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Shoddy builders, VAT and caravans

Questions on workmanship, caravans, VAT paid on home and garages

3 March 2008

Bad workmanship - what are my rights?

Since buying our property we have been plagued by flooding. To stop erosion to the slope our house is built on, we employed a builder, recommended by the mayor, to construct a retaining wall. It cost about €10,000.
He said it was under guarantee but failed to send the guarantee. The wall later fell down after three days of rain. The builder is reluctant to visit and see the wall. Can you advise us?
JM

David Rodriguez, a legal expert for the consumers' association Consommation, Logement et Cadre de Vie, said the consumer is entitled to a year's guarantee of perfect functioning of the construction and 10 years’ guarantee against major problems affecting its solidity or its ability to perform the job it was built for.

"If the wall has collapsed during the first rains, that's a pretty strong case!" he said.

Mr Rodriguez said this applied whether or not any actual paper guarantee exists.

"However it will be hard to prove anything unless a formal contract for the work itself was signed," he said.

He added that if the customer arranged for assurance dommages ouvrages (work harm insurance) when the contract was signed, the simplest answer was a claim through this. The insurance firm seeks compensation from the workman responsible.

If this is not the case and the person refuses to redo the work a court case is inevitable.

You sue a person in the tribunal d'instance for damages of €4,000 - €10,000 and a tribunal de grande instance for higher amounts. In all cases you should seek advice from an avocat.

Do I need a caravan towing certificate?
We have a French 4x4 and while in England bought a small English caravan (8 years old).
We have been told, by friends, we cannot tow an English caravan in France without a towing certificate. Does the certificate relate to the caravan, or is it a separate issue concerning our vehicle, to be used for towing? Where do we get one and what criteria need to be addressed?
JL

You do not need a "towing certificate,” however your caravan needs its own carte grise - the equivalent of a British registration document - if it has a loaded weight heavier than 500kg.
You should visit your prefecture if necessary. Apart from this, there are rules on how the caravan should be equipped - any "trailer" with a loaded weight (PTAC - poids total à charge) of 500kg+ needs brakes if it is heavier than half the empty weight of the car (PV - poids vide), as do all ones heavier than 750kg PTAC. It should have stop lights and indicators.

The combined loaded weight of caravan and car (PTRA - poids total roulant autorisé en charge) should not exceed the limit written on your car's carte grise.

To pull a heavy caravan you may need to pass an extra driving exam for a permis B (E).

On an ordinary permis B you can pull a trailer with a PTAC of less than 750kg, or, if it is heavier than that, it is permissible if the PTAC of the trailer is less than or equal to the PV of the car (and the combined total PTAC of car and trailer is less than 3,500kg).

You can find relevant figures on cartes grises and on the vehicles. New cartes grises use different codes - PTAC = F.2, PV = G.1, PTRA = F.3

Can I keep my UK licence categories?
We are both 61 and have held full UK driving licences for 40 years. If we exchange them for French ones will we have only six points to "use up" at first or will we have the full entitlement as we have held English licences for so long?
Also, I have no restrictions on trailer types or on the size of motorcycle that I can drive. Will all my categories be maintained (A, B, B(E), B1, C1, C1(E), D(E), D1(E), FKLNP)?
I would be loath to lose the range of trailer and larger motorcycle ones. If I kept my British one, would I have to go back to the UK for a medical at 70?
LB

We checked with the driving licence department at a prefecture.

They said you should be entitled to the same categories unless there are any that do not exist in France.

All the main categories now have the same codes in France and England and there should be no problem for your heavy trailer licence - B (E) - or for your large motorbike licence - A.

However, you would be required to pass a medical (which can be done by your doctor) to show your fitness for any heavy categories including the heavy trailer one and the C and D larger vehicle classes but you are not required to retake any tests.

The six-point French licence is a provisional one for new drivers and would not apply to yourselves.
Your French licence would be valid for any age, unlike the British one, which requires renewal at age 70. You are not allowed to renew a UK licence if you live outside the country.

Can I reclaim VAT paid on my home?
I am sure I read that one could claim a refund of TVA on a newly-built house if it was sold within five years. Is this correct?
JW

If a house was newly-built for you and competed less than five years ago, the price you ask for it will have to include VAT at 19.6%, which you then have to pass on to the state on the day the sale is agreed at a notaires' office (if it is then sold again in the future it will be sold without VAT).

You are treated in the same way as a business person selling something at a profit. You then have the right to deduct from the VAT you pay to the state the VAT on the original construction costs, showing invoices to prove what you paid.

What CAUE tax is due on garage?
I have been working on my new-built house for years. If I now ask for permission to build a garage, will they assess CAUE taxes to the totality of my property ?
CL

Many departments have a tax to finance the local Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement, which protects the built-environment.

It has to be paid as a condition of planning permission. It is paid at a rate set by the department and is calculated according to floor space of the construction you are seeking permission for only.

However in your specific case there is even better news - non-inhabitable areas, including garages, are exempt from the calculation, so you do not have to pay this tax.

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