Property Surveys in France: Diagnostic, Building, and Structural Surveys
The requirements for property surveys in France may be quite different to those in your home country, so it’s important to be aware of what is and isn’t covered, as well as your options for additional surveys. Here’s a run-down of the diagnostic, building, and structural surveys available to French property buyers.
Diagnostic, Building, and Structural Surveys: Your Options
When you purchase a property in France, there are several compulsory diagnostic surveys that are required by law to be carried out before a property sale. These are generally much more comprehensive than those carried out in the UK and America (we’ll go into all the details in a moment), and because of this, many French buyers go through with a property purchase without undertaking additional surveys. There is no legal requirement in France for a pre-purchase building survey to be carried.
However, diagnostic surveys do not cover all bases, and you can also opt to carry out building and land surveys. Additional surveys must be requested by the buyer and are undertaken at the buyer’s expense, so take the time to consider whether you want to exercise this right or not. These surveys can also be inserted as a ‘clause suspensive’ when signing the Compromis de Vente, protecting your right to back out of the purchase if the property doesn’t meet certain requirements.
There are a number of things to consider when deciding if you need a building survey, but first, let’s take a look at the Diagnostic Surveys.
Property Surveys in France: Diagnostic Surveys
There are a number of compulsory property surveys in France that a vendor is required to provide by law. These diagnostic surveys are grouped together in a single report known as the Technical Diagnostic File (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique) or DDT. The DDT includes surveys on lead and asbestos levels, fungal or beetle infestation of any woodwork, and the DPE test that relates to power consumption and insulation.
DDT surveys are all required by law and it is the obligation of the vendor to commission and pay for up-to-date reports to be attached to the Compromis de Vente. The notaire responsible for the property sale will ensure that the law is complied with.
What’s Included in a Diagnostic Survey (DDT)?
Here’s a list of the compulsory and recommended DDT surveys to be carried out on a French property:
Diagnostic Performance Energétique (DPE)
Energy efficiency reports are now compulsory for all house sales in France and provide information regarding the level of insulation and other factors affecting heating bills, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The report estimates the consumption of energy of a building based on the amount of electricity used (measured by kWh/m2) and the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions (measured in Kg of CO2/m2), and makes suggestions on how to improve the building to reduce these. The energy rating is displayed on all advertisements of properties for sale (similar to fridge energy-rating stickers)
Waste Water Drainage (Assainissement Non Collectif)
The wastewater drainage report includes septic tank drainage, which is obligatory when selling a home with a Fosse Autonome or individual Fosse Septic installations. It identifies if an installation conforms to present regulations and functions correctly. If the installation does not conform, the buyer has one year following the date of purchase to carry out any necessary work.
The government organisation Services Publics d’Assainissement Non Collectif (SPANC) is charged with the responsibility of examining all private foul water drainage installations. SPANC have a statutory obligation that the drainage is inspected, approximately every four years, regardless of whether a house is for sale or not. There is a small charge for this.
Termites, Fungal and Insect Larvae Related Damage (Termites/Etat Parasitaire)
Depending on a properties’ location, and how old it is, the notaire will advise or instruct the seller to have this report done. The report is mostly concerned with woodwork and related problems. The section on termites is only obligatory in a few restricted areas, however, completing the Etat Parasitaire section is recommended for all buildings over 25 years old.
An Asbestos report is compulsory for all houses granted planning permission before July 1997. This will list any products which contain or may contain asbestos and will provide general advice as to the ways of dealing with it. If found, specialist removal and disposal may be required.
A Lead report is compulsory for houses built prior to 1 January 1949. It does not cover lead plumbing (although it should mention it), but it will cover lead paintwork. It identifies if lead is present and at what sort of levels it can be found.
Gas (Gaz) and Electricity (Electricité)
The Gas Diagnostic Certificate (Un état de l’installation intérieure de gaz naturel) is compulsory for gas installations over 15 years old to identify any safety issues with the gas system. The seller must provide the buyer with information on electrical safety issues and any installation over 15 years old must be inspected.
Natural Risks (Etat des Risques Naturels et Technologiques, ERNT)
A notaire can advise if a property is located in an area at risk of being flooded, subject to landslides or other natural dangers e.g. seismic or earthquake. This report is there to advise the buyer of the risks in the area—it will not say if a property has had problems caused by these conditions or not.
Certificate of Surface Area (Loi Carrez)
This certificate is only required if selling a flat in a “shared” property (Copropriété) and it serves to indicate the size of the property being purchased.
How and When Are Diagnostic Surveys (DDT) Carried Out?
Diagnostic surveys are carried out before the signing of the Compromis de Vente during a property purchase. The notaire will then check that all have been correctly carried out and documented, before the signing of the Acte de Vente.
DDT are undertaken by a Diagnostic Immobilier, which are more often than not recommended by the notaire. During a French property sale, this is the responsibility of the seller, not the buyer.
Building and Structural Surveys on Your French Property
While the Diagnostic Surveys are quite comprehensive, remember that they are not the same as the building and structural surveys often undertaken during property sales in other countries. These are, in essence, diagnostics of problems that a property may be suffering from within the fabric of the building, but do not look at potential structural problems.
Carrying out property surveys in France is not common practice. Most French buyers will not choose to carry out a building survey, although they may seek the opinion of a local builder or architect at the purchase stage if they are looking to renovate. However, don’t let this put you off contacting a surveyor if you feel the need.
The two situations in which building surveys are most useful are:
- If you plan to renovate, extend, or rebuild parts of the property. In this instance, a surveyor can help determine the feasibility, as well as offer advice regarding the costs and timeframe of the proposed works.
- If you have concerns about the property’s structural soundness, have noticed damp or drainage problems, or when purchasing a very old property. Surveyors will be able to advise of any dangerous features, defects, or potential future problems with regards to both the interior and exterior structures.
If you do decide to carry out a building survey, understand that it is your responsibility as the buyer to organise this and pay the applicable fees. This should ideally be done before you sign the Compromis de Vente, as the results could influence the property price. It also makes it possible to add any critical work or safety considerations as a ”clause suspensive”, ensuring that the work is carried out by the buyer before the sale.
Using a Property Surveyor in France
Whether or not you choose to contact a surveyor will depend on multiple factors—our article Do I Need a Building Survey lays out some factors that may impact your decision. Next, search our directory of English-speaking property surveyors in France. Be sure to tell them of any concerns, priorities, or specific plans you have for the property. Alternatively, you could use our building directory to find an English-speaking builder in your area who can help with building or renovation advice.
Buying a Property in France?
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Want to make your French property dream a reality? Start by reading our Beginner’s Guide to Buying French Property, then follow our step by step articles detailing every stage of the purchase process.
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