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Survey Failed to Spot Termites

A French building surveyor has been found negligent in the performance of a termites survey and obliged to compensate the buyer for remedial works.

As part of the process of the purchase of a property in France, the seller is required to provide to the buyer a number of obligatory statutory surveys and reports on the condition of the property.

These surveys are known as the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT).

The number and nature of these surveys depends on the age, type and location of property, but in designated areas of the country it includes a survey for termite infestation.

The surveys are undertaken by professional diagnostiqueurs immobiliers, some of whom operate within a national network, whilst others as small independent operators.

In a case recently considered by the French Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, a couple purchased a house in the department of Herault, Languedoc Roussillon, as part of which they received a survey report on termites, which indicated that, although there was evidence of previous termite activity, there was no active infestation.

During the progress of subsequent building works to the property the new buyers discovered termite infestation, later confirmed by an expert witness appointed by the court.

The lower courts found in favour of the owners, ruling that the insurers of the survey company (by now in liquidation) pay compensation to them for the remedial works associated with damage caused by the infestation.

The insurers appealed against the ruling, arguing that although the surveyor had clearly been negligent, the damages awarded were excessive, as there was no certainty they would have been successful in negotiating a lower price for the property.

In the view of the insurers the loss amounted to a 'lost opportunity' not a 'certain prejudice'. The former would of course have implied substantially lower damages.

This was not an argument accepted by the court, who ruled that the company had failed in their professional responsiblity, that the owners had incurred a material prejudice that was 'certain', as a result of which the insurers were obliged to pay for the works of repairs and renewal.

Termite Zones

The map below shows areas in red where the whole area is covered by the regulations, while in the orange areas there are some communes (or parts of some communes) covered by these controls.

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This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 04/08/2015

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