Searching for property information from the French Land Registry? DIY methods are not as simple as it seems!

Two types of searches exist. You can either check who owns a specific property (make a Property Owner Search), or carry out a property search by name i.e. search whether a given individual or company owns real-estate property within a defined area.

Property owner check: "Who owns this?"

How do I make a property owner search in France? 

French Property Owner Search. Real-estate ownership checks in France.

Step 1. Finding out what the land plot's reference number is

If, for example, you want to call the owner directly and discuss the purchase of their property, you'll first need to ascertain what the relevant property's land plot reference number is. France has the equivalent of the Ordnance Survey, whose website can be searched for such information.

Searches using a property's address are possible, yet locating the relevant property or land plot on the map can prove difficult. In the event you pick the wrong property, the search results will of course be irrelevant and those non-refundable costs paid to the land registry shall be lost. No possibly exits to carry out name-based searches using the French Ordnance Survey's website.


Step 2. Filing an application with the Tax Office or the Land Registry

As second step, information regarding the property's current owner can be sought from the local tax office. Beware however! All forms are in French and must be properly completed. The local tax department is unlikely to accept emails other than in French language and identifying the relevant local tax office in charge with land tax can prove challenging. Needless to say, the results are being issued in French too and the document you'll receive can prove hard to decipher.

What you get are merely tax records. These are updated on the 1st of January each year and may not be accurate when you search for the property owner's details.

If you are looking for further, official information such as the property's ownership history and whether the property is subject to any charge, mortgage, liens or other encumbrances, a different search must be made, by sending an application form to the French land registry. A straightforward thing as it seems? Well, not quite so.

The form (in French only) is rather formal. Applying for ownership information is somewhat of a minefield. If any of the below happens, your application gets declined and any fees paid to the registry are lost:
- The information you put in the form, regarding the relevant land plot or building, is incomplete or wrong;
- The property is situated within a condominium, such as a block of flats for example and you failed to mention what the property's relevant reference number, within the condo, is;
- You emailed the form, instead of sending it by mail;
- You sent the search form to the wrong land registry offices (there are over 350 local land registry offices across the whole country and no nationwide searches are possible);
- You did not fill-in and sign the required number of original application forms;
- Payment is either missing, or incorrect (fees vary depending on how many properties you are making the search on and whether you wish the results to be mailed or emailed to you);
- All searches being primarily payable by cheque, you send a cheque in a currency other than Euro or drawn from an account held by a bank outside France, or made out to the wrong payee.

Real estate assets-tracing: How do I make a French property search by name?

Doing a search by name can help tracing French real-property assets that have been misappropriated or concealed.

France real-estate assets tracing. Skip tracing of French property assets.

Step 1 – Determining what the relevant local land registry office is

As mentioned above, no central land registry exists in France. There are hundreds of local land registry offices which each have their own geographical jurisdiction. The biggest challenge in tracking down real estate is knowing where to look.

DIY ownership searches, to trace an individual or a company's real-estate assets in France, first require you to focus on specific locations. Once some possible locations have been short-listed, the nearest land registry office may not be the one who has jurisdiction in the area. A detailed search needs to be made, using the French Government's Directory website, to identify where relevant land registry office where the search forms must be sent.


Step 2 – Filing an application form, for a name-based search

Doing your own searches, to trace someone's real-estate assets, is subject to the same potential pitfalls as those mentioned as regards property owner searches. One simple error on the person's names, surname, maiden name, dob or birthplace leads to no results being shown, yet the cost paid to the French land registry will still be incurred.


Step 3 – Requesting a copy of the title deeds

If you are successful, the French land registry will issue a summary of all transactions relating to the relevant individual or company, within the area. Another, separate application must subsequently be submitted together with the appropriate fee in order to obtain copies of the deeds.

If I manage do this myself, I'll end up getting the results at little cost, won't I?

Well, yes possibly so, but please remember that French property records are drawn up in legal French. These are hard for a layperson to decode. Even if your French is good, or you have friends whose mother tongue is French, understanding what the tax or land registry records actually mean is far from simple.

DIY search methods do not guarantee a good, comprehensive or even usable final result. Any mistakes made during the search process could take additional hours and generate costs.

Carrying out land registry searches in France is a professional service. Hiring us ensures you get accurate results and rapidly obtain the information you need. Skip tracing is perfectly lawful in France.  The information, being provided to you in English by a qualified French lawyer, can be relied upon in divorce or succession matters, or where title-holder is subject to insolvency or other legal proceedings your home country for example.

French Land Registry Searches