Before You Buy Check for Builder’s Guarantees

Before You Buy Check for Builder’s Guarantees

Lock on a house representing House Security

There are some subtle differences between new build and renovated property. However, it is important in both cases to establish, through your Notaire, that all completed construction works have been carried out by registered builders and artisans, who must have a SIRET number. Work carried out by non-registered builders or artisans carries no guarantees.

A guarantee of any kind is, of course, worthless unless it has insurance to back it up.

It is mandatory for registered builders and artisans to carry insurance the details of which can be requested and checked by your Notaire before you commit yourself legally to purchase.

The required insurances fall into four distinct categories: –

1) Responsibility of Perfect Achievement

This runs for the first twelve months after completion of the project and covers defects which in England are termed “snagging items”.

2) Biennial Responsibility 

This runs for two years and covers defects to items, appliances and fittings that can be removed without damaging the property.

3) Decennial Responsibility

This runs for ten years and covers more serious defects such as movement and whether the building is “fit for intended purpose”, and is akin to the NHBC 10 year certificate issued in England.

4) Third Party Responsibility

This runs for ten years following notification of any claim for damage or injury to third parties.

It is also important to establish that the property owner has taken out insurance cover against decennial responsibility; this is called “dommage-ouvrage”(DO). This also runs for ten years and insures the owner and any future owner against serious defects. This insurance is supposed to be compulsory however there does not appear to be any sanction against owners who have not taken this insurance cover out. (DO) is required in case the builder disputes decennial liability. The insurers will pay for the repairs whilst disputes and liabilities are argued.

Therefore with new buildings, so long as the work has been carried out via registered tradespersons, the guarantees and insurances should be satisfactory.

The situation regarding renovated properties is different in that the guarantees only cover the renovation works carried out by the registered tradespersons. The existing structure of the property is not guaranteed.

Example: – A structure could have an existing bulge in the external wall, which left unattended could eventually collapse. A builder could argue that this was evident at the point of sale and collapse would not have occurred if routine maintenance in the form of repointing and resetting of the stonework had been carried out.

Hence it would therefore be advisable to have a survey of the renovated property carried out before purchase, to highlight any existing defects.

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