Builders in France are now required to provide more information to their clients about their ten year building guarantee insurance cover.
As is the case in many other European countries all major building work in France is guaranteed for up to 10 years.
The 10 year guarantee is known as la responsabilité décennale.
In order to cover their liabilities under this guarantee, those in the building trades are required to take out an insurance policy, called l'assurance décennale.
The cost of such a policy is high, as a result of which many builders do not carry the insurance. That does not exempt them from the 10 year guarantee, but it does make it more difficult to enforce against a builder.
As part of recent other changes to the auto-entrepreneur regime, the 'Loi 'Pinel' requires that information on the assurance décennale held by the builder is contained on their estimates and invoices.
This rule applies to all builders whatever their legal or tax status, so it applies equally to those operating as an auto-entrepreneur. However, sub-constractors to the main contractor on a building project are not required to have such a policy.
Specifically, under the new law the builder is required to state:
- The name of the insurer and;
- The geographic area covered by the policy.
To assist in ensuring compliance with this requirement, workplace inspectors and tax and social security officials have been given the power to demand sight of the policy.
Although the measure is no doubt an advance for consumers, there remains a continuing lack of clarity as the scope of the law.
In particular, for those who are only engaged in minor works of repair and maintenance it is probably not necessary to take out such a policy, although the law is not entirely clear on this point.
For those who do need to take out such a policy it is not necessarily easy to do so. At least, it is not easy to do so at a reasonable cost. Not all insurers offer such policies, and for those that do so, they will want to examine the level of their risk.
So if you have no major experience, or you have previously made a claim, you might well be refused such a policy.
One way some builders deal with the costs of such a policy is to take it out on a project basis; some find that more acceptable as they are more able to weigh the level of their risk and for the client it is cheaper.
Whether in the light of the new law officials would find that acceptable remains to be seen, but if the business was generally engaged in jobbing repair and maintenance works it might well be an acceptable approach.
For consumers there are also weaknesses on the nature of the information to be provided on the estimates and invoices.
Thus, the law does not require to be stated:
- The nature of the activities covered by the policy;
- The number of the insurance policy;
- The period over which it applies.
This is not insignificant, for as regular readers will be aware from a previous article on this matter, a French court ruled that only those activities declared by the builder were covered by the insurance policy.
Similarly, a statement giving the name of the insurance company is not going to be of much use if the policy has expired.
It is possible the government will rectify these omissions in the next year or so, when they publish a standard form of template that must be used by builders and insurers, and provided to the client. We will update on this point in due course.
That being the case, it is important that you actually see a copy of the policy and study it with care.
Remember also that 'l'assurance décennale' is not 'l'assurance responsabilité civile professionnelle'; the latter is the third party public liability cover that a builder should also hold.
So do not be persuaded by the builder who hands over to you a copy of their public liability insurance policy that this is their ten-year insurance cover!