There are three types of conditions in a purchase contract. If you want to make changes to them or add other 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 or differences in the measurement of the land being sold.
- The vendor will not make any significant changes to the property between contract and completion that might affect its aspect or value without the express permission of the purchaser.
- 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.
If one of these conditions is not fulfilled, you may not withdraw from the purchase but you can ask the notaire to retain some of the purchase price until the matter is put right or to allow you to put it right yourself.
Conditions suspensives 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. The nature of these conditions is such that the outcome is beyond the will of the parties. Hence they need to be carefully drafted. Most standard French purchase contracts only have a few conditions suspensives such as:
- That a search at the land registry reveals no mortgage or charge on the property that cannot be cleared by the sale proceeds.
- That local planning information does not reveal any public utility easement which interferes unduly with the normal use 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 in certain circumstances such as:
- That the purchaser is able to obtain a loan which he needs for the purchase.
- That the purchaser is able to sell his UK property (if the purchase is dependent on this) although it should be noted that this type of clause is rarely acceptable to a French vendor.
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 easements (e.g. a private right of way across your land) that would affect the value of the property.
You could also 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.
It is unwise to sign a purchase contract until it has been carefully checked to ascertain what is and what is not included. Find a lawyer who is competent to draft any additional clauses that may be necessary and to negotiate on your behalf to have these included in your contract.
Susan Busby MA France Legal
Tel/fax: 00 44 (0)1449 736644
E mail: email@example.com