The most relevant points for a Notaire to verify during a transaction are the following:
a) the entitlement of the parties;
(b) the mortgage situation;
(c) the Town-planning; and
(d) the property verification.
(a) The Entitlement of the Parties
The Notaire is liable for examining the identity and the entitlement of all the parties involved in the contract. He would, for instance, be liable in the case of a non-binding act of sale if one of the parties is incapable. The Notaire verifies the capacity of the parties by requesting a legal copy of both birth and marriage certificates from City Hall.
Unlike other European Union countries such as Italy or Greece, there are no restrictions for a foreign citizen to buy Real Estate in France, according to article 11 of the French Civil Code.
(b) The Mortgage Situation
A Notaire cannot give the price of a transaction to the seller until he has checked the mortgage situation of the Real Estate to be sold. Upon the Notaire’s request, the Mortgage Registry delivers a document detailing the complete mortgage situation of the Estate. If any creditor secured by mortgage is recorded, the Notaire is liable for paying him with the price of the transaction before giving the balance to the seller.
This document is valid for two months after its delivery and binds the liability of the Mortgage Administration. The delivery of this document may take up to two months. Because of this kind of delay, Real Estate sales in France may take up to three months. Nevertheless, it permits the transaction to be secured, by the combination of the liabilities of both the Notaire and the Mortgage Registry Services.
(c) The Town-Planning
The Notaire must check the applicable Town-planning regulations on the Real Estate to be sold, and inform the buyer of the consequences of these regulations. He requests from a surveyor a complete report which he then encloses in the final sales agreement.
Among the rules to be verified, the Notaire may, for instance, verify that there is no easement on a piece of the property. The surveyor is liable for the content of the delivered document while the Notaire is liable for controlling and reporting it to the buyer. In addition to the mortgage document, the delivery of the above-mentioned document requires a certain delay. Still, it provides the guarantee of a secured transaction.
If the buyer wishes to build or to change the use of the building (for instance, buying a shop to transform it into an apartment), a building permit is necessary and its delivery may take up to six months. The investor will then be fully counselled by the Notaire on matters such as delivery proceedings and how to link the permit with the Real Estate contract.
(d) The Property Verification
The Notaire must verify the property title. He must search up to thirty years before the transfer of title which is the limitation period for all Real Estate transactions to be brought to court.
The Notaires must also keep their deeds for one hundred years after their execution.
The property verification is essential to prevent any type of litigation, and particularly when the assets have been acquired through a deceased Estate.
The above-mentioned examinations by the Notaire are the predominant ones. However, others such as clearing preemptive rights or balancing the account with the co-owner’s manager do exist. Generally three months are necessary for all the examinations and allow any buyer to be fully secured during the transfer of title.