The French government has been progressively tightening up on property survey requirements. Sellers now have to provide diagnostic survey reports on their property and its condition. As of November 1st2007, they are compiled into a report called a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT).
When are the surveys carried out?
The energy efficiency rating (see 1 below) must be carried out before you put the property on the market. The regulations state that the complete DDT should be available when you exchange contracts (promesse de vente) and, at the very latest, when you sign the deed of sale (acte de vente).
The inspectsion are informational: the seller has no obligation to correct any problems that are revealed. It is thus important that the buyer reads and understands the tests, to make an informed decision whether to purchase.
Who can carry out the surveys?
Only qualified inspectors/surveyors who have been accredited by the relevant professional body can carry out the surveys. They should have suitable liability insurance in case the buyer finds defects later on. Since surveyors are free to fix their fees, it pays to compare estimates.
What do the surveys include?
Some of the surveys are time-limited while others have an expiry date, after which they must be redone. You need to check if any certificates dating from the time you bought the property are still valid:
- Energy efficiency: classifies properties’ energy consumption and greenhouse gas effect from A (good) to G (bad). The ranking must be included in the property advert. As of May 1st2013, when a new method of calculation was introduced, the assessment became more detailed and precise. However, surveys carried out before that date remain valid until their expiry date. Validity: 10 years.
- Surface area of apartments (loi Carrez): confirms that the livable surface area is as the deed of sale specifies. Sellers can do the measuring themselves but this is risky, considering the complications of measuring older properties and the penalties if you over-estimate. Validity: unlimited unless building works have been carried out.
- Lead in paintwork: applies to buildings constructed before 1949. Validity: unlimited, unless lead is present, in which case 1 year.
- Asbestos: applies to buildings constructed before 1997. In 2013 new regulations extended the list of aspects inspected and introduced a new methodology. If your survey predates January 1st2013, it must be brought up to date. If carried out between January 1stand April 1st 2013 it can be included in the DDT if it conforms to the new regulations. Validity: unlimited unless asbestos is present. Then the surveyor must assess its extent and make recommendations for action.
- Termites: applies to areas where the prefect has indicated the presence of these damaging wood-boring insects. This includes Paris. Validity: 6 months.
- Electricity installation: applies if the building is more than 15 years old. Validity: 3 years.
- Gas installation: as for electricity.
- Natural and industrial risks: if the property is located in a zone that the prefect has designated at risk (e.g. of flooding). Validity: 6 months.
- Independent drainage and sewerage: applies if the property is not connected to the public mains drainage system – unlikely in Paris.
In addition, a building more than 15 years old that is being converted into an apartment block must have a survey of the walls, roof and other common parts.
What are the penalties for not providing the certificates or making a mistake?
If the apartment’s surface area is more than 5% less than specified, the buyer can pull out or ask for the sale price to be recalculated. The latter applies for up to a year from the date of the acte de vente.
If the seller fails to provide the relevant certificates and the buyer later finds asbestos, lead or termites present or that the electricity and gas installations are dangerous, the seller must pay for the remedial work.
If the seller fails to provide the natural and industrial risks report, the buyer can cancel the transaction or demand a lower price.
In the case of a mistake or negligence by the surveyor, both the seller and the buyer may have legal recourse.
Who pays for the surveys to be carried out?
The seller commissions and pays for the inspections listed above. The buyer can also choose, at his own cost, to have the property inspected further. However, additional surveys are ordinarily not performed and, particularly in Paris, ultimately prove to be of limited use. A survey may be advisable for properties purchased outside of Paris or other metropolitan areas, particularly of independent houses, as their condition may be less certain.