Legal info for buying in Provence
French property law
This is based on the 200-year-old Code Napoléon, introduced in 1804. It is fundamentally different from UK property law. It does, however, have some simiarities to the system practised in Scotland. When the buyer’s offer is accepted by the vendor, initial contracts are exchanged. These initial cntracts are binding to both parties. There then follows a 3 month period of legal checking of things such as land registry searches, before completion when the final contract of sale is signed.
Notaires are public officials responsible for overseeing property transactions in France. Notaires represent the French Ministry of Justice. They do not act for the buyer or the seller. In rural areas, it is common for a notaire to serve as an estate agent as well. Notaires do not ‘take sides’ for their clients, as do British solicitors. They have a duty to remain neutral. It is usual for the trasaction to be handled by the Notaire that covers the area where the house is located. The buyer pays the Notaire's fees.
It is common for purchasers to bring a notaire of their choice into the process. When this happens, the two Notaires share the work and the fees. Employing a second notaire may be advisable when the first is also acting as an estate agent for the vendor, or used to act as the vendor’s notaire. Notaires are customarily addressed by the courtesy title Maître.
Contracts and searches
The initial contract, the compromis de vente, is very often drawn up by the estate agent. The Notaire always drafts the final deed of sale, the acte de vente. Once the initial contract is signed and the deposit paid, the Notaire undertakes the various searches including, checking the seller’s title to the land at the local registry, finding out if there are any outstanding charges on the property, and looking for any planned developments that will directly affect the property. They are not responsible for checking anything that indirectly affects a property such as the building of new roads, for example. To find this out it best to make a visit to the local Mairie's office at the town hall, the Hotel de Ville.