Understanding the Diagnostics Reports

This month our article is about the obligatory diagnostic tests that a seller has to provide to the purchaser before he can proceed with the sale of his property

It has implications for buyer and seller so a little insight we hope will be of use.

So what are the diagnostics?

Basically they are a set of reports; each report will highlight any issues that will have a direct bearing on health and safety of the occupants, their wellbeing, as well as environmental issues such as energy performance and sanitation.

The main areas covered within these reports are:-

•    Asbestos
•    Lead
•    Termites
•    Electrics
•    Gas
•    Sewage
•    Natural risks
•    DPE (Energy Rating)

These reports are officially called the DDT (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique - Technical Diagnosis File). More details on each element at the end of this article.

It is the seller’s responsibility to pay for a specialist surveyor to provide these documents either directly to the purchaser or to the agent working for the seller. However it is often the case that the agent will organise for the diagnostics to be carried out on behalf of the seller.

When should the diagnostics be carried out?

To market a property an individual or agency only needs one element of the report which is the energy rating or the DPE. This enables the agent or seller to put an energy rating graphic within his advert.

The other parts of the survey are often not carried out until an offer has been put forward. This may sound a bit chicken and egg but the reasoning is that as well has having to pay for these reports up front, each element of the report has a shelf life. The termite element for example only lasts for 6 months so if the owner didn’t sell his property within six months of getting the report then he’d be obliged to have it done again and further costs may be incurred.

Buyers

However, as a buyer, you are protected in the sense that you will not be asked to sign a “Compromis de Vente “ (the initial and binding sales document) before all the diagnostics are completed and you have seen them.

This means you are safe to make an initial offer based on some assumptions and when the diagnostics come back you are then free to re-negotiate (or even withdraw) if things are not as you thought.

Sellers

If you are a seller and looking for a speedy sale and have priced your property accordingly then having all the diagnostics done beforehand will certainly work in your favour. Especially if you are selling a property that has been renovated and you want to show everything is in order.

It will remove uncertainty and likelihood of re-negotiation on offers as without all the diagnostics it may come to light that some items are not as you first thought.

It will also give you the chance to rectify in your own time any minor issues that otherwise could be used by a purchaser as leverage to get reductions.

What does the report cost?

The costs will vary depending on the size of the property, its location and the company doing the report. As a rough guide for an average 3 bedroom house expect to pay in the region of 100 -120 € for each part of the report.

It will usually be cheaper having all the elements done at once rather than getting the surveyor out more than once.

The sewage report will be carried out by a separate organisation  - often the local commune. If you are on mains drains then a report may not be required and a letter from the local commune may suffice.

As a rule we advise our clients with average size 3 bedroom property that a full set of diagnostics will cost IRO 500 –600 €.

Understanding the report

As a purchaser the reports may seem a little daunting and can often amount to 100 plus pages of technical French text. Don’t concern yourself too much with trying to translate every page. Instead go straight to the summary, often, at the front, otherwise at the back of each section. Here there will be an overview of the findings.

If for example it concludes there is no asbestos at the property you don’t have to concern yourself with the rest of the asbestos section which may contain a dozen or more pages. If it says there is asbestos then yes dig deeper and see where, which type and what you need to do. Often there will be sketches and /or photographs.

The agent and / or notaire should highlight any areas of concern as well. If they don’t and you are still unsure then do ask them to clarify the results of each section for you.

In some instances you may decide to get a specialist contractor to look over parts of the report, i.e. an electrician to explain what is needed to rectify items highlighted in the electrical section.

What to do with this information?

Generally the seller is not obliged to rectify any of the problems highlighted prior to the sale. Often the asking price will already reflect that work is needed i.e. a rewire, new fosse etc in which case it is unlikely you can use the findings as ammunition to get further reductions.

However, if you were told the fosse complies and the electrics have only recently been installed and the survey later on revealed various abnormalities, which may be expensive to correct, and you weren’t initially aware of, then yes, you are free to re-negotiate and even pull out from the deal if you so wish.

Remember in France an offer is just an offer even if you do put it into writing. You’re not committed to purchase until 10 days after you have signed a document called the Compromis de Vente.  You must have seen the diagnostic before signing a Compromis  de Vente.

And finally

The diagnostics are not the same as house buyer’s surveys found in the UK. In France, getting full surveys on property is far less common. The French equivalent of a UK surveyor for house buyers simply doesn’t exist. Instead the French will often look to skilled trades people (artisians) or an architect for advice and condition reports.

There are, however, UK surveyors who are based and work over here but tread with caution. The construction methods are very different here so just as you should choose a builder who is competent do make sure the surveyor is not only qualified, but also has relevant experience with French construction techniques.

We can always put you in touch with English speaking French registered surveyors.

Part 2

A little bit about what each report covers?

Lead = plombe
This part of the report applies to lead in paint work. If you are purchasing a pre 1949 s property then the is a good chance there could be lead some in the paintwork.

It is purely informative and you won’t be required to do anything special if lead is found. Often all that is needed is to remove loose, flaky and powdery paint and repaint. However it is important you take the relevant safety precautions i.e. wearing masks when sanding and let your builders know lead is present.  IMPORTANT -  Keep young children away from loose and flaky paint and you should avoid breathing in the dust.

Asbestos = Amiante

If the house was constructed before 1997 then an asbestos report must be provided. There is a strong possibility that if you are buying an older property then the report may reveal the presence of asbestos.

Often it can be found in the form of corrugated roof sheeting, drainage pipes, flues for chimneys, panels at the back of fireplaces/ boilers and sometimes found within older linoleum type floor coverings.

If asbestos is found the report will detail its position and explain what is needed. In most cases it is simply informative so that you know where it is and so that you’ll take care if you intend to do building work etc. in its vicinity. Generally with the examples above you won’t be required to remove it or do anything special.

However bear in mind that if you do decide to remove it or do work on or near it then specialist contractors may be needed.

If you have your heart set on an old farm property and you discover the whole roof of a barn is covered in asbestos type corrugated sheeting then you’d be wise to get a quote for its removal before putting in any offer as this could be an expensive exercise.

Electrics = électricité

If the electrics in the property are older than  15 years old, an electricity report must be provided stating whether everything is safe or not. Unless a property has had a full rewire in past year or two then the likelihood is the surveyor will find some anomalies. On more recent properties it may be things that are fairly easy to resolve, such as power points too close to wet areas in bathrooms, junction boxes not properly sealed, cables with exposed wires, earth protection not up to current standards.

However if you are looking at older property then it may well be the case that the whole electrical system will need updating which could mean a full rewire. This however should be fairly apparent even before the report is produced.

Gas = gaz

If there is a gas installation more than 15 years old in the property, a gas report must be provided. The most common faults are: - insufficient ventilation and gas pipes to appliances which may have signs of deterioration. These matters are easily remedied.

Termites = termites

We work in the Dordogne, the Lot and Limousine region of France. In the Lot and the Dordogne a termite report is obligatory. However it is rare for the termites to venture further north into the Limousine so this survey isn’t required in this area.

The report will not only mention if there are termites present in a property but the survey will also cover the grounds and look for traces of earlier infestation.

If it is discovered that there are termites or have been termites at a property then you should insist the seller/ agents gets a quote from a specialist contractor to correct matters. Then either the seller implements the work and this is detailed in any offer and/ or Compromis or the buyer takes on this responsibility but re-negotiates the price accordingly.

Major risks =  ERNMT - État des Risques Naturels Miniers et Technologique

This report will look into any local issues that could cause problems. One of the most common is flooding. If the property is in a zone known to flood then the report will detail this.

It will also cover man made risks such mining, tunnelling, and whether there are any factories in the area causing health risks etc.

Sewage - Assainissement

The fosse inspection will be carried out by a separate organisation. Check out last month’s article. If the property is on mains drainage then an inspection may not be required instead t a letter from the commune confirming the property is connected is often enough.

Energy Efficieny = Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique DPE

This is the one element that is required to market a property and details should be included in agency ads. Basically these energy ratings give you an idea of how energy efficient a property is.

The above article has been written by Jon Boella director of Perigord Property. The information in this article is to be used for guidance only.