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We are often asked by our American clients about an "inspection" prior to the purchase of property—an independent inspector to come to the house or apartment and perform a visual observation in accordance with the state’s standards, to identify health, safety, or major mechanical issues. They look for things that are significantly deficient, unsafe, near the end of its service life or not functioning properly.
That's not the norm in France, nor is it necessary because the law requires the seller to provide a complete professional diagnosis of asbestos, lead, electricity, gas, termites, and other aspects of the property such as the state of natural and technological risks. The diagnosis is known as the Technical Diagnosis File, or DDT in French, that must be annexed with all sales agreements and any sale of a property. The diagnosis allows the buyer to get a more precise idea of his investment—the qualities as well as the defects.
As of this past June, a new law was added (n° 2019-1428 of December 24, 2019) that the seller must also inform the purchaser of any noise pollution that is caused by the presence of an aerodrome near the property sold. An aerodrome is a location from which aircraft flight operations take place, regardless of whether they involve air cargo, passengers, or neither. Aerodromes include small general aviation airfields, large commercial airports, and military air bases. In certain defined areas, aircraft noise can indeed be a source of real nuisance and lead to a loss of quality of life.
The full diagnosis also includes:
The diagnosis must report the presence or absence of materials or products containing asbestos on all buildings for which the building permit was issued before July 1, 1997. If no trace of asbestos is detected, the period of validity is unlimited. On the other hand, if the presence of asbestos is detected, a new check must be carried out within three years following the submission of the diagnosis. If the diagnosis was carried out before 2013, it must be renewed if the property is sold, even in the absence of asbestos. The seller cannot be exempted from a corresponding hidden defects guarantee.*
* A hidden defect, or "vice caché" is a hidden or latent defect in a property (or equipment, tools, etc. that may be purchased) that would not be apparent to the buyer. The problem must be sufficiently grave that it renders the property unsuitable for its proper use, or that it diminishes significantly the use, such that the buyer would not have purchased it, or purchased on the same terms, had they known about it and the defect must have been present prior to the sale.
The diagnosis must report the non-collective sanitation installation on all buildings which are not connected to the public network and is valid for three years. The seller cannot be exempt from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee and the buyer must bring it into conformity within one year after the signing of the deed.
The diagnosis must report exposure to lead (CREP). This observation must be accompanied by an information leaflet, which sums up the effects of lead on health and the precautions that need to be taken in the presence of coatings that may contain lead. This concerns residential buildings or part(s) of buildings which are used for residential purposes and built before January 1, 1949. The diagnosis is valid if there is lead present above certain thresholds for one year for sale; otherwise, its unlimited. The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.
The diagnosis must report the state of the indoor electrical installation. This concerns residential buildings or part(s) of the building allocated to housing, whose installation was more than 15 years prior. The diagnosis is valid three years for the condition of the indoor installation as is a certificate of conformity in the case of renovation works. The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.
ERP (ETAT DES RISQUES ET POLLUTIONS)
The diagnosis must report the risks and pollution (natural, mining or technological hazards, seismicity, radon gas risk and polluted soils) on all types of buildings covered by a prefectural decree specifying the municipalities which are concerned and the list of foreseeable risks. The diagnosis is valid less than six months before the date of the sales agreement. Penalties could occur pursuing the resolution or there could be a request by the buyer to decrease the price of the property.
The diagnosis must report the state of the indoor gas installation in residential buildings or part(s) of a building which are allocated to housing, whose installation has been carried out more than 15 years prior or whose last certificate of conformity dates back more than 15 years. The diagnosis is valid a maximum of three years for the condition of the indoor installation, as is a certificate of conformity in the case of renovation works. The seller cannot be exempt from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee. As for the latter, the buyer can obtain a reduction in the sales price or even cancel the sale.
The diagnosis must report the state concerning the presence of termites on all built buildings (areas delimited by prefectural decrees). The diagnosis is valid a maximum of six months and is to be redone in the event of a new municipal decree which shall declare an infested zone. The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee. A map of the departments covered by an order of the prefect, delimiting the areas infested by termites dated January 1, 2016 is provided.
ENERGY PERFORMANCE (EPD)
The diagnosis must report energy performance on all buildings except those listed in article R.134-1 of the CCH (code de la construction et de l'habitation). The diagnosis is valid 10 years, but is to be redone in the case of substantial work.
The diagnosis must report all information on the risk of grindstone presence on all built buildings (areas delimited by order of the prefect). The diagnosis is valid at no fixed duration. The presence of grindstone may, under certain conditions, make up a latent defect which is likely to engage the civil liability of the seller.
CARREZ LAW (LOI CARREZ)
The diagnosis must provide a certificate attesting to the surface area of the concerned property—all co-ownership lots for residential or commercial use (except cellars, garages, parking space and generally, lots or fractions of lots which are less than eight square meters). The diagnosis is valid permanently, however if not provided, it could nullify the sale. If the surface area is overstated by more than 5% in the sales contract, the buyer has the right, within one year, to demand a price reduction in proportion to the extent of overstatement. If the floor area is understated, the seller has no recourse.
GLOBAL TECHNICAL INSPECTION
Since January 1, 2017, the global technical diagnosis (GTD) has become compulsory for all buildings (partial or total residential buildings) over 10 years old which are subject to (for partial or total residential use) subject to an insanitary procedure and for which the administration asks the Syndic (trustee, or management company) to produce a GTD. For other condominium buildings, the realization (or not) of this diagnosis, which is intended to present the condition of the building and to fix any work necessary for its conservation and maintenance over the next ten years, must be submitted to a vote in a general meeting. Where it exists, the GTD must be provided in the event of the sale of a condominium lot or the entire condominium.
These diagnostics are provided prior to the signing of the pre-sale agreement and can help a buyer determine the validity of the purchase. The seller is not obligated to conform to the defects in advance of the sale—the buyer "buys as is." This is also a big difference in U.S. law as the home inspection determines the types of repairs a buyer can request prior to purchase based on the laws in that state. In France, you buy as is and therefore you never want to conclude a purchase without a final inspection of the property, at least an informal one.
Our job is to analyze the reports and review them with you fully prior to your commitment to purchase a property. If you still don't feel completely comfortable, an inspector can be called in, but it's almost never necessary. In a recent situation on a property in Montmartre—where structural issues are the norm because a quarry lies under the hill of Montmartre—we had a licensed contractor inspect a property exhibiting unusual cracks in thefaçade. The diagnosis did not reveal the structural issues, but the annual homeowner association meeting notes did. Our clients will buy as is, or decide not to buy this property at all. It is their risk to take.A bientôt,
P.S. I'm heading back to Paris from Nice for "La Rentrée" next Monday and that means back to writing Parler Paris Nouvellettres®. It also means my colorful, delightful and well located Niçois apartment, "Le Matisse," will be available for stays by my friends of Parler Paris, Parler Nice and French Property Insider. Email me for more information about the possibilities at [email protected].
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