by Sue Busby, France Legal (original version published in Living France)
There are 3 types of conditions in a purchase contract. If you want to add conditions into a contract, it is important to understand their effect and the difference between them.
Conditions générales are the ordinary standard conditions you will find in most contracts to purchase property such as that:
- the purchaser will take over all the tax bills for the property from the date of signing the acte de vente
- the purchaser will take the property as he finds it with no recourse against the seller, even for defects in the sub-soil
- the vendor will not make any significant changes to the property between contract and completion
- the vendor will not sell any part of the property to anyone else between contract and completion
- the purchaser will have possession of the property on the same date as signing the acte de vente
Conditions particulières are special conditions which may be required by one of the parties but which is under their control. For example, that:
- the vendor repairs the storm-damaged roof
- the vendor clears out the garage before completion
- the fosse séptique is emptied before completion
are the most interesting of the 3 types of conditions. A condition suspensive is a condition which, if not realised allows the purchaser to withdraw from what would otherwise be a binding contract. These conditions are those which are beyond the will of the vendor and the purchaser and hence need careful drafting. Most standard French purchase contracts only contain 2 or 3 of these conditions which does not afford a great deal of protection for the buyer.
There will usually be conditions suspensives to the effect that:
- a search at the land registry reveals no mortgage or charge on the property that will not be cleared by the sale proceeds
- that local planning information does not reveal any public utility easements that interferes unduly with the enjoyment of the property
- that no authority that has a right of pre-emption over the property exercises this right
There are others which are absolutely necessary such as:
- that the purchaser is able to obtain a loan which he needs for the purchase (if a loan is needed)
There are many others that could be added to make the agreement very safe for the purchaser. However, the vendor is entitled to refuse to sign the contract if he is not happy with the contents so it is advisable to be reasonable about inserting extra conditions.
You may be unsure about the structure of the property and therefore want to have a survey done. You can include a condition suspensive to say that the purchase is dependent on certain defects not being revealed by a survey. You should certainly have one to say that a search of title deeds must not reveal any inconvenient easements (eg a right of way across your land).
You could have a condition suspensive stipulating that you must still be alive and capable when the acte de vente is due for signature. Otherwise your heirs may be expected to proceed with the transaction on your behalf.
We will liaise with the notaire and/or agent to ensure that your contract has all the conditions necessary to protect your interests.
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