Legal remedies Legal definition of Latent Defect
The issue of latent defect causes numerous real estate disputes
According to article 1641 of the French civil code: « A seller is bound to a warranty on account of the latent defects of the thing sold which render it unfit for the use for which it was intended, or which so impair that use that the buyer would not have acquired it, or would only have given a lesser price for it, had he known of them ». The latent defect affecting the building impairs the use for which it was intended; is latent and unknown to the buyer, and must exist before the sale.
What are the remedies available to the buyer who discovers a latent defect after the sale ?
Under the French Law, a latent defect has to affect the use of the building or so impair that use that the buyer would not have acquired it, or would have given a lesser price for it. When the buyer is not a professional, the defect is considered latent, if he may legitimately have been unaware of the defect at the time of the sale, after having inspected the building with the conscientiousness normally demonstrated by someone who is concerned with his best interests. The clause which excludes the warranty against latent defects is valid between non-professionals but it can only be used by a seller who was unaware of the defects affecting the building, in good faith (article 1643 of the French civil code). The clause cannot be used in case of gross misconduct (corrupt practices or withholding of information). If the seller was aware of the latent defect of the building, his bad faith is established. (article 1645 of civil code, Cass. 3e civ., 18 juin 2008, nos 06-20.713 et 06-21.062, Bull. civ. III, no 110). The professional seller is expected to be aware of the defects of the building, so he is considered as a seller of bad faith.
How long after the signature of the notarial deed can the buyer put forward the notion of latent defect ?
According to article 1648 of the French civil code, the buyer may take legal action for latent defect up to two years after he discovered the defect.
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