13. Building & Construction Disputes in France

  1. Claims Procedure
  2. Sources of Advice

13.1. Claims Procedure in Building Disputes in France

French building companies and artisans have a reputation for quality that is well deserved.

Nevertheless, surveys suggest an increasing number of clients are dissatisfied with the performance of building professionals and contractual disputes are on the increase.

These disputes are often less about the quality of work carried out than the manner or progress of works, poor communication, poor after sales, or poor organisation.

Prevention is, of course, always better than cure and the rules of good practice that apply in your own country about employing building trades is no different in France than it is elsewhere.

You need to have your wits about you and to act with caution.

One of the major sources of problems is a mismatch between the aspirations of the client and the amount they are prepared to pay for the works.

A high estimate does not always guarantee a high level of workmanship, but the risk of poor workmanship is certainly going to be a higher with a low estimate. So, beware of low estimates.

If a serious dispute arises during the progress of works under a CCMI contract, then you or your architect should send a recorded delivery letter setting out clearly your grievance and seeking a response within a reasonable timescale.

If the contractor is in delay, abandons the project or wrongly terminates the contract then you or your architect should be entitled to invoke the procedure set out in the CCMI delivery guarantee - the garantie de livraison.

In the event of defects arising following handover, then you need to invoke the ten year building guarantee - the assurance décennale.

If your claim is refused by the insurance company you will need to communicate your disagreement with them by a letter sent recorded delivery.

You may well need to engage the services of an independent expert who can submit a report to the insurer.

If the insurer does not accept this evidence then the only recourse is to go to court for judgement under a fast track legal procedure for urgent cases called référé.

Legal costs can also be covered by an insurance contract protection jurdique, which you may have as part of your household insurance policy. Check with your household insurer, but make sure the policy covers construction related disputes.

If the defect caused a water leakage or fire which damaged personal belongings, or damage to neighbouring property, then you should also make a separate claim on your household insurance, called multi-risques d’habitation.

If you do not benefit from a CCMI contract, or seek additional advice, then see below.

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