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French Entrée Magazine - Diagnostic Reports

Question

I am house hunting in France and am aware that by law the seller has to produce various reports giving information about the property. What do these reports cover and what do I need to look out for in particular?

Answer

Depending on the age of the property and its location, various diagnostic reports must be produced and annexed to the sale contract. These reports must be prepared by a suitably qualified and insured expert and the seller is responsible for paying for the reports.

Amiante - asbestos: It is compulsory in France for any property built pursuant to a planning permission issued before 1997 to have an asbestos survey carried out. The report will either confirm the absence of asbestos or will indicate where in the property asbestos containing materials have been found and whether they are in good or bad condition.

Saturnisme - lead poisoning: If the property was built before 1949 a survey to assess the risk of exposure to lead poisoning is required. This survey looks for the presence of lead in paint on pipes, walls and woodwork and categorises the level of risk as class 1, 2 or 3. Level 3 risk means that you need to repaint the areas concerned or alternatively remove the affected item.

Etat parasitaire - termites: Any property in an area susceptible to termite infestation must have a termite survey carried out. This survey must be no more than six months old on completion. The report will indicate either the presence or the absence of any termite infestation. There is no legal requirement for the expert to comment on the presence of any other type of infestation and so a clear survey doesn't mean the property is free of infestation by other wood boring insects.

Gaz naturel - Natural gas: Any property which has a fixed gas installation which is more than 15 years old must have a valid inspection certificate. It is common for the inspection to reveal anomalies or defects and the expert will indicate whether these should be remedied in due course or urgently.

Installation intérieure de l'électricité - electrics: Any property which has an electrical installation which is more than 15 years old must have a valid inspection certificate. Again, it is common for this report to reveal anomalies and the report will specify whether they are minor or serious.

Diagnostic de performance énergétique - energy efficiency: An energy efficiency survey is required on the sale of any property. The report will grade the property for energy efficiency grade and greenhouse gas emissions from A (most energy efficient/emits least greenhouse gas) to G (least energy efficient/emits most greenhouse gas).

Etat des risques naturels et technologiques - natural and technological risk statement: The buyer must be informed of any natural or technological risks affecting the area in which the property is situated. Special local measures often apply so as to minimize the risk to homeowners in the event of any natural disaster occurring.

Assainissement - drainage: If the property is not connected to mains drainage, a drainage report must be produced. If the report indicates that the drainage system (septic tank) does not comply with current regulations, the buyer must remedy the system within 12 months of completion of the purchase.

We often contact the expert who has produced the various reports so as to obtain additional information or clarification so that our clients can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to proceed with the purchase or not.

It is important for buyers to know that the general rule in France is that a property is sold as seen, in its current state and condition - warts and all! Therefore any attempt to renegotiate the price in the light of the results of the above reports is usually resisted by the seller. That said, it is sometimes possible to persuade a seller to remedy gas or electrical defects at their cost before completion but this is not always agreed.

Finally, it is essential that buyers appreciate that the provision of the diagnostic reports does not mean there is no need to have a full structural survey carried out. There may be defects in the structure of the property which would not be revealed by any of the compulsory reports.

This article first appeared in French Entrée Magazine issue 95 JAN/FEB 2013.

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