Notaire Concealed Planned Wind Farm
Tuesday 07 June 2016
A notaire and the French rural land agency SAFER have been found guilty in a French court of concealing a planned wind turbine development adjoining a property sold to an unsuspecting buyer.
In a case that went before the French Tribunal de grande instance d’Argentan in Normandy, the buyer of an equestrian property brought an action against the seller, the French rural land agency SAFER and the notaire who undertook the conveyancing for not disclosing a planned wind farm.
The property concerned was a house and stables in 22 hectares of land, located in the village of Goulet in the department of Orne and purchased in 2012 for the sum of €530,000.
The new owner was a private individual who was proposing to open an equine health and rescue centre. They only learned of the planned wind farm a short period after completion had taken place.
As is normal with property purchase transactions, the notaire undertook a local search with the council to establish information about the property and the surrounding area.
The search revealed that planning permission had recently been granted for the construction of a park of 10 wind turbines immediately adjoining the property.
Although this information was clearly indicated on the search form returned by the council it was not passed on to the buyer by the notaire.
Nor it seems were the sellers aware of the wind farm, for it was not mentioned in the property sale particulars.
The agency would almost certainly have been consulted about the wind farm as part of the planning process.
The commission due to SAFER on the sale of the property was in the order of €35,000 and the notaire fees payable also amounted to several thousand euros.
The court annulled the sale and ordered repayment of the purchase price with interest. In addition, SAFER were fined €26,500 and the notaire a fine of €10,000.
The role of SAFER (Société d'Aménagement Foncier et d'Etablissement Rural) in property transactions has previously been heavily criticised by the French national audit office.
As for the notaire, the search enquiries they carry out are a pivotal part of their role, so there can be few excuses for not passing on such critical information.