Sale of a unoccupied property
When the owner intends to sell his property unoccupied but currently has a tenant, he must respect the following conditions in order to give the current tenant proper notice:
- wait until the end of the lease (every rental contract defines the lease’s beginning and duration, and therefore, its end);
- give at least six months’ advance notice to the tenant;
- indicate the reason for the notice, i.e. the sale of the property;
- mention the first five sections of the “article 15-II of the1989 law” (see letter at end of page)
- send the notice by registered letter with acknowledgement or through a bailiff.
End of the lease
For example, a lease signed 1 January 2008 – for three years, renewable by express or implied agreement between the parties – will expire 31 December 2011 and NOT 1 January 2012.The notice must therefore reach the tenant no later than 30 June 2011.
Registered letter with acknowledgement (« lettre recommandée avec accusée de réception »):
The six-month notice period goes into effect from the day the tenant receives the letter.If the tenant is absent and doesn’t claim it at the post office, or if he refuses it, the notice will not go into effect!It is therefore recommended to send the registered letter with at least seven or eight months’ notice in order to have time to respond should the tenant refuse the letter.
Delivery by bailiff is effected when even just a note is left in the tenant’s mailbox informing him/her that s/he can collect the notice at the indicated bailiff’s office. The effective date of the notice is therefore the date on the bailiff’s calling card. This action has a price (around 130€), but sometimes peace of mind is worth it!
The notice letter must indicate the name of the owner. When the property for sale belongs jointly to more than one owner, the notice to sell must be given unanimously from all parties.
When the property for sale is divided up between an usufructuary (tenant for life) and an owner without the right of use, the notice must be signed by both parties.
If the lessor is a corporate body (a company), the notice must be sent by its representative:Manager, President, or any other person designated in the company’s statutes set forth by assembly deliberation or by law.
In any case, the notice must indicate the reason for its delivery, or it will be declared null and void.
Caution !A notice of sale which does not respect all of these conditions is null and void, and the rental contract is renewed for its initial duration.
The right to pre-emption of the tenant
The tenant has first priority in purchasing the property he lets when it becomes for sale.
Because of his/her right of preemption, the notice given by the owner is considered like an offer of sale. This offer is valid the first two months of the six-month notice period only.If the tenant refuses it or does not respond within the first two months, the offer is null and void.The tenant must then vacate the premises in accordance with the terms of the lease, as stipulated in the notice.
If the tenant accepts the offer (preferably by sending a registered letter with acknowledgement), the bill of sale must be signed within two months from the date of acceptance or four months if the tenant mentions in his letter that he will be applying for a loan. At the end of the two- or four-month period, if the sale has not been fulfilled, the tenant’s acceptance is no longer valid and he must vacate the property according to the terms of the lease.
However, if, later on, the owner decides to lower his asking price or make some of the conditions in the offer of sale more attractive, he must address another proposition to the tenant with the new sale conditions even if the tenant has already vacated the premises. If the owner fails to do so, the sale to an outsider -with the new conditions- may be annulled at the request of the former tenant.
This second offer, valid for one month, must be sent to the tenant by registered letter with acknowledgement or by bailiff, to the tenant’s current address or, in the event the tenant did not leave a forwarding address with the owner, to the address of the for-sale property.This letter must contain the new conditions in addition to the same requirements from the first notice. The tenant has the same time frames to finalize the sale (two months without a loan or four months with a loan).
There are some exceptions to the right of the tenant’s pre-emption.They are as follows:
- if the owner sells the property to a relative up to the third degree
- this includes a child, a grandchild, a parent, or a grandparent; a brother or sister; an uncle, an aunt, a niece, or a nephew.The purchasing relative must inhabit the property for at least two years.
- if the local authority exercises its right of pre-emption;
- if the property is judged to be uninhabitable – declared unsanitary or dangerous.
- if at least one quarter of the sale property’s surface area is considered to be Category IV according to the law of 1948 (poses a health risk).
What are the legal formalities for a sales offer to his tenant?
Required mentions in the sales notice:
- the owner must indicate his will to sell the property, as well as the conditions of sale and, in particular, the payment methods
- the sale price
- the object for sale, i.e. the property and any annexes:cellar, “chambre de bonne,” garage, etc.If the property is rented with a “chambre de bonne” which is not indicated in the notice, it is then considered null and void.
- The reproduction of the first five sections of article 15-11 of the law of 1989, detailing the mechanism of the right of pre-emption (see the end of article)
The following are not required to be included in the notice of sale:
- The surface area of the property being sold
- The property’s diagnoses – asbestos, lead, termites, natural risks, electrical state, etc.
- A descriptive division (lots)
- By-laws of the co-operative
Even if all these requirements are met, there is one particular case where the notice of sale must be accompanied by an offer to re-house the tenant:when the tenant is more than 70 years of age and his financial resources are less than 1.5 times the annual gross minimum wage (24,570 € in 2011).The two conditions (age and financial resources) are cumulative.
Caution!If there are multiple tenants residing in the sale property and one of the tenants meets both conditions, then this protection applies collectively to all tenants.
The proposed property must be located within five kilometers of the property for sale and correspond to the needs of the tenant.
The exception to the exception:if the owner is more than 60 years of age or his financial resources are also less than 1.5 times the annual gross minimum wage, he is not obligated to re-house his tenant and can give him proper notice. And, along the same lines for multiple tenants, if the sale property is owned jointly (i.e. multiple owners), then the re-housing exemption applies even if only one of the owners meets either of these required conditions (age or financial resources).
Claire de Circourt