Notaire & power to sign on your behalf

On November 18, 2013 by Martin RUSHTON

issue signature compromis de venteThere is a saying that goes something like:

“The only people who don’t make any mistakes are those that don’t do anything”

Well, we find that mistakes made by Notaires are certainly not unheard of by any stretch of the imagination and this is why we at would advise you NOT to give the Notaire Power of Attorney to sign on your behalf unless it is absolutely unavoidable”.

A notaire’s mistake could cost you your life savings.

If at all possible you should sign all contracts personally and before you are committed to the purchase, if you have any questions or issues that you are not happy with, put them in writing to the notaire (get the notaire to acknowledge receipt of your letter – do not rely on him/her taking on board what you say).

Unless you are fluent in French, get an official translation of all of the contracts/documents that you will be signing.  Do NOT rely on a friend’s tourist French or the estate agent’s verbal translation.

If you have a query that arises at the time of signing the first contract, do NOT rely on a verbal assurance from anyone that the issue will be resolved by the time the final contract is signed.

Remember, you have just a few days (seven) to back out after the first signing.  After that you are‘locked in’ and could lose your deposit or be sued to complete the purchase if you do not go ahead with the second signing.

Of course the majority of transactions go through with everyone happy.  However, we read recently of a couple in their 60’s who ended up with a sitting tenant in the property.  If the seller has not moved out – do not sign.

Another unfortunate story was of a pair of newly weds who walked in to their property, a week after the notaire signed for them, only to find that, in the three months that had elapsed between the ‘first signing’ and the ‘final signing’, the kitchen and bathroom fittings had been removed and the inadequately capped off water pipes had leaked and devastated the interior.  Fortunately a full building survey had been undertaken during their seven day ‘cooling off’ period and the couple were able to prove the condition of the premises at the time just after the first signing but it still took nearly four years for them to get compensation from the seller (they were lucky because the seller had assets).

If at all possible, record the condition of the property at the time of the first signing (with at the very least a photographic record agreed with the seller and lodged at the notaire’s office).

Then make sure that you find the time to visit the property before the final signing.  If there are problems, contact the notaire straight away (again follow up straight away in writing – and get a written acknowledgement/receipt of your letter).  If there are very serious items that need to be recorded, instruct a Huissier de Justice  (an official Court approved witness) to record the problem/issue.  Depending on the extent of the problem the contract may be voided or money held back until the seller rectifies the issue.

Remember, if you discover a fault, tenant etc. once you have signed the final contract and all of the money has been paid over, even if you have a good legal case, it will take you years and cost a lot in lawyers’ fees to see your money back. ).

Concerning having a good legal case, most contracts are worded such that it isbuyer beware so once you have signed, you are on your own.

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