Help! I am feeling overwhelmed with legal stuff!

Hi Folks,

I'm sorry to bother you but I'm really struggling to know where to go from here.

We have put in an offer on a property in Aude. The offer stated quite explicitly that we wished to use a particular notaire (who speaks English and was highly recommended). All this was done via the estate agent as we had no contact details for the owners (who lived in Paris). The offer was accepted and the estate agent said she would tell the vendors about our wishes re the notaire we wanted to use. We assumed all was going to plan and heard no more about the notaire. Once our mortgage was agreed we sent in the offer (as they had requested) and received a Compromis de Vente. This was a slight surprise as it was from a different notaire and we had not been consulted or informed about their appointment. We immediately reminded the estate agent that we had wanted a different notaire and were told that we could appoint our own if we wanted but it was a bad idea as it would cost more and take much longer. We said that we wanted to do that anyway as we had been advised it was wiser by a number of people and duly contacted the notaire ourselves, who agreed to act for us. After a week or so, he now tells us that he cannot act for us as the other notaire has progressed too far into the sale process due to “deontological rules”??!!

This seems really unfair. Surely the vendor cannot simply ignore our wishes and dictate who we must use to represent our interests? Everyone that we have spoken to (with the exception of the vendor’s agent) has strongly recommended that we appoint our own notaire, and said that it is the buyers prerogative to appoint the notaire. Can the vendor overrule this without consulting us? Is there anything we can do to change this as we need an English speaking notaire? We really don’t trust either the estate agent or the independence of the notaire as the estate agent has already tried to pull a few “fast ones” on us and the notaire has sent us inspection reports that date back about five years in some cases. Isn’t it her job to make sure all the inspections are in order? I would really appreciate any advice you can offer as I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by all this and don’t really know where to go next. Many thanks and sorry to be a “moaning Myrtle”!


Thanks Shirley. We have not yet signed the compromis so we are not committed yet. However, we are keen to proceed and the french vendors are (understandably) anxious for us to sign it. We actually did a lot of reading on the French system before proceeding and everything we read said that it was the buyers prerogative to choose their own notaire if they wished (as they pay the fees). That's what we thought we did but our instruction was ignored by the vendor and estate agent. By the way, we are NOT paying the estate agents fees but we are however expected to pay the notaire's fees so this seems to be the opposite of your expectation? The notaire we had chosen had agreed to translate and explain (informally) the documents for us. In hindsight, we realise we should have instructed the notaire ourselves but too late now! We have employed a bilingual lawyer to act for us and translate as necessary. It's not cheap but we feel it is worth it for the peace of mind.

Thanks Peter.

Unless things have changed then the Habitation for the year is paid in it's entirety by the vendor. The Foncières is paid by the vendor with the pro-rata sum worked out and paid by the buyer later. The sum is calculated from the date of the Acte Authentique (completion).

You guys are such a goldmine of information! Thanks again.

We've emailed the notaire and estate agent a list of questions we would like answers to, including a request for an English summary of the compromis. We'll see what she comes back with.

Can anybody tell me at what point I become liable for property taxes? I understand one of the two will be paid by the owner on the first of January in its entirety and the other will be paid by them but that and appropriate proportion is paid back by the buyer on sale of the property. Does this come into effect at the point of signing the compromis or on completion? Thanks.

The notaire is obliged to ensure both parties understand the contracts. There are many ways this can be done.

The notaire has a legal responsibility to ensure that each party understands fully the details of the contract, therefore if you have requested an English speaking notaire due to lack of language he is obliged to assist you with this. You could stall the whole lot and say "I don't understand so I'm not signing anything" and the buyers will be keen to push the sale. You can appoint your own notaire, and the fee is halved between them so I'm surprised he's not accommodating. Just keep saying you don't understand and therefore won't sign, and see what they do next ... alternatively, contact your preferred notaire and seek his advice and ask him to contact the sale notaire and discuss this. Good luck.

Sula, you do not need to check all this, the agent and notaire do. If you want something done, get them to do it, believe me, the vendor is in more of a hurry to sell, than you are to buy, not to mention it's definitely a buyers' market at the moment!

Presumably if you cannot get to Carcassonne, you cannot get to the Mairie, also. Is there someone who can do it for you? Over the phone i've never heard of. The cadastre website is something you can "join", so perhaps you can also get extra features such as owners, but I have yet to here of someone actually doing it.

Spot on Peter. Assuming the mairie has a computer of some kind, they can get updated versions immediately. We did that recently regarding three lots of neglected woodland at the bottom of our field. Nobody knew who owned it, including the owner who had presumably never bothered because they are on a steep slope so good for nothing. Like many rural people, he inherited but never knew exactly what until he sold bits. So, as Peter says, the mairie may not know but say 'Please' and they should be able to accommodate.

Sula, you get the details of the plot owners at the Mairie or preferably at the Cadastre Office which I would assume is in Carcassonne. Problem with the Mairies is that they don't always have the most up to date info so Iwould prefer the Cadastre Office.

The diagnostics are the responsability of the vendor and these documents must be given to the notaire.

If the Fosse needs changing then you should point this out to the vendor/agent so that provision is made in the selling price at the outset. The offer you make should reflect such things.

A useless piece of info probably but one of the suspensive clauses, unless things have changed is that the notaire ensures the plot sizes are within 'one twentieth' of their true sizes (50m2 per 1000m2 ?)

The mairie can tell you who owns what in that commune.

The cadastral given to us by the immoblier had four pieces of land listed but the compromis had an additional one. I've checked the site Peter gave me a link to and the plot numbers are correct but I'm not able to get to Carcasonne to check who the legal owners are. Do I need to do this or is this a job the notaire would do as part of the sale? If I do, is there any way of doing it online or over the phone? The diagnostique for the fosse septique dates back to 2011 so I guess I will have to ask the vendor to provide a new one? I know it needs completely replacing so does this matter?? It will cost the vendors several hundred Euros to no purpose! Thanks again guys!

Gordon Barnes and John Snell are saying all you need to know. I asked my OH since she is selling properties but works directly with notaires and all other parties involved, even having made model translations of some documents. She has a warning that is to say that even a notaire who is perfectly fluent in English cannot translated documents for you officially unless he or she is a qualified and state registered translator as well. They still have to go to translation services for anything on paper and you pay the bill. Unofficial documents or explanations to help guide through the process are just that. No document in any other language than French is valid, translations are simply that although signed and stamped copies may be filed with the French versions. As for notaires, the more local the better in case there are things that need to be dealt with that arise that people who know or know of each other, for instance SPANC for some reason, will deal with better than remotely. Otherwise, as she says, you could have a notaire on one of the DOMs for all it matters as long as she or he is a qualified state employee. Yes, they may appear to be independent businesses but that is roughly 40% of the business, the 60% makes them a public servant. They are all 'equals' and cannot officially compete in any way. As she said, they do, they say what they can do that others cannot and sometimes one who does have other languages will promise the moon and stars but ultimately will give you just the same as the other at more or less the same charges.

Hi, again, I've just tried the "" - its not that easy to use, and in any case it will only give you (for free), the Cadastral numbers for the plots. The plot number(s) should be known to the agent, and if there is more than one, it would be worth checking their ownership, especially as you have said their is some disagreement(?). You can do this in Carcassonne - I think its the Impots Fonciere people, but you will need the plot numbers, village etc, and you will have to pay a few euros, and sign a register.

Sula, for the compromis, most of the time the documents are out of date for several reasons, they have to be current when you sign the final agreement, that's all. You will sign the compromis at the vendor's nataire's practice, and the final agreement at yours. Both notaires will be present throughout. For the final agreement, you will need a translator if you and/or your spouse aren't fluent in French. I am not sure that your notaire can translate the agreement, he will probably have it translated by a court-certified translator. You can't contact the vendor's notaire, and if you do, he won't get back to you as you need to do everything over yours. If the cadastral disagrees with the compromis you can't sign.... any notaire knows that, and none would take the risk as it's more than their job is worth. Good luck!!

I think you need to stop thinking of the Notaire as the vendor’s Notaire. In France it is the norm to have one Notaire to handle a house sale and he works for the state not the buyer or seller.

Thank so much all you kind people! It has been great to get your advice.

We have not yet signed the compromis as we need to get it translated, which our English speaking notaire was going to do. We arranged our mortgage in the UK so our usual solicitor is acting for us there. We have had a survey though and know pretty much what we are getting into there (a doer upper!!). I am about to check the land registry (thanks Peter!) although we have been given a cadestral (sp?)(which disagrees with the compromis, hence my lack of faith!!).

I am livid with the agent but we need to move on so I'm going to take Rob's advice (thanks) and find myself an expert translator/advisor. I'll try asking the vendor's notaire about the problems with the documents being out of date.

If the agent has not correctly identified the parcels of land when they prepared the Mandat the purchaser can refuse to pay the agent`s fees!

Basically agree with previous comments. Each party can choose a notaire, and they share the fee. Be very suspicious of both the notaire(s) and estate agent, neither of them are working in your interest. Have you checked the Land Registry (cadastre), at We know of several cases where people bought what the seller did not actually own. Neither the notaire or the agent will necessarily check for you. We live near Quillan in the summer