French Legal Terms Glossary

French Property Legal Terminology An A to Z of French property related legal terms

Acompte (Down payment)

Amount paid (approximately 10% of the property) by the purchaser at the time of signing the agreement to sell. It commits the purchaser definitively. If the sale is not brought to a successful conclusion or if a condition precedent is provided for, the vendor is entitled to recuperate this amount.

Abattement (Fiscal Tax rebate)

Deduction from some income or the total income which reduces the taxable income base.

Acte de Vente (Deed of Sale)

Final contract in which the purchaser becomes the owner. It triggers the notarial expenses including the transfer taxes and notarial fees.

Acte authentique (Authentic instrument)

Authentic instrument drawn up by an authorised public official (notary, town clerk or bailiff) and drafted in accordance with the legal formalities and open to enforcement. Housing sales must form the object of a notarial deed.

Acte notarié (Notarial deed)

This is an authentic instrument drawn up by a notary.

Administrateur de biens (Property manager)

Professional commissioned by an owner to manage the property in his stead, for example, searching for a tenant, negotiating the lease, receiving the rent and paying the charges, etc.

Apport Personnel (Personal contribution)

These are the personal funds which the purchaser agrees to contribute at the time of the purchase.

Arrhes (Deposit)

The money which the purchaser pays to the vendor on conclusion of the sale contract.

Avantage fiscal (Tax benefit)

The acquisition of a property and certain types of works may form the object of income tax reductions or deductions from and rebates on the taxable income.

Avenant (Addendum)

Designates an additional instrument (amendments) to an initial contract drawn up by the different parties.

Bail Commercial (Commercial lease)

Lease agreement relating to premises in which a business, industrial or craft activity is carried out. It commits the lessor for 9 years at least, the tenant being able to cancel every 3 years, unless a longer term is agreed between the parties.

Bail d’habitation (Residential lease)

Lease agreement relating to premises for housing purposes (or mixed business and housing purposes). The lease commits the lessor for at least 3 years. The tenant may cancel at any time provided that he gives notice of 3 months. 
Cadastre (Land register) Public register and administrative documents (plan of plots, parcel number and register of owners) allowing the properties in a municipality to be identified.

Caution (Surety)

Undertaking by which a third party agrees to guarantee the payment of a debt.

Compromis de Vente (Pre-contract)

Pre-contract signed by the vendor and the purchaser of a property. It commits the two parties and it is usual for the purchaser to pay a down payment (in general 10% of the sale price) when this instrument is drawn up. The agreement is null and void if the loan is not obtained by the purchaser (must be written in the document to be valid). This condition is valid for at least one month.

Contrat de Location

Lease agreement Agreement authorising the possession of a property for a fixed term and price.

Crédit immobilier (Property loan)

Variable term loan granted for a property purchase.

Loi Scrivener (Scrivener Act)

In the case of an application for a property loan, the borrower has a 10-day period to reflect, as from receipt of the offer of a loan, to give his final agreement. See also early repayment.

Délai de réflexion (Period of reflection)

See Scrivener Act

Loi Neiertz (Neiertz Act)

Purchasers of new housing benefit from 7 days to cancel any reservation agreement or pre-contract made privately. This right does not apply to final contracts.

Délai de rétractation (Withdrawal period)

See Neiertz Act

Démembrement (Stripping)

Separation of a fully-owned property into ownership with and without use of the property.

Dépot de Garantie (Deposit)

Deposit paid by the tenant which covers the lessor owner for the risks linked to the lease. Its total may not be higher than two months rent excluding charges. The deposit is returned within 2 months as from the return of the keys by the tenant.

Différé d’Amortissement (Deferred redemption)

Redemption designates the repayment of parts of the capital as the property is built. Some loans enable the borrower to postpone the repayment of the capital and only to pay the interest on the loan during a certain period. This is deferred redemption.

Droits de mutation (Transfer taxes)

Duties and taxes received by the notary during a transfer of a property, therefore, its sale.

Etat des lieux (Inventory of fixtures)

Document establishing the inventory of fixtures of premises at the time of the delivery of the keys and with the return of the premises.

Frais de dossier (Application fee)

Fee for research and establishment of a property loan.

Frais de notaire (Notarial expenses)

These are the mandatory expenses during a property transaction, representing approximately 8% of the price of the property if it concerns old housing and approximately 3% of the price of the property if it relates to new housing.

Franchise (Exemption period)

The borrower does not pay the capital or interest for a given period.

Garantie biennale (Two-year guarantee)

Responsibility of the manufacturer for the correct functioning of the items of equipment which can be separated from their support (inside doors and coverings, etc.) for at least 2 years.

Garantie de parfait achévement (Completion bond)

Responsibility of the manufacturer for repairing the damage found on receipt of the property for 1 year or notified in writing during this period. It guarantees the purchaser the completion of the building or the repayment of the amounts advanced.

Garantie décennale (Ten-year guarantee)

Responsibility of the manufacturer for 10 years as from receipt of the works for damage jeopardising the solidity of the buildings or making them unfit for their purpose, or relating to an item of equipment which is not separable from the structure (an element whose removal would damage the structure).

Garantie de revente (Resale guarantee)

This is a variable guarantee giving entitlement to an indemnity covering the difference between the property purchase price and resale price if the resale is a financial loss.

Hors d’Air(Enclosed)

State of advance of the build after external joinery, such as doors and windows, has been fitted.

Hors d’Eau(Roofed-in)

State of advance of the build after the roofing is complete.


This is the guarantee given by the purchaser on his property to guarantee the repayment of a debt.

Indexation du Loye (Indexation of the rent)

Should the lease contain an indexation clause, the rent may be increased every year on the anniversary of the agreement. The revision of the rent is carried out, for unfurnished lets, on the basis of the Rent Reference Index (IRL) and for furnished lets, on the basis of the index provided for in the agreement (Building Cost Index or average Building Cost Index or Rent Reference Index.)

Indice du Cote de la Construction (Building Cost Index)

Index measuring the development of building materials prices.

Interets intercalaires (Interim interest)

This is the interest which the borrower pays between the time that the bank releases the funds and that when he actually begins to repay the loan.

Investissement locatif (Buy-to-let investment)

This is a purchase of a property rented out to draw income (rent) from it.

Location meublée(Furnished let)

This is an accommodation let with the supply of furniture sufficient for normal everyday life.

Loi Carrez(Carrez Act)

This obligates the vendor of accommodation in a jointly-owned property to indicate in the agreement to sell the exact surface area of the property to the nearest 5%. The surface area taken into consideration is the floor area after deducting the areas occupied by external walls, partitions, stairs and stairwell, ducts, doorways and windows. The floors of the parts of the accommodation with a below-ceiling height of less than 1.80m as well as cellars, lofts, garages or parking spaces are excluded from the calculation.

Mainlevée (Release or Replevin)

Authentic instrument drafted before a notary which stops the effects of a seizure, attachment or mortgage.

Multipropriété (Multiple ownership)

Status which means that the purchaser possesses of a property for a specific period of the year.

Nantissement (Pledge)

Contract by which a debtor submits a non-property asset for the benefit of his creditor (without being dispossessed but being unable to sell it without the agreement thereof) to guarantee his debt.

Nue propriété (Ownership without use)

This is the right to dispose of a property without the possibility of using it or drawing income therefrom (as opposed to usufruct). The owner without usufruct may only sell the property if it does not affect the rights of the owner with usufruct.

Offre de pret(Loan offer)

A loan offer, mandatory for property loans, specifies the characteristics of the loan requested: amount, duration, rate, terms of repayment and guarantees, etc.

Parties communes(Shared areas)

These are the areas of a building reserved for the use of all joint owners (or their tenants): stairs, courtyards, gardens, access paths, corridors and lifts, etc.

Permis de construire(Planning permission)

This is a mandatory administrative authorisation issued with a view to the construction of a building. Applications for planning permission are made to the town council.

Permis de démolir (Demolition permit)

This is a mandatory, administrative authorisation with a view to the demolition of a building, carried out at the town hall.

Préavis (Notice)

This is a unilateral instrument prior to the termination of an agreement.

Pret amortissable (Redeemable loan)

This is a loan where the monthly loan repayment includes the capital and interest. The interest part decreases over time, at the same time as the capital part increases, for the same monthly instalment.

Pret in fine (In fine loan)

This is a loan where the monthly loan repayment includes the interest only. The interest part is continuous over time. The capital is repaid at the end of the loan. Most of the time bankers require a guarantee which often results in the pledge of a life assurance or portfolio in favour of the Bank.

Pret locatif intermédiaire(Intermediary rental loan)

This is a property loan reserved for persons who buy to let. Borrowers undertake to let to tenants, the income of which does not exceed certain ceilings. The rent must also be less than a defined price.

Pret-relais (Bridging loan)

This is a loan granted to enable the purchase of a property pending the sale of the property, the proceeds of which are intended to be used to purchase this property.

Promoteur (Developer)

This is the property construction professional.

Quittance (Receipt)

Evidence sent by the owner to the tenant for the payment of the rent and charges.

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