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‘Diagnostic’ check was inadequate

The electrics certificate for our home said everything was fine – but it turns out it was not. Are there any solutions?

Q: WE FEEL we have had a very rough deal from the firm that did the diagnostic check before we bought our property in 2013. They said the electrics had “absolutely no abnormalities” but when we were putting together plans for gites our electrician said the wiring was “dangerous”. The notaire says to get a second opinion from another diagnostic firm but this will cost hundreds and repairs will cost €2,000. R.W.

A: Oh dear! This is, fortunately for most, relatively rare. The vast majority of companies who carry out the diagnostic survey before a property sale are competent and professional.

However, some companies and their “experts” may be incompetent or not sufficiently experienced in the wide range of surveys they must undertake. Cases which have ended up in the French courts bear witness to this.

That said, all diagnostic experts are required to carry insurance. Therefore, once you have contacted the company to make them aware of the problem the next step would be to contact their insurer to seek compensation.

If the diagnostic company is a member of a professional body you should also approach them. If you still get no satisfaction then you need to consider further steps.

Contractually, the primary duty of care is owed to the party who commissioned the reports – namely the seller (code civil: art.1134).
However, the code also protects the buyer and commits the responsibility of the expert where a survey report is later found to be erroneous (code civil: art.1382).

It is disappointing but not really surprising that the notaire has not been particularly helpful as they will generally not wish to become embroiled in any dispute as that is not their role. Dispute resolution is the role of an avocat not a notaire.

In your situation, faced with 2,000 of corrective work, you need to weigh up the cost of involving a lawyer to potentially initiate court action against the cost of simply remedying the work at your own expense.

This answer was by Barbara Heslop of Heslop & Platt solicitors.

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