What is French Property Purchase 10 Day Cooling Off Period?
French property purchase 10 day cooling off period is something that needs to be understood by all French property buyers, sellers and by all French mortgage applicants.
French property purchase 10 day cooling off period provides statutory protection against decisions made ‘in the heat of the moment’
For the purchase of most goods the general conditions of sale give the buyer the right to return the goods within a fixed period if they are not as described or if they are not fully satisfactory.
Whilst it is not so easy to send a house back to the seller, French law does give the right to set aside a French property purchase transaction if the buyer can prove a claim under the French law pertaining to vices cachés:
Un vice caché est un défaut ou une imperfection dans un article découvert après l’achat et que l’acheteur n’aurait pas pu découvrir par un examen superficiel. Ces défauts ne sont pas découverts par un examen ou des tests de routine, puisqu’ils sont présents dès l’ébauche de la production et n’apparaissent qu’à l’utilisation de l’objet en question.
Généralement, il est du devoir du vendeur de rembourser le bien ou de lui trouver un remplacement, sans défaut pour celui-ci, car cela entre dans la garantie “implicite” de qualité que tout vendeur doit à son acheteur.
To provide even more transparency and flexibility before you commit to such an important transaction as a French property purchase and become bound by the Compromis de Vente, you can benefit from the statutory French property purchase 10 day cooling off period, enabling a purchaser to withdraw from the compromis de vente within ten days of being notified of the right to do so.
The main concern of the law and its application was to ensure that the procedure for notifying the contract to the purchaser was fully respected so that the French property purchase 10 day cooling off period could not be challenged by a vendor or estate agent.
Since the law came into force, article L271-1 of the Code of Construction and Housing has provided that a copy of the initial contract must be delivered to the purchaser by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt or any other equivalent means for the determination of the date of receipt of delivery.
There are two ways to notify the purchaser of the contract:
- By registered post
- By hand delivery.
Delivery | Registered Post
It is common practice for the estate agent who prepares the initial contract to send a copy of it to the purchaser by a lettre recommandeé avec accuse de réception. The purchaser will then benefit from the French property purchase 10 day cooling off period, which starts the day after they have received the notification.
However, we have seen notifications sent to the purchaser before they have signed the contract.
We have even had cases of French estate agents asking the prospective purchaser to sign the receipt confirming the start of the cooling-off period before signing a compromis.
Neither of these procedures complies with French law and are illegal: French law clearly states that the cooling-off can only start the day after the purchaser receives the contract signed by both parties.
Most reputable estate agents are more careful and wait until they have a contract signed by both parties in their possession before formal notification is sent to a purchaser.
A recent court case that arose regarding the notification by registered letter concerned the purchase by two spouses. Until the case it was common to send a single notification jointly to the two spouses and it was not unusual to have a receipt returned with only one signature.
It has now been ruled by the French Supreme Court that a single letter should be sent to each purchaser even if they are married and each should return a receipt confirming that they read and understood the cooling-off conditions.
As an alternative, a single letter could be sent to the two spouses but both of the spouses will need to sign the registered letter form or prove that one of the spouses had a valid power of attorney to act on behalf of the other.
It is very important for the Notaire to ensure that the notification was properly sent to the purchaser in order to avoid any argument regarding the application of the cooling-off period and when it expires.
The risk for a vendor would be that a purchaser could claim that the cooling-off notice was incorrectly sent and request a new, legally valid, notification to be sent in order to have the option of withdrawing from the compromis de vente under the French property purchase 10 day cooling off period.
Delivery | Hand Delivery
The second way of notifying a contract is to deliver a copy of it by hand. It derives from the practice used by Notaires, as public officers, to give a copy of the contract to a client and ask them to sign the certificate confirming that they received it.
This practice gives simultaneous proof that the client received a copy of the contract and the starting date for the cooling-off period.
The recent decree dated 19 December 2008 has amended the conditions for a Notaire, or even an estate agent, to give the notification by hand and the decree is likely to bring to an end the practice of hand delivery.
The contract must set out the provision of Article L271-2 of the Code of Construction and Housing.
This is not new and practitioners were already carrying the reproduction of this text on the certificate delivered by hand to the purchaser.
The innovation contained in the law is that the beneficiary of the French property purchase 10 day cooling off period must write a sentence on the contract confirming the receipt of a copy of the contract. The contents of the handwritten note are strictly defined by the text.
Furthermore the law requires that the buyers specify the name of the professional who assisted him with the signing of the contract, whether it is the Estate Agent or the Notaire, and the place and date where the contract was signed.
Under French property purchase 10 day cooling off period provisions the buyer will have to answer three questions: who, where and when?
- Who: when in accordance with Article L271-1 paragraph 3 of the Code of Construction and Housing the contract is made through a professional who has been mandated to assist in the sale (that is the estate agent) it is thought that it is the name of the estate agency firm which must be provided. If the contract is signed with a Notaire, then his name should be mentioned in the deed.
- Where: the author of the decree has not introduced a formal requirement for the designation of the place of signing of the deed and it will indicate the name of the locality where the notice was received.
- When: the text that has to be handwritten by the beneficiary states that he is aware that a period of ten days is granted by Article L271-1 of the Code of Construction and Housing. Then the beneficiary must indicate that this period runs from the day after he receives a copy of it. The indication written by the beneficiary will have to be checked by the Notaire to anticipate any mistake regarding the wording or the date indicated in the handwritten document.