The fault must be of such a nature that they would not have bought the property if they had known about it, or would have offered much less for it.
“Not always a cast iron guarantee”
Contracts for the sale of houses in France often contain a standard clause which exempts the seller from hidden defects.
However, following a recent court challenge, a legal expert warned that this was not always an absolute guarantee.
The case was brought by a buyer who said he did not know there was asbestos in the corrugated fiber cement roof of his new home.
He asked the seller to return some of the money paid for the property so that the roof could be changed.
The seller refused, insisting that it was obvious the roof contained asbestos. He produced reports stating that there was no risk to occupants or the environment from asbestos, which was well embedded in the fiber cement panels.
However, after winning in a lower court, the seller lost two subsequent appeals. The judges said that although they accepted that there was no risk associated with asbestos, if the buyer wanted to install more insulation, additional costs would be incurred as part of the safety measures and the seller should reimburse an amount equal to this amount.
They said that the fact that the seller knew that the fiber cement roof was likely to contain asbestos, and the buyer claimed that he did not know, meant the warranty against a hidden defect could not be invoked.
Lawyer Christophe Georges, of Tours-based Arguments Avocats, said he suspected the fact that asbestos was involved had likely had a big influence on the decision.
“Asbestos is now one of the diagnoses that must be presented to clients in the written condition report,” he said.
“When that is not done, even if it is as part of a fiber cement roof, it opens the door for buyers to sue sellers if they discover asbestos later. ”
Mr. Georges declared that the guarantee against hidden defects for salespeople was no longer the catch-all it once was.
“Legislation aimed at protecting consumers has evolved considerably and real estate law has not escaped this trend.
“More and more, if something like the risk of asbestos if the roof is worked, or old lead-based paint, is not written in the diagnostic report, there is a chance that the ‘buyer has a lawsuit against the seller,’ he said. .
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