Buying a house in France can be daunting if you don’t speak the language. Even if you have a basic knowledge of French, it can be a stressful experience. You need to understand what you are signing and agreeing to. Your agent might be bilingual but it is best to employ an independent person to assist you with the transaction. The “Compromis de vente”, “Acte de vente”, “Servitudes”, “droit d’échelle”, and all the “Diagnostics techniques”, etc are all part of the procedure. If those words are Chinese to you, seek assistance as it can cost you money later!
I recently helped an English couple who has a lovely holiday cottage near Dinan. They received an official letter from their neighbour. With their basic French and the use of a French/English dictionary they understood some key words and decided to contact me for some help with the language. Their French neighbour was threatening to take them to court. They could not understand why he had been asking for a key of their back gate for the past 12 months. As they could not understand they ignored it until they got this alarming letter. By looking at their deed I straight away noticed there was a right-of-way (servitude) on their land.
They were horrified to find out about this “servitude” 2 years after their purchase. Their estate agent was English and never told them about it. As he could speak some French he acted as an interpreter at the notaire’s office but obviously some important information were not translated.
As stated in the deeds, the French neighbour can, if he wants to, go through their land to get to his back garden.
All what he wanted was to take his land mower through their land rather than going through his own house which is not practical as you can imagine. As the right-of-way (servitude) was obstructed by a gate, by law they had to give the neighbour a key. To sort out the dispute with the neighbour I organised an unofficial meeting with the French neighbour and the English couple. We all sat down round a table, with a cup of coffee and some tasty home-made cake. The English couple gave their neighbour a key of their back gate and apologized for the misunderstanding. A few months on they get on very well and even invite each other for some apéritifs (drinks) on a regular basis.
This could have saved them an unnecessary dispute with their French neighbour and stress. After all they only came to France to relax and enjoy some nice red wine!