With France now in lockdown, what are the rules in place concerning housing market activity?
Since 30th October, to at least 1st December, substantial restrictions have been placed on the activities of French property professionals and on buyers and sellers.
UPDATE: On 24th Nov President Macron announced that estate agents and notaires could operate normally, subject to sanitation protocols in place, from 28th Nov.
The greatest of those constraints is that potential buyers are not permitted to physically visit properties that are advertised for sale. Emmanuelle Wargon, the Minster of Housing, has stated that: “Les visites des appartements avant location ou vente par les particuliers ne pourront pas avoir lieu, seules les visites virtuelles seront possibles”. That remains the case even though the property may be unoccupied.
In addition, estate agents have been obliged to close their offices to the public. Although they are permitted to continue to work from their offices, without receiving the public, the government have asked that, wherever possible, they work from home.
Nevertheless, estate agents and other property professionals are permitted to make visits to properties to undertake their business.
That means it remains possible for estate agents to take new instructions, provide valuations and take photos/videos, and for the statutory surveys (diagnostics immobiliers) to be carried out.
The building industry also remains open, so subject to adherence to health protocols, building works on a property can continue.
Although notaires offices are generally closed, they are permitted to receive members of the public to undertake the legal formalities of a sale. The decree 2020-1310, 29th October 2020 expressly authorises a visit to a notaire for a meeting: "chez un professionnel du droit, pour un acte ou une démarche qui ne peuvent être réalisés à distance."
Under a change of law that occurred with the previous lockdown it is possible, for those unable or unwilling to attend the office, for the signing process to be undertaken on-line. Indeed, the Minister of Housing has urged "au maximum des systèmes de signature à distance. Cependant lorsque cela n'est pas possible, les études notariales peuvent accueillir du public, sur rendez-vous."
Although the regulation allows signing of legal documents with a notaire, it does not permit a sale and purchase contract (compromis de vente) to be signed in the offices of an estate agent. That means all such contracts must be signed through a notaire.
The Minister of Housing has stated that removal companies can continue with their activities ("Les déménageurs peuvent également continuer d’exercer leur métier dans le respect strict des mesures sanitaires."), although some companies have decided to suspend their operations during the lockdown, due to the risk to their staff. It is not permitted to use friends to assist with removals.
Those relocating need to complete the official form (Attestation-de-deplacement) granting them the right to leave their home on the grounds of ‘motif familial impérieux'.
Travel between the UK and France continues to be allowed, but only provided there are justifiable reasons. Relocating to a new family home in France is one of those reasons, as above.