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The cooling-off period when buying a French property

When you reserve a French property, once you have signed the reservation contract, you still have the right to cancel that reservation after several weeks. Once you received your copy of the reservation contract signed by the developer (usually 2-3 weeks after signing it), you then enter a 10-day cooling-off period (can be more, see below), where you can cancel your reservation without any reason and without having to pay a penalty.

The French legislator has set up this system of protection for the property buyer with the idea that the triggering of a purchase “on the spot” does not generate an unfortunate situation for the buyer. This purchase must not put the buyer in a difficult and stressful financial situation, or bind him definitely to the purchase of a property for which he no longer wishes to proceed.

Beneficiaries of the cooling-off period

Any individual buyer who buys to live in or rent, a new-build or resale property, has a cooling-off (or reflection) period of 10 days to cancel the contract.
Real estate professionals who buy for themselves also benefit from this cancellation period. This right is valid whether the transaction is concluded privately or in front of a notary (Article L. 271-1 of the French Construction and Housing Code).
The right to cancel applies to contracts for the reservation of a property off-plan, contracts for the construction of single-family homes and generally any reservation contract relating to the purchase of a home, whether it is new-build or not.
The right of cancellation within 10 days of the signing of the reservation contract does not need to be justified. You can exercise this right free of charge and without fear of any penalty.

The withdrawal period does not apply to:

– the purchase of a property through a French property investment company (SCI)
– the purchase of land.

In addition, only the purchaser is protected. The seller does not benefit from a cancellation period. If there are several buyers, each one benefits individually from the withdrawal period. Each purchaser must receive the reservation contract in his/her own name so that the countdown of the cooling-off period begins.

This also applies to married purchasers, they must withdraw individually. If they receive a single letter in both their names, it will only have effect if the notice of receipt is signed by each of the spouses or if the signatory had been mandated to represent the other. Otherwise, the withdrawal period is only valid for the person who signed.

The procedure of the withdrawal period process

The right of withdrawal is exercised by recorded delivery with sign-in or by any other means offering equivalent guarantees for determining the date of receipt or delivery (a bailiff’s act, for example).
The ten-day period runs: from the day after the first presentation of the recorded letter with acknowledgement of receipt notifying the purchaser of the deed, when the compromise has been made under private signature from the day after the contract has been handed over to the purchaser, provided that all the mandatory documents have been provided, particularly in the case of a lot in a co-ownership.

If all the mandatory documents have not been provided to the purchaser, the withdrawal period for the latter may only begin to run from the day after the communication of all the required documents. Please note that if the tenth day of the withdrawal period falls on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, the end of the period is postponed to the first following working day.

How to calculate the allowed cooling-off period?

Example 1: most common Monday 27 November: signature of the agreement before a notary and delivery of a copy to the buyer. Tuesday 28 November: the beginning of the ten-day period Thursday 7 December midnight: end of the ten-day period

Example 2: the period expires on a Sunday, the end of the period is postponed to the next working day Thursday 2 November: signature of the agreement before a notary and delivery of a copy to the buyer.Friday 3 November: start of the ten-day period. Sunday 12 November midnight: end of the ten-day period (since it is a Sunday, the expiry of the period is postponed to the next working day, i.e. Monday 13 November).

Example 3: the ten-day period includes one or more public holidays, they are counted within the ten-day period Monday 18 December: signing of the compromise before a notary and delivery of a copy to the buyer. Tuesday 19 December: Start of the ten-day period Thursday 28 December midnight: end of the ten-day period. It is the day on which the registered letter is sent that is retained for the period, and not the day on which the letter is received by the seller.

The consequences of the withdrawal period

The exercise of your right of cancellation cancels the sale. During the withdrawal period, you must not pay any sum directly to the seller. However, if you had paid a deposit when you signed the contract through a third party authorised to sell (notary…), it will be returned to you without any penalty within 21 days from the day after the withdrawal date.

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