Can I sell inherited shares in a French home to an investor?

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I have inherited a legal ownership (nue?) from my Dad in a French property (actually held in an SCI if that makes any difference). My step mother has the usufruit and owns one share in the SCI. She can’t afford to buy me out. Can I sell my bit to an investor?

Before addressing this question, it is perhaps worth clarifying some terminology. An usufruit is a form of life interest, which confers on the usufruitier the right to live in the property or take any rental income.

The nue-propriété is the interest in the remainder of the property. In principle the person holding this interest will become absolute owner of the property immediately on the death of the person with the life interest.

An SCI is a form of French company.

In this case we are apparently considering a split in the ownership of shares in a French SCI company, that in turn owns a property in France. The background rules are largely the same, whether it is the property or the shares in a property owning company that are split.

A person owning the nue-propriété cannot enforce a sale of the entire property. However it is possible to sell the nue-propriété itself. The prior agreement of the usufruitier does not have to be obtained for such a sale. If you jointly own the nue-propriété with siblings then you would be entire to sell your share to them.

One may ask who else would want to buy an interest in a property that they cannot occupy, nor use to derive any rental income. Yet there are specialist investor companies that deal in such activity. The price offered might well of course be influenced by the age and health of the usufruitier

It would remain to be seen, though, whether such an investment company would be interested in buying the nue-propriété in the shares of an SCI company. Indeed, it will be imperative to understand a little more about the SCI. The Statuts (the constitution document) of the SCI may well retain restrictions against any dealing of any interest in the shares without the prior agreement of a majority of the shareholders, or at least the consent of the person mandated as the managing representative of the SCI. Almost inevitably, the manager would be the usufruitier, so any agreement might be hard to procure.

In summary, the sale of a nue-propriété is permitted, but where there is a company interposed as the ownership vehicle, that might be rendered impractical.

Such complexities would really need to be considered in detail, and expert professional advice sought.

Contact our French law solicitors today

If you have any questions or would like advice on creating a French Will, cross-border estate planning or buying/selling a French property, please get in touch with our specialist French Legal Services team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0768.


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