridors;
- Building services, including piping running through private areas;
- Central heating. The boiler and heating installations are the joint property of the syndicat and to prevent serious disruption of the entire installation, it is forbidden to modify, replace or remove any of the heaters installed in the units;
- Rubbish chutes: ducts are common areas and so are hoppers when they are collective; however, when the hoppers are installed in the units, they are private;
- The building antenna and/or satellite dish.
The breakdown of common expenses among the unit holders is defined by the building regulations in pursuance of the provisions of article 10 of the law of 1965 which distinguishes between expenses relating to common parts and those relating to common installations and collective services.
Expenses relating to the maintenance, repair and operation of the common areas must be divided up in proportion to the relative value of each unit.
Expenses incurred by collective services and common installations are divided up according to the use of said services and installations by each unit.
Annual meeting of unit-holders
All the unit-holders can participate, together with the following:
- Tenants having signed a home ownership contract;
- Partners, in the case of units owned by a non-trading property company (société civile immobilière);
- The agent, in the case of jointly-owned units;
- Representatives of tenant associations;
- Tenants appointed by a unit-holder.
If a unit-holder cannot personally attend the meeting, they can be represented by a person of their choice, except for the syndic. The proxy is written and signed on plain, unheaded paper
A person cannot hold more than three proxies, unless all the proxies represent less than 5% of the votes.
At least one meeting must be held per year. However, an extraordinary meeting can be convened if necessary, at the initiative of the syndic, at the request of the conseil syndical, or at the request of one or more unit-holders representing at least one-fourth of the votes of all the unit-holders.
Except in the case of an emergency, the syndic must respect a period of 15 clear days between the date of reception of the notification to attend and the date of the meeting.
Notification to attend the meeting is sent by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt or handed personally to the unit-holders who sign an acceptance sheet.
The draft resolutions, essential conditions of contracts and quotations to be submitted to the meeting for approval are appended to the notification to attend, together with the proposed budget for the next year and the statement of account for the previous year.
On arrival, each unit-holder or representative must sign the attendance sheet. At the beginning of the meeting, a chair and one or several scrutineers (assesseurs) are appointed. Unless decided otherwise by the meeting, the syndic takes the minutes.
Each point on the agenda is then examined and voted upon according the majority applicable to the type of decision concerned.
The results of the votes are written down in the minutes which also indicate whether or not the decision was adopted.
Within the two months following the meeting, the minutes must be send to any non-represented absent unit-holders and the opponents of any of the points on the agenda.
Within the two months following the meeting, the minutes must be send to any non-represented absent unit-holders and the opponents of any of the points on the agenda, after which they have two months to appeal to the court to have the latter annulled.
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