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French property deeds: What are they and what happens if I lose them?

We look into the acte de vente, what format this document comes in, who stores it and how you can get a spare copy of it

We describe property deeds as the acte de vente – the lengthy document signed on completion of a sale and purchase Pic: Gumbariya / Shutterstock

Reader question: What format do property deeds take, who keeps them and how are they registered? Also, what happens if I lose my copy?

We describe property deeds as the acte de vente (although this title is rarely shown) – the lengthy document signed on completion of a sale and purchase.

The paper copy will usually be A4-sized, presented in a folded piece of coloured card and will run to hundreds of pages as it also contains copies of the annexed reports.

On completion, buyers usually receive a short certificate (attestation de vente) which can be used to prove ownership pending registration at the local Land Registry, as that can take six to 12 months. It is also possible to request a scan of the signed deed.

Following registration, property owners are sent an official copy (une copie authentique), which includes details of the registration, often with a sticker or covering page showing a stamp or seal to confirm registration taxes have been paid.

Increasingly, however, our clients are no longer signing or receiving paper copies.

Sale and purchase deeds can now be signed electronically (an acte authentique électronique). 

For parties who are present in the notaire’s office, the deed is shown on a large screen and signatures applied via a tablet. Just like paper deeds, the electronic version is sent to the Land Registry by the notaire. In due course, the owner receives an electronic copy including details of the registration.

If the official copy has been lost, you can obtain a new one via a notaire or request a copy online using either the cadastral reference or location of the property, along with the name and date of birth of the owner. An example of such a site is hypotheques-en-ligne.fr.

Anyone who has the necessary information can order a copy, not just the property owner.

The cost varies depending on the website but is in the region of €150-200.

This reader question was answered by Matthew Cameron of Ashtons Legal

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