In France, property buyers have a set period to withdraw from the property purchase after they have signed the contract. Find out how long the cooling-off period is and how the system works
The French government changed the cooling-off period accorded to property buyers from seven to 10 days in 2015.
However, given that there are instances when a cooling-off period does not apply at all, it is perhaps wise to look at how potential buyers can go about making an offer, and at what point they may become bound.
What is a cooling-off period?
The cooling-off period is a 10-day window during which a buyer can withdraw from a purchase, without needing to offer any explanation, without risk of breach of contract, and in the full knowledge that any deposit already paid is guaranteed to be returned within 21 days.
The cooling-off period only applies to the buyer of a property in France. The seller is never accorded the same opportunity. This period was 7 days util the French government extended the period to 10 days in 2015.
How does the cooling-off period work?
Once a compromis de vente has been signed, a copy of it is delivered to each buyer. If signed at a notaire’s office, a copy can be delivered immediately by the notaire with each buyer then signing an acknowledgement that it has been given to them. However, even following a signature meeting they would normally be delivered to the buyer’s home. One copy is sent to each of the buyers – even if that may appear rather wasteful – as termination by one signatory is enough to terminate for all.
Presuming the buyers do not need to withdraw from the purchase, there is nothing further they need do, although they should retain the packaging the documents were sent in as there may be a receipt slip attached that would need to be returned.
If they do want to pull out they must notify the notaire within the 10-day period, either in person or by registered post or courier. The timing and method of termination are strict, and if not done correctly the contract will not be cancelled.
When does the cooling-off period start?
It is important to note that the 10-day period starts from the day following the receipt of the registered letter and not, contrary to popular belief, from the date that the purchaser signs the compromis.
If, for example, the buyer signs the contract first, it may well be the case that the seller would not sign it for several days; in such a case the contract can only be sent to the buyer to start the cooling-off period once it has been completed by both parties, so this might well be a while after the buyer signed.
There are instances when the cooling-off period does not apply: for example, in the case of a purchase by a company, or the purchase of open land upon which one would plan to build a house.
Matthew Cameron is a partner at Ashton KCJ Tel: 01603 703070
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