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Subject to Inspection

Volume XXI, Issue 28

Row houses on Montmartre in Paris

With French real estate, there is no “inspection” like is typically done in North America. In its place is a mandatory diagnosis, provided by the seller, performed by a licensed diagnostician, that covers the analysis of the presence of lead, asbestos, and termites, of the property’s energy performance, efficiency of the gas and electricity installations and non-collective sanitation.

The diagnosis is called the “DDT” file or Dossier de Diagnostic Technique. This file must be included with all sales agreements and any sale of a residential property.

If you are the seller:

Don’t hesitate to consult your notary or agent to understand your obligations. The law requires you to provide these documents, and failing to do so may result in legal consequences. You cannot be exempted from this responsibility.

If you are the buyer:

It is important to gather information to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the property you are planning to purchase. The diagnosis allows the buyer to gain a more accurate insight into the investment, including its qualities and defects.

It is possible that additional checks may be added to the file in the future, with the ongoing goal of providing better information and protecting consumers.

The following are some important diagnoses included in the DDT:

Asbestos Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Report indicating the presence or absence of materials or products containing asbestos.

Applicable Buildings: All buildings for which the building permit was issued before July 1, 1997.

Validity Period: If no asbestos is detected, the diagnosis has unlimited validity. If asbestos is found, a new check must be conducted within 3 years after the initial diagnosis.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.

Non-Collective Sanitation Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Document related to the non-collective sanitation installation.

Applicable Buildings: All constructed buildings not connected to the public network.

Validity Period: 3 years.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee. The buyer must bring the sanitation installation into compliance within one year after the signing of the authentic deed.

Lead Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Risk Exposure to Lead Report (CREP). It must be accompanied by an information leaflet summarizing the health effects of lead and the precautions to be taken in the presence of lead-containing coatings.

Applicable Buildings: Residential buildings or parts of buildings used for residential purposes constructed before January 1, 1949.

Validity Period: If lead presence exceeds certain thresholds, the report is valid for 1 year. Otherwise, it has unlimited validity.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.

Electricity Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Indoor electrical installation condition report.

Applicable Buildings: Residential buildings or parts of buildings allocated for housing, with installations over 15 years old.

Validity Period: Maximum of 3 years for the condition of the indoor installation and for the certificate of conformity in case of renovation works.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.

Etat des Risques et Pollutions Diagnosis (ERP):

Document Nature: State risks and pollution report (natural, mining, or technological hazards, seismicity, radon gas risk, and polluted soils).

Applicable Buildings: All types of buildings covered by a prefectural decree specifying the municipalities and a list of foreseeable risks.

Validity Period: Less than 6 months before the date of the sales agreement.

Penalties: The buyer can pursue a resolution or request a price reduction.

Gas Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Indoor gas installation condition report.

Applicable Buildings: Residential buildings or parts of buildings allocated for housing, with installations over 15 years old or with the last certificate of conformity dating back over 15 years.

Validity Period: Maximum of 3 years for the condition of the indoor installation and for the certificate of conformity in case of renovation works.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee. The buyer may request a reduction in the sale price or even cancel the sale.

Termites Diagnosis:

Document Nature: Report indicating the presence of termites.

Applicable Buildings: All constructed buildings in areas delimited by prefectural decrees.

Validity Period: Maximum of 6 months. It must be redone if a new municipal decree designates the area as infested.

Penalties: The seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding hidden defects guarantee.

These are just a few of the diagnoses included in the Technical Diagnostic File. It is important to consult the complete file for a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition. This is something we do in conjunction with our clients in advance of signing the pre-sale agreement.

In the case of a pre-sale agreement, if any of the documents produced during the signing of the pre-sale agreement are no longer valid on the date of signing the notarized act of sale, a new diagnosis must be conducted.

In the case of a sale, the cost of establishing the technical diagnostic file is typically borne by the seller. However, the parties involved can agree to assign the cost of these services to the purchaser.

In the case of a rental, the law states that the lessor is responsible for providing the technical diagnostic file, and the cost is incurred by the lessor as an exclusive expense.

Prices for establishing the diagnostics can vary. The cost depends on factors such as the property’s location and the number of diagnostics that need to be carried out. The prices charged by real estate diagnosticians can vary, but mostly range from 200€ to 350€.

The state of the risks and pollution can be established free of charge if the seller or lessor can directly establish it or with the assistance of a professional involved in the property’s sale or rental. However, if a diagnostician is required to establish it, the costs can range from €20 to €40, and in some cases, it may be provided for free.

The cost of inspecting the sanitation facilities, conducted by the public service for individual wastewater (SPANC), can also vary.

Certain diagnoses, such as the condition of the interior gas installation, condition of risks and pollution, diagnosis of energy performance, and condition of the electrical installation, do not necessarily require immediate repairs or renovations. However, they may provide recommendations for improving the technical condition of the property.

Four diagnoses are subject to specific constraints:

Risk of exposure to lead:

If the report indicates the presence of deteriorated coatings that may contain lead above the regulatory limit, the owner must inform the occupants and any individuals working on the building or affected part of the building, and carry out the necessary repairs or renovations. In the case of rental properties, these repairs or renovations are the landlord’s responsibility.

Presence or absence of asbestos:

If asbestos is detected, the report may recommend locating materials and products categorized as the most dangerous (list A). The owner must either periodically assess the state of conservation of these materials and products within three years from the report’s delivery or conduct an assessment of dust contamination in the air to determine asbestos concentration within three months from the report’s delivery. If asbestos containment or removal is necessary, the diagnostician is required to send a copy of the report to the prefect of the department. If the owner fails to take action, the prefect can conduct the necessary work at the owner’s expense.

Presence of termites:

If termites are detected, the seller must declare it to the town hall within one month of the findings. Failure to do so may result in fines. The mayor can also order the owner to carry out eradication measures. If the owner neglects to do so, the mayor can have the measures performed at the owner’s expense.

Non-compliant wastewater treatment:

If the installation is deemed non-compliant, the owner must undertake the necessary work within four years from the notification. If the work has not been completed by the day of the sale, the buyer must bring it into compliance within 12 months of the sale.

For wastewater treatment, if monitoring has not already been conducted at the request of the municipality by a public official from the non-collective sanitation service (SPANC), the seller must have the monitoring established by the competent SPANC for their municipality. Contact details can be obtained from the town hall.

For risks and pollution (ERP), the seller or lessor can directly establish it or with the assistance of a professional. The appropriate form should be completed using information from the prefect’s orders.

For other diagnostics, the diagnostician must provide the seller with an affidavit, guaranteeing that they have the necessary skills, professional liability insurance, and maintain impartiality and independence. The seller should ensure that the diagnostician they choose holds the required certifications, insurance, and meets the criteria for independence. Failure to comply with these rules can result in sanctions for both the diagnostician and the owner who uses their services.

The Ministry of Territorial Equality and Housing website provides a directory of French diagnosticians. This directory lists all individuals with valid certifications.

In the case of an erroneous diagnosis, the buyer or tenant can request justifications from the seller or lessor. The latter can then take action against the professional they hired, emphasizing the importance of verifying insurance coverage in advance. The diagnostician may be held responsible for any damages caused to their client (lessor or seller), depending on the circumstances.

Regarding the energy performance diagnosis (DPE), if there is an error in the consumption estimation, the seller or lessor cannot take legal action against the professional. However, the purchaser or tenant may bring a legal action against the diagnostician who made the mistake.

The Carrez Law certification:

If the actual area of a co-ownership share is more than 5% less than the area mentioned in the act, the purchaser can request a reduction in the sale price proportional to the number of missing square meters. Conversely, if the actual area exceeds the mentioned area, the seller cannot demand an increase in the price.

If the diagnosis of lead, asbestos, termites, gas, electricity, or sanitation is missing when signing the official act of sale, the seller cannot be exempted from the corresponding latent defects guarantee. Therefore, the seller remains responsible if any defects are discovered (e.g., the presence of asbestos).

If the risks and pollution diagnosis is missing, the buyer can request the cancellation of the sale or ask the court for a price reduction. Similarly, if the area of the co-ownership lot is not indicated in the sales agreement (Acte de Vente), the purchaser may request the invalidation of the act by filing a complaint with the District Court within one month of signing the act. However, if the area of the co-ownership lot is missing in the sales agreement but mentioned in the act of sale, the invalidation cannot be invoked.

Lastly, the absence of the energy performance diagnosis is less serious and does not lead to any penalties.

Re a missing diagnosis in a rental: If the owner fails to provide a report on the risk of exposure to lead or does not carry out necessary repairs or renovations before renting, this is considered a violation of safety and prudence obligations, which may result in criminal liability.

If the risks and pollution diagnosis is missing, the tenant can request termination of the lease or a reduction in rent.

However, the absence of the energy performance diagnosis does not result in any penalties, theoretically.

For more information, download the brochure from the Chambre de Notaires (in French).

A bientôt,

Headshot of Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. I’m taking a couple of vacations this year—to Greece in July and to Corsica in August. I may be writing my usual Nouvellettres® from Greece, but you can count on NOT hearing from me while I’m vegging out on the beaches in Corsica August 12-19! This way, you get a break, too!

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