Overseas Chambers of Peter Harris

Maison de la Boucterie
Rue de la Boucterie
Saint Saviour
Jersey, JE2 7ZW

35. Purchasing or selling a French property with an undisclosed "vice caché" can have a wider impact than the purchase price alone

March 5th 2020

Some care needs to be taken when purchasing an old property in France, or for that matter selling it with a "vice caché" which is undeclared.

The French cour de cassation has just confirmed an award of demolition costs of €130,000 on a property with severe cracks and foundation issues purchased for €98,000. see Cass. 3e civ. 30-1-2020 n° 19-10.176 FS-PBI. This is the second case taken to cassation on the sale of the property.
The first cassation reversed a Court of Appeal assesment on the notary and the agent immbilier for 10% of the damages.

The vendor was aware of the "vice", and the argument that it was an old property sold "en état" with the usual caveat emptor terminology in the acte de vente did not wash.
The choice of remedy and therefore heads of damage available to the purchaser in good faith is wide, and not limited to the whole or part of the purchase price. If the purchaser choooses to keep the property, they can therefore have it demolished and obtain restitution of the demolition costs.
The purchasers ended up acquiring a freed building plot for a cost of €83,000 ready to build a new property.

There are a wide range of remedies available to the purchaser against a seller in bad faith. The remedies available are an indemnity, when the buyer choses to keep the property as here,  or independently an "action rédhibitoire" or "action estimative".

The French purchase procedure does not normally include a right to a survey.