Renovate your home on sound legal foundations

To avoid building site blues and potentially costly repairs, make sure you’re aware of builders’ legal obligations in France

Some of our clients have felt the need to hire a British builder operating in France to make communication easier, while others will courageously plunge into the adventure with a French builder.

And most of the time, things go perfectly well.

But, sometimes, the professional builder does not meet all the legal criteria, either because they are not aware of them or they have chosen to ignore them. If this is the case then the client is faced with precious few options should something go wrong.

At BRIGHT AVOCATS, we had a client who hired a British builder who did not know that he needed to subscribe to a special building insurance, which covers any damages for ten years after the work is finished. As luck wouldn’t have it, the construction work was faulty, and the builder had to personally cover the costs of the extremely expensive repairs. The builder had no choice but to file for bankruptcy and our client never recovered their money.

This is why it is paramount for people looking to hire a professional builder to ask for them to supply their assurance décennale and be careful that the builder is insured for the work on your house. Otherwise, the insurance will not pay.

If you notice any damage within ten years of the work, you need to contact the builder. This way, he can declare the damage to his insurance company, which will organise experts to assess the damage to your property and evaluate the cost of repairs. When the insurance company has received the expert report, it will compensate you for the cost of the repairs.

It is always advisable to seek the advice of a lawyer, principally because the two protagonists – the builder and the insurance company – have no financial advantage in rectifying the damage.

The builder does not want to risk an increase in their insurance premium and if the insurance company can find any reason not to pay, they won’t.

This is why when you notice damage, it is important for you to contact a lawyer who will be able to assist you in your communications with the builder and their insurance company.

Your lawyer will assess if the damage you have noticed falls within the ten-year guarantee, and inform you whether you are eligible for compensation or not. They will also be able to inform you when it is time to start a court procedure so that you do not miss the legal deadline for compensation in construction cases.

The garantie décennale covers damage which affects the solidity of the structure or if the damage makes your property unsuitable for its purpose.

Because most people believe that the guarantee only covers huge cracks, clients sometimes miss the opportunity to be compensated because they did not know that their damage was covered. A leaking pool or a problem with the sealing of the roof may well fall within the ten-year guarantee and the repairs compensated by the builder’s insurance.

If the builder is reluctant to contact their insurance company your lawyer will intervene and write them letters to push them for rectification of the damages.

If the amicable process fails, then your lawyer will introduce a court case before the competent High Court in order to get you legal compensation for your damage.

At BRIGHT AVOCATS we ask you to get a couple of reparation estimates, for two reasons: firstly we would need to provide them to the court to get an expert appointed but most importantly because we do not believe in going to court just to charge you fees.

As we know legal action can be very costly, by providing us with estimates we will be able to advise you whether it would be wise to start proceedings. If the builder is found liable you will be reimbursed the expert’s fees and part of your legal fees; but if we know that the cost of the case is going to exceed anything you may receive in court, we will always tell you, allowing you to make the most educated decision.

And in order to make the most informed decision, when you contact us, we also provide you with a step-by-step explanation of the whole procedure and will answer any and all the questions you have, usually within 24 hours of reception.

Bright Avocats are French-trained bilingual lawyers that practice throughout France. They advise on Construction law, but also on Real Estate, Inheritance, Tax Planning, Family law, Corporate and Commercial law, Labour law and Criminal law.

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