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Ask Miranda: what property surveys are required when selling a property in France?
I’m planning to sell my Paris apartment, which I bought in mid-2007. The deed of sale had a number of diagnostic reports attached. Which of these do I have to have redone, what paperwork do I need to supply and who pays for it all – me or the buyer?
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 1st 2007, they are compiled into a report called a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT).
When should you carry out the surveys?
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). So it’s advisable to commission the surveys as soon as you put the property on the market. Demonstrating that the property is in good condition is a selling point. But be aware that any problems found can affect the price of the property.
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:
1. 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 1st 2013, 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.
2. 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.
3. Lead in paintwork: applies to buildings constructed before 1949. Validity: unlimited, unless lead is present, in which case 1 year.
4. 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 1st 2013, it must be brought up to date. If carried out between January 1st and 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.
5. Termites: applies to areas where the prefect has indicated the presence of these damaging wood-boring insects. This includes Paris. Validity: 6 months.
6. Electricity installation: applies if the building is more than 15 years old. Validity: 3 years.
7. Gas installation: as for electricity.
8. 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.
9. 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 surveys.
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