Diagnostic Immobilier and selling property in France

A guide to the new rules on the DDT and diagnostics immobiliers or diagnostic tests required to sell French property

Dossier Diagnostique Technique - new rules from January 2011

From the beginning of 2011, there have been new rules in place for the sale of houses in France. The onus is firmly on the seller to have a number of diagnostic tests carried out by an expert or a series of approved experts before the house can be sold. The reports are then collated into a dossier, Dossier Diagnostique Technique, or DDT. There have always been certain tests required, but these are now more numerous and anyone considering putting a property on the market needs to know exactly what the tests are, who to contract to carry them out, and what they mean. Roughly speaking, they equate to the old HIPS package in England, but there are significant differences peculiar to France.

What happens if I don't have the tests done?

The reports are a legal requirement for all properties being sold. If you fail to collate all the required tests, you, as the seller, remain liable for any problems ensuing from these areas. The report is attached to the Compromis du Vente, the agreement of sale (Property sales in France). Although it is seriously advisable to have all the tests done before you place the property on the market, some tests can legally be done later, as long as they are completed before the sale. The exception to this rule is the new requirement for an Energy Efficiency test, which must be done before the house is placed on the market and displayed along with any advertisement (see below).

How to find accredited experts

To make sure that the experts who carry out the tests are accredited, you should ask at your prefecture who will supply you with the details of the correct people to call. COFRAC is the accrediting agency, and all experts must be registered. A notaire or good estate agent will also supply the names and contacts of suitable experts. (These experts are, rather confusingly, also called diagnostics immobiliers.)

Cost of the diagnostic tests

If you choose to order all the tests to be done at once, the cost is likely to be anything from around 400 to 900 Euros. That's sounds like a large variation in price, so it may pay to do your homework first. However, although you can shop around for a best price, you may find that some areas are more expensive than others and that the prefecture's recommended list doesn't give you as much choice of expert as you may wish. Word of mouth is often a good way to find the diagnostic experts who will do the tests for a reasonable sum, but be sure to check their accreditation before employing them.

Seller needs only to provide the information

As a seller, however, your obligation is only to provide the information so that the buyer is aware of any defects. You are not obliged to carry out work to correct these. It is possible, however, that if problems are highlighted in the report, a potential buyer may pull out of the sale or demand a reduction in price.

Diagnostics immobiliers - the tests involved

The following are the tests which need to be carried out before a property is sold:

1. Dangerous and outdated building materials


Asbestos: The French name for asbestos is "amiante". All properties that had planning permission from before 1997 must be tested for the presence of asbestos.

Lead: The French word for lead is "plomb". This test is purely concerned with the use of lead in paintwork, where it can be a health hazard to children or pets, not lead flashing on roofs etc.

2. Gas, electricity and sewage


Gas: The French name is "gaz". Tests must be carried out on the property if the gas connection was installed over fifteen years prior to the sale. (Connecting utilities (water, gas, electricity, telephone and sewage) in France.)

Electricity: The French name is 'electricité". As above for gas, tests are required if the property had its electricity installed more than fifteen years ago. (Electrics in France.)

Sewage: One of the newest tests required is carried out on the septic tank systems installed in many country properties in France. The system must comply with current regulations. The words in French for sewage are "assainissement non collectif", while a septic tank is known as a "Fosse Septique". (Septic tanks in France.)

3. Termites and Natural Risks


Termites: The test for this is referred to as "termites et état parasitaire". All properties should have a report prepared on termites, although in certain areas the test is mandatory. Your prefecture will advise you if your property is in a termite area. Termite infestation can destroy a property, so it is to everyone's advantage to know the result of this test! Additionally, other wood eating /burrowing parasites and fungi are tested for. It is also important to know that a termite report is only valid for six months.

Natural Risks: This test is known as "états des risques naturels et technologiques". A natural risk assessment is also carried out for the dossier of sale. This covers not only the likelihood of natural disasters to which the area may be prone, such as earthquakes, flooding or fire, but also the effects of any local industrial action which may result in toxic emissions, destabilising of the land etc.

4. Surface area of the property

This one only applies to flats, apartments (Apartments and flats in France) or properties which form a part of a shared property. It is necessary to establish exactly the surface area of the property being sold. Detached houses/individual properties are not subject to this test.

5. Energy Efficiency ***

This is the one that is causing all the buzz in 2011. It is now mandatory, before you advertise any property for sale or rent, that you have the test done and display the results with your advert. The report displays the energy efficiency of the property and reports on greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides advice on ways to improve the efficiency, lower bills and reduce emissions. Valid for ten years from the date of the inspection, the report must be displayed with the advert.

Structural Surveys

Oddly enough, the French do not set anything like as much store by full structural surveys as the British, perhaps because they are less inclined to be brainwashed into spending money to discover things they probably know already, given the extent of their local knowledge. The French also tend to take the common sense approach that if the property is still standing after a number of years, it will most likely continue to do so! That notwithstanding, it is possible to have a structural survey done, but the buyer will almost always be liable for the organisation and costs of this. (Surveyors in France.)

Additional articles which may be of interest:


Selling houses in France
French Property Prices

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about who pays for a DDT (added 8/12/11)...

Hi - I would like to ask a general question about the dossier required for selling property. My French estate agency in Nice claims that he paid 358 Euros for a DDT (but this did not include the energy performance report) after finding a prospective buyer, but the buyer changed his mind and withdrew the offer. A few weeks later, I decided to withdraw the property from the market. The agent has now sent me a "bill" for the DDT. Am I legally obligated to reimburse the agent for the cost of the DDT if the buyer withdrew and I afterwards decided to take the property off the market? Thank you for your help.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I have been in touch with my colleague Joanna in France, who thinks as I do, that if you agreed with your estate agent for the tests to be done when they had found a buyer for your property, then you would have to pay for them. If no such agreement or conversation took place, then you will have to find a way of sorting this out, as the agent obviously doesn't want to be out of pocket, as neither do you. Perhaps you could split the costs?

However, my colleague also says that you should demand a facture detailing what the agent has paid for what and to whom, and a document detailing the results of all the diagnostics done and charged. She would also suggest asking for the names and contacts of the experts who carried out the tests so they can verify it all themselves. And if this proof is not provided, she imagines there is a very good case for an argument against paying.

You may also like to contact an agency like Que Choisir, which is a very good consumer help agency, to ask their advice.

We wish you all the best with resolving this issue.

2. A question about how long DDTs are valid for (added 28/2/13)...

We are in the process of selling our apartment in France. We bought three years ago. We were originally told by agents that we would only need to re-do the asbestos test as this had changed by law in the last three years but that all other tests would still be valid. However, the notary has said we need to re-do the loi carrez, electric and gas as well. We have made no changes or done anything to the layout of the apartment, gas or electric in the last three years and only have a gas bottle that connects to and runs the gas hob. How long are the tests valid for as they are coming back very expensive?

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I understood that different tests were valid for different lengths of time. Indeed some people when selling a property have to re-do tests if the sale takes a long time. So I would not be surprised if you have to do the tests you say, if they haven't been done since you bought the property. However, I am no expert in these matters so I would check this with your prefecture, or perhaps ask at your Mairie.

3. Finding termites when DDT stated no termites (added 27/5/14)...

Hi - I have just purchased a house in Montreuil, France and have found termites while preparing the house for renovations. The DDT clearly states the absence of termites but alas, there they are. Do we have any recourse against the sellers and the company that carried out the DDT? Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would think that if the termite report is still valid (I understand these are only valid for six months), then you would have a case. I am not sure how you go about this though, other than contacting the seller/DDT company, so would suggest you perhaps speak to the people at your Mairie for advice. Of course termites can appear at any time, and you don't say how bad your infestation is, so might they have appeared after your purchase of the property? In which case I fear there would be no recourse.

Update...

I have been documenting the old nests and activity which clearly proves they have been there for a while. We will be contacting the notary about this and a couple other things. Not a huge deal, just small stuff.

4. A question about how long reports are valid for (added 15/10/14)...

I had an asbestos check completed in September 2012 when I put the house on the market for sale. The house is now being sold and I have been asked for another report. How long are the reports valid for?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand that different tests/reports are valid for different lengths of time, some for only as long as six months. So I am not particularly surprised that you have been asked for another report. However, I am no expert in these matters so I would check this with your prefecture, or perhaps ask at your Mairie.

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