A tribunal court has ordered the French government to pay over €95,000 to residents whose home was invaded by a protected species of bat, causing it to become ‘uninhabitable’.
Hundreds of bats of the pipistrelle soprano species had invaded the property, causing extensive damage.
The property lost up to 30% of its estimated market value due to damage from the bats.
The couple have owned the property since 1987, but had been forced to undertake several renovations since the bats arrived around 10 years ago.
Couple took case to court
Despite attempting to live alongside the bats, this eventually proved impossible.
The bats based themselves in the home’s roof – which later had to be repaired at a cost of €10,000 – but their presence disrupted the entire house.
The smell of their urine was so strong it prevented access to the first floor of the property, and excessive bat droppings made their way onto the walls and floors of the home.
In 2021 the couple asked for compensation. As the request was refused they took the case to court.
Compensation required because bats are protected
The Toulouse Criminal Court ruled last month, however, that the state was liable to pay compensation, because the bats were protected from harm by environmental laws.
“Damage resulting from the proliferation of wild animals belonging to species whose destruction has been prohibited [...] must be compensated by the State,” the court said, citing Article L411-1 of the French environmental code.
The exact compensation to be paid out is €95,762.46. €70,000 of this represented an estimated 20% drop in the property’s market valuation (before the bats arrived it was valued at €350,000) with the remaining being payments for renovation works relating to the bats’ presence.
The state was also accused of exposing the couple to a criminal offence, by recommending certain renovations to solve the issue without explaining the works in question would require specific authorisation.
The court ruled the state was not at fault for this.
Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrelle soprano) bats are found in many areas across Europe, and in France are found mostly in the Alsace and south-east, although around a dozen colonies have been found around Toulouse.
They typically live in forested areas.
In French they are sometimes known as pipistrelles pygmées, because of their small size, measuring only a few centimetres.
They are a protected species under both French and European law, meaning they cannot be classed as a pest and be exterminated (as other bats can), or be forcibly removed from a home even if causing a disturbance.