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Polluted Lake in French Property Sale

Tuesday 08 October 2019

Buyers find that a large lake in the grounds of the French property they had purchased was polluted.

In a recent case heard in the French Supreme Court, a couple purchased a house and barns, together with two lakes, for the sum of €450,000.

The lakes each measured over 400m2 to a depth of two metres.

They were fed by a stream that crossed a retaining basin, located 600 metres downstream of a dry cleaning business.

The sellers admitted in court that they had experienced difficulty with the quality of the water in the lake several years previously, due to discolouration and dry cleaning odours, but that they had no recent problems. In addition, an analysis of the water carried out at the time showed that the water quality was satisfactory.

Nevertheless, the buyers claimed they had been deliberately misled, and that the failure of the owners to disclose the problem constituted a a hidden defect (viche caché), entitling them to demand that the sale be declared invalid.

The buyers claimed that the lakes were an important factor in their decision to buy the property, as they would use the area to walk their dogs and to fish.

The court appointed expert did not observe any abnormal visual signs in the lakes or the stream on his first visit, but on the second visit the lakes were covered with duckweed.

There were also testimonies from neighbours and a bailiff's report that abnormal visual signs, such as foam or water bleaching, appeared occasionally.

After extensive analyses of water samples, the court expert concluded that the lakes were affected by the presence of an abnormal concentration of chlorides affecting natural biodiversity, which had the potential to cause visual or olfactory discomfort to humans.

However, the discolouration only occurred rarely, and he considered that there was no loss of landscape value.

The judges ruled that, although there was a loss in amenity, the problem only resulted in a partial loss of use of the lake affecting therefore only one part of the external area of the property.

They considered that the condition of the lake did not make the property unfit for use and that the purchasers could not justify informing their sellers that the quality of the water in the lake was a decisive factor in their decision to purchase the property.

As a result, the court dismissed their claim for the sale to be declared invalid and awarded €3,000 in compensation to the sellers.

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