Guide to Legal Process of Buying Property in France

13. Pre-Contract Enquiries Check-List

The following check-list may be self-evident to the experienced purchaser, but we are often surprised just how many people buy a property in France without making sufficient enquiries about it or the area, and later come to regret their decision.

We appreciate it may not always be easy to establish the answers to the questions in the check list, but merely thinking about them may lead you to make appropriate enquiries.

You might want to visit the local mairie and speak to them about the property and the area.

If you are not getting any answers, and you are unsettled about some issues, ask in local shops and bars, particularly with questions about the local area.

Ask, ask, ask around!

I. Boundaries of the Property

  • What are the boundaries to the property?
  • How are they shown on site?
  • Are the actual boundaries on site the same as those shown on the plan cadastral (land register)?
  • Is the land area of the property the same as that stated on the sales particulars?
  • Does the seller own adjacent land or buildings not in the sale?
  • To whom do the boundaries belong?
  • Is there any agreement governing the maintenance of boundaries?
  • If the boundaries are jointly maintained what are the arrangements?
  • Is there any dispute with the neighbours over the boundaries?
  • Do the neighbours consider there is a dispute?

II. Party Walls

  • Are there any party walls?
  • If so, have there been or are there any disputes or agreements regarding the walls?
  • Do the neighbours consider there is any dispute or an agreement in existence?

III. Rights over Property

  • Are there any rights, restrictions or informal arrangements that adversely the property?
  • Is there, in particular, any formal or informal rights of way over the property?
  • Are there any pipes or cables or drains belonging to others that run over or under the property?

IV. Access to Property

  • Is there direct access to the property from a public highway?
  • If there is not, what agreements are in place to obtain access?
  • Who owns the access road and who has maintenance responsibility for it?

V. Access to Neighbouring Land

  • Is there likely to be a need to obtain access to neighbouring land in order to carry out repairs to the property?
  • Has access to neighbouring land for such repairs ever been refused?

VI. Physical Condition

You need to consider what approach suits you best, but if you do not have any technical ability and you have doubts then bring in professional assistance.

  • What bills are available for repairs, servicing and improvements carried out to the property?
  • What warranties are available on repairs and improvements and new installations eg boiler?
  • Are there any construction or planning drawings available on the property?
  • What are the basic construction characteristics of the property?
  • Is the internal surface area of the property the same as that stated on the sales particulars?

A few of the areas you need to check are the following:

a. Structure of the Property

  • Are there any internal or external cracks in the property?
  • If so, has the property suffered from any structural movement?
  • Has any work been carried out to remedy structural defects?
  • If so, are the bills available?
  • What warranties are still in existence?
  • Is the area prone to subsidence or soil heave?
  • Is there any evidence of rising damp?

b. Roof

  • What is the condition of the timber roofing structure in the attic space?
  • Does the roof covering look as though it needs replacing?
  • Is there evidence of roof leaks in the attic or elsewhere in the property?
  • What is the condition of the chimney stacks?

c. Electrics

  • How old is the wiring in the property?
  • Do the outlets actually work?
  • What is the capacity of the system?
  • Are there a sufficient number of sockets and outlets?
  • How old is the boiler? Is there a maintenance certificate?

d. Plumbing

  • What is the condition of pipework?
  • Do the plumbing services actually operate?
  • Is there any evidence of leaks?
  • Is there mains water? If not, are the statutory authorities willing to connect to the property?

e. Rainwater Goods

  • Are there gutters and downpipes?
  • Is there evidence of leaks?
  • Are rainwater drains installed and where do they run to?

f. Flooding

  • Is the property liable to flooding?

g. Termites/Insect Infestation

  • Has timber treatment been carried out and are the guarantees available?

h. Heating System

  • What type of heating system is provided?
  • How old is it and in what sort of condition?

j. Floors/Windows/Doors

  • What is the condition of the woodwork?

VII. Contents

  • What items that are attached to the property will remain?
  • What items not attached to the property will remain?
  • Is the seller willing to agree a list of such items in the contract?

VIII. Utilities and Services

  • Is the property connected to a mains electricity supply?
  • If not, are EDF (electricity supplier) willing to provide a supply to the property and at what cost?
  • Is the property connected to mains drainage?
  • If not what is the provision for foul drainage?
  • Does the septic tank meet current regulations (certificat de conformité)?
  • If not, what is the view of the local council about the septic tank?
  • What is quality of the internet at the property? Can you test it?

IX. Alterations

  • Have any major internal alterations been carried out to the property?
  • Have there been any alterations to the openings of the property?
  • If so, are there planning certificates available for external alterations or additions?
  • Has planning permission for any alterations or additions ever been refused?
  • Is is possible that any plans you may have for improvements to the property will be refused by the local council, eg swimming pool?
  • Are there any disputes currently with the planning authority?
  • Is the property a registered historic property?
  • Does the property have residential use?
  • If so, is a copy of the planning certificate available?
  • Have any grants been made in respect of the property?

X. Environment

  • Are there any major building or infrastructure proposals in the vicinity of the property or neighbouring area, eg wind farms, highways?
  • Are there any nuisances arising from traffic, commercial, industrial or agricultural activities in the vicinity of the property? Have you visited the property at different times of the day/days of the week to establish patterns of activity?
  • Are there any disputes with neighbours concerning nuisance? Have you met the neighbours?
  • What will the surrounding area look like at different times of the year, notably in agricultural areas?

XI. Rates, Taxes and Charges

  • What is the annual amount of the taxe d’habitation, before any abatement that may apply to the existing owner?
  • What is the annual amount of the taxe foncière, before abatement?
  • Has the rateable value of the property been revised as a result of improvements/alterations?
  • What annual service charges are payable?

XII. Disputes

  • Are there any other neighbour disputes which relate to the right enjoyed by the property, or rights enjoyed by neighbouring properties?
  • Are there any other disputes with statutory authorities which relate to the rights enjoyed by the property, or those enjoyed by neighbouring properties?
  • Have there been such disputes in the past? How have they been resolved?

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