Buying a property in France: Diagnostics

  • Posted

Posted 06/02/2014

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Anyone who buys a property in France will know that the first contract will have to have attached to it various inspection reports, known as diagnostics.  The reports are provided for information, and it is important to understand exactly what they cover, what they mean, and what they do not tell you.

The nature of the searches to be carried out depends on the age, location and type of the property.  If you are buying an apartment, there will be a measurement to establish the internal surface area.  In many areas of the south and west of France there will be a termite inspection.  Built before 1948 the property will probably be subjected to a check to establish if there is any lead-based paint.  Built before 1997 and the inspector will look to see if there is any asbestos in the property.  The drainage will also be checked.  If there is no mains drainage, the system will be tested to ensure it not only functions correctly but it complies with current regulatory standards.

In addition to these inspections relating to the property itself, information must be provided about the physical status of the region – whether there is any known history or future risk of matters such as flood, landslide, avalanche, forest fire and so on.  This report will give a picture of the whole area – and do not be surprised if there is a history of avalanche in an alpine resort.  The two points to pick up from this are that it is important to establish in the contract that no such incidents have affected the property to be bought, and that there may be limitations on building because of any risks.

These inspections can however be somewhat limited.  The termite inspection, for example, would only declare active infestation if the inspector saw them, but without actually breaking the surface of the wood.  This means that the inspector will not declare that the property is free of termites: rather that he could not see any evidence of their presence on the day.  Furthermore, the inspector would not declare if a previous infestation had left the woodwork so damaged it was about to cave in.

The result is that the inspections are strictly limited.  They do not replace the benefits that can be gained from commissioning an independent survey – that could also be a good negotiating tool for the price.

For individual advice, please contact Matthew Cameron on 01284 727016 or email

Click here for further information about our French Legal Services team.


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