13. Building & Construction Disputes in France
- Claims Procedure
- Sources of Advice
13.2. Advice for Building Disputes in France
Where a professional team and/or insurance policies are not in place all is not lost, for there remain general provisions in law that govern the liability of the contractor and your ability to bring a legal action against them.
There are several useful sources of advice and assistance, as follows:
- Housing Information Agency (ANIL)
- County Consumer Protection Dept (DGCCRF)
- Legal Advice Centre (CDAD)
- Housing Consumers Group (CDAU)
ANIL - L’Agence Nationale pour Information sur Logement - is the government national housing information and advice agency.
There are local offices of ANIL in all départements staffed by civil servants whose responsibility it is to provide guidance and assistance to those seeking to buy, rent, refurbish or construct a property. The quality of the advice you get is likely to be general and basic, but it may be a good starting point.
You can find out the location of your nearest ANIL office by visiting ANIL.
You might also want to approach a huissier as they are likely to be in a good position to advise you of your rights and assist you in legal proceedings that may need to be taken.
The huissier is a public official, who can also work on a priviate basis, and whose role may be best described as that of an official bailiff.
They will be able to secure evidence of the fault or problem and/or advise on the desirability or otherwise of contacting an independent architect or engineer to provide a report on the problem.
The introduction of the huissier and an independent expert is the first formal stage in the initiation of legal proceedings.
Their involvement is also likely to remove any doubt that the builder may have that you know what you are doing and that you mean business!
The huissier will want to make a site inspection and see the paperwork, following which they may well send a recorded delivery letter to the builder seeking resolution of the problem within a specified timescale.
If there continues to be no response then they will help and advice you on bringing a legal action in the courts.
The most appropriate remedy will depend on the circumstances, but can include a claim for damages and/or an injunction to complete the works or remedy the defect.
There is no need to engage an avocat unless you need to go to the Tribunal de Grande Instance.
Where resolution of the problem is a matter of urgency then it is possible to get a provisional early judgement called a référé about which your huissier will be able to give you further advice.
3. County Council Consumer Protection Department
This department goes by the name of Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF).
It is based in the county prefecture.
They are not going to be able to provide you with detailed advice on your case, but you should be able to obtain advice on your rights and with information on how you can bring a legal action.
4. Legal Advice Centre (CDAD)
Before you think about engaging an avocat to defend you, or bring a legal action, you may want to consider making use of the (often) free legal advice service available in legal advice centres that have been created in most of the départements of France.
The service is called Conseil Départemental de l'Accès au Droit (CDAD).
Some of the CDAD set a test of resources so for this reason, take your most recent tax advice notice along to the CDAD with you. Alternatively, the CDAD may ask you to complete an application form for a consultation (sometimes available directly from their web site), which will be then considered by them, following which you will be notified of their decision. The number of consultations you may be offered will be limited.
Most of the CDAD offer times and days in the weeks when a either an avocat, huissier or notaire is present to offer advice.
In addition, they have other staff who may be able to assist or provide you with the contact details of an organization who can provide you with further advice.
You can find details of your local CDAD by visiting Legal Advice Centre.
Most CDAD have created interesting and informative websites provided, of course, you can understand French!
5. Housing Consumers Group
A campaign group who might also be able to assist are the Centre de Conseil et d’Assistance aux Usager de l’habitat (CDAU).
The CDAU is a consumers group capable of intervention in building related matters and able to act as an expert or mediator.
It is mainly based in the Paris region but they have offices in some other areas of France.
You can find their web site by visiting CDAU.
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