Guide to Selling Property in France

Estate Agents in France

  1. Choosing an Estate Agent
  2. Carte Professionelle
  3. Mandat de Vente
  4. Valuation
  5. Property Description
  6. Fee/Commission
  7. Code of Conduct

7. Code of Conduct

Estate agents in France are obliged to operate under a substantive code of ethics that has been enshrined in statute law.

A code of ethics is not new. Both of the major national associations, FNAIM and SNPI, have had their own internal codes in place for over 10 years.

However, not all estate agents are members of either of these associations, there have been misgivings about the level of enforcement by them, and so a feeling that standards needed greater regulation.

Accordingly, in order to improve the quality of the profession and consumer confidence in it, in 2014 the government elaborated a code of conduct that applies to all estate agents, whether or not they are members of a national association.

The code does not seek to replace the legal obligations already imposed on estate agents (which are substantial), but rather to make those obligations more transparent and to improve professional supervision of the industry.

Although the code applies directly to those who hold a carte professionnelle, there is an obligation on card holders to ensure that staff and agents who work for them conduct themselves in accordance with the code.

It is also a code that is enforceable in law, and which therefore may be the subject of jurisprudence.

The government did set up an independant body to regulate the activities of estate agents, and oversee the code, but the activities of the Conseil national de la transaction et de la gestion immobilières have never seen the light of day!

Inevitably, there is a level of generality about much of the code de déontologie, but its scope is impressive.

According to the terms of the décret, the rules "should permit the exercise of activities of the sale and management of property in conditions that conform to the interests of clients, and to ensure the respect of good commercial practice by all professionals."

The code imposes an obligation on agents to exercise their profession with "conscience, dignity, loyalty, sincerity and probity", and to aim, "by their behaviour and words to give the best image of their profession", and to preclude "all behaviour, action, or omission susceptible to be prejudicial to their profession."

The code also imposes the "strict" respect of the law and regulations, an obligation that is likely to persuade many agents to take a careful look at their practices and ensure staff and agents are properly trained and supervised.

But the code is not merely about conduct; it is also about competences, for it imposes on agents an obligation to "possess the practical and theoretical knowledge necessary for the exercise of their activities", to ensure they are informed of relevant legislative and regulatory developments and "to know the market conditions in which they intervene."

The code is strongly prescriptive about conflicts of interest, requiring that agents ensure they do not put themselves in a position where they compromise their position with their client or other parties with whom they have commercial ties, or in which they have a personal interest.

Accordingly, agents are required to inform their clients and other parties of other operations for which are contracted, and of the possibility of a conflict of interest between them, eg banks, surveyors.

Indeed, the issue of transparency is also prominent in the code, requiring that agents provide their clients with information that is "exacte, intelligible et complète" on their professional activities and services, their charges and their competences, and their professional qualifications.

Finally, agents must defend the interests of their client, and demonstrate impartiality and prudence. They are required to communicate to their clients on a regular basis of the development of their instructions and any difficulties they may be encountering.

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