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French regime of building construction insurance

The statutory 10 year mandatory construction guarantee and other guarantee and time bars

1. Garantie dcennale or 10 year insurance guarantee

In France there is a statutory public policy requirement to take out 10 year insurance cover for construction work undertaken; for example a complete new build or instead partial work on an existing structure.

The 1978 law, sometimes known as the Loi Spinetta, put in place an absolute obligation to take out insurance cover, including for non-French entities which undertake work in France, in respect of:

  • Liability mandatory for professionals in the construction industry. The slightly ambiguous word professionals is used advisedly as this concept is considerably wider than simply the main contractor
  • Damage mandatory for the building owner to insure whatever is built; such that it is repaired or rebuilt in the event of damage to the structure.

This mandatory obligation to ensure insurance cover is to a degree the counterpart to the presumption of liability of the constructeur which flows from articles 1792 et seq of the French Code Civil.

In essence, the insurance cover would tend to guarantee:

  • The solidity of the thing which has been built i.e. the ouvrage
  • The fitness or otherwise thereof for its purpose i.e. improprit la destination
  • The solidity of the inseparable fixtures and fittings
  • Partial or complete collapse flowing from a construction defect i.e. a vice de construction

2. Garantie biennale or 2 year insurance guarantee

In France there is a separate statutory guarantee, in addition to the more widely known statutory 10 year guarantee, which is provided for at article 1792-3 of the French Civil Code relating to building construction.

This Garantie biennale or 2 year guarantee, which is totally distinct from the Garantie dcennale, is aimed at insuring the proper functioning of the fixtures and fittings which are held to be separable from the structure; in other words elements which may be removed or replaced without deterioration to the structure.

The start of the 2 year period of cover is triggered by the rception or formal written handover of the work carried out.

By way of example, French case law currently holds that the failure to work of, say, heating system (boiler, radiators) floor and wall coverings (bathroom fittings, wallpaper, tiling, carpets) as well as doors, windows and shutters would usually come within the scope of the Garantie biennale

If the constructeur fails or refuses to undertake the requisite repairs or replacements, the building owner must commence proceedings before the appropriate Court within 2 years of the date of the rception or formal written handover of the work carried out or risk not being able to benefit from the 2 year insurance cover.

If the difficulties encountered with the proper functioning of the fixtures and fittings render the building unfit for its intended purpose, the Garantie dcennale may also be relied upon, in certain circumstances, after the expiry of the two year period of cover under the Garantie biennale

For further information or explanation in respect of the Garantie biennale please click here .


3. Garantie de parfait achvement - building work completion guarantee

Under article 1792-6 indent 2 et seq of the French Code civil a Garantie de parfait achvement or statutory obligatory guarantee is binding upon the constructeur and/or any other construction/building professional involved to ensure that the completion of the building work is duly and fully achieved. This statutory obligation is binding for a one year period with effect from the date of the rception or formal written handover of the work carried out. This is a French public policy provision and therefore it may not be excluded or limited contractually.

It is applicable to all entities which carry out building or construction work in France, even if the entity in question is incorporated in another country outside France.

The defects covered by the Garantie de parfait achvement or GPA would tend to be those raised by the building owner

  • either by pointing out reservations or snags at the rception or hand over meeting and same being noted in the formal minute of the meeting
  • or by written notification (formal letter sent by recorded delivery mail) for issues which might have arisen since the date of rception excluding though normal wear and tear viz. during a one year period

Upon receiving a claim of this nature, the constructeur would normally agree on a timeline with the building owner in order for the necessary repairs to be carried out.

In the event of failure to reach such an agreement, and subject to giving the constructeur formal written notice in this specific respect, the work may be carried out by a third party at the cost and risk of the undertaking which has failed to respond.

However, defects which were apparent but not pointed out at the rception meeting are not covered by this guarantee.

It is thus important that the building owner should make a full inspection of the work carried and attempt to ensure that any snags or issues are duly noted in the formal minute of the handover prior to signing it.

If the defects are of an important nature, the building owner may refuse to sign the minute of the rception but thereafter must put the constructeur on formal notice to deliver the works in conformity with what was ordered and fix a deadline for commencing the repairs or replacements.

Upon the expiry of this deadline, article 1792-6 indent 4 of the Civil Code permits the building owner to instruct a third party undertaking to carry out the necessary work.

For further information or explanation in respect of the Garantie de parfait achvement please click here .