A court has annulled the sale of a building plot as the seller misled the buyers over the planning status of the land.
By way of an acte authentique, the seller sold to the buyers, a young couple, a building plot in the parish of Moussey, in the Vosges department of Lorraine.
The land had been prepared for construction, with a number of the infrastructure services having been installed.
Subsequently, the couple submitted a planning application to the local council, which was granted very quickly by the mayor.
However, within two months the mayor withdrew this consent due to the fact that part of the land in question was not zoned for construction, but for agricultural use.
In France, the planning authority has three months to withdraw a planning consent if they later find it was granted improperly. This is one reason why some notaires insist on waiting until the three month period has expired before concluding a sale that is subject to planning consent being granted.
In this case the couple brought a legal action for the sale to be annulled and for damages to be payable.
The court heard that the seller had provided to the buyer a copy of a planning advice certificate (certificat d’urbanisme), which showed that although the land did not have planning consent it was zoned for construction.
However, two years later the local plan had been changed and part of the land in question was returned to agricultural use.
In addition, some of the land was subject to a highway alignment easement.
The buyer claimed that she was unaware of either the change in the local plan or the easement.
This explanation was not accepted by the court, due to the fact that there had been a division of the land with her brother, during which the easement at least would have become known.
Of perhaps a greater mystery is why the notaire did not pick up in his searches the status of the land and why the local council rushed to make an affirmative decision on the planning application.
No information is available on either of these points, but it can only be surmised that there were administrative errors.