Diagnostic Reports and Property Surveys

Detailed information on the obligatory and recommended survey reports when buying, selling and renting out property: Energy Performance (DPE), asbestos, lead, gas, termites, foul water drainage; and the Diagnostic Immobilier who can help...

There are a number of surveys - both compulsory and advisable - to be done before selling a house in France. It is generally the responsibility of the seller to arrange and pay for them. Their objective is to inform the buyer of the general condition of the building. These are not "full structural surveys" as required in other countries (such as the UK and Ireland), rather they are focused on health, safety, and the property's effect on the environment.

The recommended and required surveys are as follows:

Energy Performance (Diagnostic Performance Energétique, DPE)

Compulsory when selling or renting out a house or an apartment. The objective is to give the buyer (and seller) information regarding the insulation and other factors which affect the heating bills and emissions of greenhouse gases. The report identifies the estimated consumption of energy of a building based on the usage of electricity (measured by kWh/m2) and the impact of this consumption (greenhouse gas emissions measured in Kg of CO2/m2), and includes recommendations on how to improve the building to reduce these. The report is valid for 10 years.

The energy rating must be displayed on all advertisements of properties for sale and rental.

Asbestos (Amiante)

Compulsory for all houses which had planning permission prior to 1 July 1997. The report will list any products which contain or risk containing asbestos and will provide general advice regarding security measures and instruct on work needed to be carried out. When no asbestos is found, the report is valid for "life". If asbestos is discovered, a new survey must be conducted within three years.

Lead (Plomb)

Compulsory for houses built prior to 1 January 1949. It does not cover lead piping, purely paintwork. It identifies if lead is present (a machine with a radioactive source is used to detect it). In the case of a house sale, the report is valid for "life" if nothing is identified,  one year if positive. If the house is rented out, the report is valid six years.

Termites/fungal and Insect (larvae) related damage (Termites/Etat Parasitaire)

The section on termites is only obligatory in a few restricted areas, however completing the Etat Parasitaire section is strongly recommended for buildings over 25 years old. The report is valid for six months only.

Note: The general rule of "let the buyer beware" does not typically apply in France. If a person sells a property which has, for example, woodwork problems (whether they are aware of it or not), the buyer may subsequently claim against them if this information was not made available at the time of sale.

Certificate of Surface Area (Loi Carrez)

Not required for individual houses, but if selling a flat in a "shared" property (Copropriété) this certificate is required. It is permanent unless subsequent work is carried out.

Gas (Gaz)

The Gas Diagnostic Certificate (état de l'installation intérieure de gaz). Compulsory for gas installations which are over 15 years old; this is a survey to identify any safety issues with the gas system and specifies the severity. The report is valid for three years.

Private Waste Water Drainage (Assainissement Non Collectif)

This includes septic tank drainage. From 1 January 2011, this is obligatory when selling a home with privately-owned waste water treatment plants. It identifies if an installation "conforms" to present regulations and functions correctly. If the installation is not conform, the buyer has one year following the date of purchase to carry out any necessary work.

A government organisation Services Publics d'Assainissement Non Collectif (SPANC) is charged with the responsibility of examining all private foul water drainage installations. A house on the market may have been visited by SPANC. When SPANC is in an area, it is compulsory that the draining is examined, regardless of whether a house is on the market or not. There is a small charge.

Electricity (Electricité)

The seller of a property is obligated to provide the buyer with a statement on the safety aspects of the installation (trip switches, earth cabling and so on). This only applies to installations over 15 years old.

Natural risks (Etat des Risques Naturels et Technologiques, ERNT)

A notaire can advise if a property is identified to be in an area which risks to be flooded, subject to land slips and other natural dangers. If it is, the seller is obliged have a report included with the house sale stating this. It is not a survey, it is to advise the buyer of the risks in the area. It will not therefore state if a property has problems or not. This is principally an administrative report, the provider is not required to be specifically qualified to produce it.

Structural Survey (Diagnostic Bâtiment)

Not normally obligatory and infrequently requested in France, however a non-French buyer may wish to have one done (typically at the buyer's cost). This would need to be done by an architect or other appropriately qualified person

Note: "Diagnostiqueurs" are not qualified to do this.

The Diagnostic Immobilier

Advice is available from an estate agent or notaire  who should be able to name a Diagnostic Immobilier in the area able to carry out the reports. A Diagnostic Immobilier is required by to be qualified in the main areas of Diagnostics in which they practices and will have a certificate to prove they have passed the required theoretical and practical examinations in France.

Further Information