A seller is required to organise certain property inspections and provide buyers with the reports. These are the diagnostic reports you should look out for and what they could mean for your property purchase
Written by Sue Busby, owner of France Legal
It is the responsibility of the seller to provide certain reports, depending depend on the age, location and type of property, called a dossier de diagnostic technique (DDT). These can include:
If the property you are buying was built before 1997, the vendor must provide an asbestos report. There is a high chance that there will be some asbestos somewhere in the property. This is usually in the form of corrugated roofing on outbuildings, pipe lagging or roof coverings. The report will tell you exactly where it is located and what condition it is in. Once asbestos is discovered in a property the owner is responsible for having it regularly checked by a qualified person and ensuring that works are carried out if necessary to make sure it remains safe or is removed.
A lead report must be provided if the house was built before 1949 and concerns lead in paintwork, not pipes. The report will say whether there is any lead, where it is located and what condition it is in, and if there is any risk as a result. Often, all that is necessary is to repair the paintwork and to make sure it is in good condition, i.e. no flaking or powdering. However, if the risk is high, the surveyor will inform the maire who may order works to be carried out. It is especially important to make sure that children are not exposed to risk from lead.
If the electrical installations in the property are more than 15 years old, an electricity report must be provided stating whether everything is safe or not. Invariably, the surveyor will find a few anomalies which need to be put right with minimum delay. Often, the system will not be properly earthed and regulations relating to bathrooms are not complied with. Sometimes, the cut-off point is inaccessible or electrical materials are no longer suitable for their use.
If there is a fixed gas installation more than 15 years old in the property, a gas report must be provided. The most common faults are rooms not being properly ventilated and supply pipes having deteriorated; these matters are easily remedied.
Termites are found in most parts of France. They can cause serious damage, particularly to a timber-framed property, so information is vital. The termite report will say which parts of the property are affected. Of course, treatment will be necessary to eradicate the risk. The report usually also gives information about other wood-boring insects such as woodworm and death watch beetle, both of which are also common. In a property with a lot of furniture, carpets and so on, it can be difficult to check for these pests yourself.
Dry rot (mérule)
Mérule or dry rot is a fungus which attacks the wood in damp parts of the property causing deterioration and even structural problems. It manifests itself as a white cotton-like substance or brown staining so this is something to look out for when you visit the property. A report will be provided if the property is in an area likely to be affected.
Energy efficiency (Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique (DPE))
The marketing for the property should include information on its energy performance. It will tell you what the ratings are for energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions, and provide common sense advice on how to improve the energy ratings for the property. It will also tell you what the annual cost of energy is.
If the property is not on mains drainage, which is often the case with rural French properties, you must receive a drainage report. This will tell you whether the system functions properly, whether it is causing any pollution and whether any parts are missing, such as a pre-treatment system. If the system is not up to current standards, the purchaser is obliged to have this put right within a year of signing the sale deed of the house.
Major risks (ERNMT – État des Risques Naturels Miniers et Technologiques)
If there are any major manmade or natural risks in your area, such as flooding, land movement and seismic movement, there should be a plan to prevent the effects of these risks. If there is a plan, the purchaser must be given this information. The major risk report will tell you what risks exist and whether your property is concerned. You can obtain information on these risks on the government website prim.net.
From 1 July 2017, a new law is likely to come into force requiring a report to state whether the property is exposed to the chemical radon.
What if these reports find problems in the property I want to buy?
In the context of a sale, the vendor is not obliged to put defects right and as the purchaser, you will be expected to bear the cost of these. The obligation on the vendor is simply to provide the full reports. If he/she does not do so, they remain fully responsible for defects relating to these matters.
When buying in the UK, on discovering such defects following a survey of the house, this is the point where the price is often renegotiated. However, this is not expected in France; it is considered that the price takes into account any existing defects, even if the purchaser was not aware of them before receiving the reports.
Should I arrange a survey on the property?
Written by Matthew Cameron, Ashtons Legal
It is certainly less common for buyers in France to commission a survey, yet we regularly suggest buyers do so. There are a number of suitably qualified surveyors and other property professionals throughout France, many of whom will direct their marketing to the British buying market.
If you are going to commission a survey, this should be carried out in advance of signature of the first contract (which in normal circumstances will be called the compromis de vente or promesse de vente). Buyers are occasionally encouraged, if they want a survey, to sign the contract first, and have the survey carried out while they are in their 10-day cooling-off period. Doing this may limit the buyer’s ability to review the terms of the purchase agreement if the survey were to reveal issues of concern, and the only option is to terminate the purchase. Furthermore, if the surveyor is not able to complete the survey or report to you within the 10-day period, then it may simply prove too late to do anything, even if the results are unsatisfactory.
Again, the advice must be that if you would carry out a survey on a purchase in England, you would inevitably do so before the contract is signed, and that is exactly what you should do in France.