Couple fight buyer’s €140,000 repairs claim for self-built French home

The buyer has taken the British couple to court over a missing 10-year builder’s guarantee on the DIY property

In France, all builders must give a warranty (garantie décennale) that work done will be fully functioning for 10 years

A British couple have found themselves in a legal quagmire after the buyer of their self-built home took them to court citing a 10-year building guarantee and claiming €140,000.

James and Diane Reeves have lived in France for 30 years after retiring early and settling near Bergerac in Dordogne.

No builder’s warranty as it was self-built

They built a house to live in, but decided to sell it after eight-and-a-half years for €360,000, and moved to southern Brittany instead to be nearer the sea.

In France, all builders are obliged to give a warranty (garantie décennale) that any work done will be fully functioning for 10 years after it has been completed.

“When we were building, we looked into the possibility of getting insurance cover for the 10-year warranty, but our insurance company said they could not do it, and we let it drop,” said Mr Reeves, 70.

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Buyer produced estimate of €140,000 for repairs

“After the sale, we were surprised to hear from the buyer about a small leak over the terrace, and we gave him some advice.

“He then came back with all sorts of estimates for work totalling €140,000, which he said we were liable for.

“What has shocked us the most is that so-called ‘experts’ whom he and the court appointed accepted the estimates without looking at the house to see if the work is needed.

“Builders will give estimates when asked to do so, whether the work is needed or not.

“Our opinion is that any work we might be liable for is very minor, whereas he [the buyer] seems to be going for a near complete rebuild.”

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Money frozen if they sell current home while case continues

The couple have a lawyer to fight their case but proceedings have already taken three years.

“It is a constant worry,” said Mr Reeves.

“Even if the Périgueux court finds against us, we will appeal.”

In the meantime, the buyer has put a freeze on any money that might come to the couple if they sell their Brittany property – even though there has been no decision on the case in Dordogne.

“None of our French or British friends knew of the 10-year guarantee applying if you build your own house, or even if you simply build a terrace yourself,” said Mr Reeves.

“We want to tell our story so that other people do not face the same trouble we have.”

If household insurers will not cover the 10-year guarantee, you can obtain it through brokers.

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