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FAQ - Legal Advice

My partner and I want to buy a property but we're not married - any advice?

Problems can arise when unmarried couples have purchased a property together and then the relationship breaks down and the future of the property is something which has to be decided. In most cases, the purchase has been entered into with great enthusiasm but with little advice. For example, the couple may have contributed equally to the purchase price but only one partner was able to travel to France to complete and so the property ends up registered in his/her sole name. This can take months to unravel and can prove very costly to rectify.

I’m employing a project manager for my renovation can I now relax?

If you are extending or renovating your French property and have left the project in the hands of an on-site "project manager" it is essential to get the terms of your contract agreed at the outset. Difficulties can arise if for example, the project manager goes out of business and holds monies on your behalf which are owed to a 3rd party. The contract should provide that all monies are held in a separate account in your name or that you will pay the artisan/builder direcin stages or on completion as the work is done. Without that precaution, there is a risk that you will have to pay the artisan/ builder twice. First when you pay money over to the project manager and secondly when you hear 6 months later that the project manager hasn’t paid the artisan/builder and he threatens to sue you for monies owed.

Paying for work carried out in cash – what’s your advice?

Never pay cash (other than small amounts) to anyone for goods or services. Always pay by cheque or credit card and get a proper receipt on the supplier’s headed notepaper. Keep all receipts for future information and any potential tax claim or investigation. If you have paid in cash, trying to recover money when goods have not arrived or services paid for in advance have not been provided is a real problem. It is very difficult in this situation to bring any successful action for recovery of such monies in the absence of any proof of payment.

Can I part of the property purchase price direct to the owner?

When buying a property in France, never agree to pay any part of the purchase price direct to the seller. Always insist that the full purchase price is paid via the notary. You will be required to make a declaration in the Purchase Deed confirming that the price stated in the deed is the full price and you are warned that any breach of this can lead to substantial tax penalties. You should politely ignore any suggestions from either the seller or the agent that "under the table" payments are common practice in the area. Put very simply, it is against the law.

Must I declare income from my gîte in the UK?

If you rent out your French property you are required to declare any income received to both the French tax authority and to HMRC in the UK (if you are still a UK taxpayer). Many UK residents who let out their French property are either unaware of this requirement or choose to ignore it. Be warned! The French Tax Authorities are becoming stricter in dealing with such breaches and will come after you!

What are the safety precautions for a swimming pool?

You can be fined up to 45,000 Euros if the swimming pool at your French property does not have approved safety measures such as a fence, an alarm or a cover in place. The cost of installing an approved appliance is minimal compared to the potential fine for non-compliance with the rules.

Do I really need a UK lawyer when buying or selling in France?

Be wary of those in France who suggest it is not necessary for you to have independent advice from a UK lawyer when buying or selling in France. You need to understand the legal implications of the documentation from an independent party and therefore a basic translation provided by the estate agent or other intermediary will rarely suffice. In a large proportion of cases, the notary will not become involved until after a binding contract is already in place. A UK based French law specialist will be able to tell you what should be included in the contract and what should not.

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