3. VEFA Contract for 'Off-Plan' French Property
3.1. Contract Documentation
The final contract is called the Vente en l’état futur d’achèvement (VEFA).
Whilst there exists general statutory regulation of VEFA contracts, they come in different forms and most contracts will be prepared by a otaire on the instructions of a developer.
The standard contract will then be used for all sales in a development.
So it is likely the contract is written to the advantage of the developer.
A notaire who refuses the 'reasonable' suggestions of the developer is unlikely to retain the business of that developer for very long.
This is one more good reason why you should engage your own notaire to act for you.
The contract should be a comprehensive document that must contain a full description and plans of the proposed dwelling and its precise location.
It must also include a technical description of the materials and equipment used in the construction, and list the communal facilities and their conditions of use. This document is called the notice descriptive.
You should check for any differences between the terms set out in the preliminary contract and those contained in the VEFA contract.
In particular, you should check that the location and size of the property are as specified in the initial contract.
In the event of a later dispute, it will be the terms as set out in the VEFA contract that will apply.
You will not normally be provided with your own copy of the full technical supporting documentation (descriptif détaillé), which will be retained by the notaire. Nevertheless, you are entitled to consult the documentation at any time, and it forms part of the contract.
When the property has been completed you need to be able to compare any difference between the property shown on the plan and the actual realisation. Indeed, the law states that if you are not given this information (or the right of access to it), then the contract is capable of being annulled.
The developer is also obliged to provide you with the set of the rules that will apply on the development, e.g. use of the communal areas, business use of the property, service charges.
This document is called the cahier des charges and it is important you read and understand it.
Not only will the VEFA contract be in French but it will contain a large number of technical terms and drawings that the layman is unlikely to be able to understand. Even a French person would have difficulty in grasping the detail of the contract.
Accordingly, you would be well advised to appoint your own professional advisor, such as an architect, to take you through it.
Provided you have previously signed a preliminary contract, you are entitled to be supplied with a full copy of the final VEFA contract at least one month before signature, in order to give you time to properly understand and agree the contents.
If this period is not respected then, even though you may sign, you will retain a right of retraction. The one month period of reflection does not start until you have received a copy of the contract, sent by recorded delivery.
You need to review with care the level of precision in the contract and how much discretion may be left to the developer.
Thus, it is not unusual for the contract to provide a clause granting the developer up to 5% dimensional tolerance. You need to decide whether or not this is acceptable to you.
The developer is likely to seek as much tolerance as possible, and if you give them too much room for manoeuvre you may well end up with something you did not quite expect and be unable to do anything about it!
One other important issue you need discuss with the developer and the notaire is the level of discretion that may be left to the developer to choose or change materials, colours and fittings etc.
Thus, it is not unusual for the developer to include a clause with the words 'or equivalent' in the contract, relating to the use of materials or equipment. You may wish to insist that any changes in the specification be subject to your prior authorisation, or to ensure that the level of discretion is drawn as tightly as possible.
The contract will normally grant the purchaser some choice about colours and fittings etc from a catalogue supplied by the developer. If it does not, you should try and insist upon it.
Next: Purchase Price
Back: 'Cooling-Off' Period
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