Construction law in France comprises a set of very specific legal provisions. Constructors and subcontractor are very protected in France, which entails a reversal of the burden of proof. According to French construction law, in the event of dispute, parties involved in a construction project must be able to prove to the client that legal construction provisions and their duty to advise were observed throughout the entire project duration. In case of larger construction projects, this means that companies on construction sites must meet this burden of proof in writing and by registered letter in order to have the necessary correspondence available in the event of dispute.
Construction law for subcontractors in France
Subcontractors are legally protected under French construction law. Subcontractors must be registered in writing and approved by the construction owners. In addition, written subcontractor agreements must be entered into.
In case of private construction contracts, payments to the subcontractor are secured by a payment guarantee (Law n° 75-1347 of 31 December 1975). According to French construction law, the subcontractor cannot waive this protection. As long as the payment guarantee has not been provided, the subcontract is ineffective and can unilaterally be terminated by the subcontractor. If a payment guarantee has not been put in place, the subcontractor may, upon demand, cease its work and sue for damages. Furthermore, the fixed price contractually set out stops applying.
In the case of public works contracts, a payment guarantee is not required. According to public construction law in France, the client is obliged to pay the subcontractor 1st rank.
Suppliers are exempt from this requirement. However, the distinction between suppliers and subcontractors is not always easy to make.
Construction law for constructors in France
According to French construction law, the duty to provide a payment guarantee exists not only between the general contractor and the subcontractor, but also between the client and the general contractor or architect and/or planning office. According to Art. 1799-1 of the French Civil Code, the client must provide the construction contractor with a payment guarantee for the full amount of the contract. If this guarantee is not put in place, the contractor can cease its work.
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Guarantees under France construction law
There are three different legal guarantees in France: Garantie de Parfait achèvement, Garantie Biennale and Garantie Décennale.
All parties involved in construction projects, such as construction companies, architects, owners and planning offices, are impacted by French provisions on warranties.
First of all, French law sets out a mandatory one-year warranty period, the so-called Garantie de Parfait achèvement. Under this legal warranty, the parties involved in a construction project must remedy, at their own expense, all defects expressly listed in the acceptance protocol as well as all hidden defects that occur – regardless of their nature – which are not mere signs of wear and tear.
For two years following acceptance, the so-called biannual guarantee runs. According to this legal guarantee, the company that carried out construction work undertakes to repair or replace, at its own expense, any equipment that is not functioning properly. Equipment is here defined as construction elements that can be detached from the building without damaging it (e.g. roller shutters).
In France, there is also the so-called Garantie Décennale i.e. the ten-year warranty. Under this French guarantee, the constructor is liable for damage to the building that affects its soundness or intended use.
Décennale warranty insurance
The ten-year warranty, the Garantie Décennale, obliges constructors in France to take out insurance for this entire period. The so-called Décennale insurance is a compulsory insurance which also affects all non-French contractors as well as architects working in France.
It is not always easy for foreign construction companies to find a “Décennal insurer”. It can take up to 6-8 months for a foreign construction companies to obtain such insurance.
If several construction sites are carried out in France, the cost of the insurance is calculated on the basis of the company’s annual turnover. Here, a possible insolvency of the company has no effect on the insurer’s ten-year warranty obligation.
In addition to the Décennale insurance, the builder must take out a construction site damage insurance, the so-called Dommage-ouvrage. This insurance covers future damages following acceptance. The construction site damage insurance allows the builder to quickly be financially compensated. This means that the builder does not have to wait for a court decision and expert proceedings to decide on the respective responsibilities.
Commercial leases in France are leases for premises in which a commercial or industrial activity is carried out. It is mandatory that the premises are used for the commercial activity. The commercial lease contract is regulated under French commercial law and forms part of the so-called Fonds de Commerce.
A commercial lease is usually entered into for a minimum duration of 9 years. However, landlords and tenants may also enter into a contract for a longer period. It is not possible to enter into a commercial lease contract for an unlimited duration.
The landlord must pay the tenant eviction compensation in the event of termination of the commercial lease. The tenant may terminate after 3 or 6 years of the contract. However, the landlord can only terminate in exceptional cases. In order to terminate the commercial lease, the tenant must give the landlord written notice of termination by registered mail at least 6 months prior to the termination of the 3 or 6 year period.
Construction law in France – specialist lawyers at Alaris Law
The lawyers at Alaris Law advise French, English and international construction companies, subcontractors, builders, project developers and/or architects on French construction law. As lawyers specialized in French construction law, we can assist you before the start of construction operations, during contract negotiations and with the drafting of contracts. Alaris lawyers have deep knowledge of legal provisions in France and locally applicable regulations. We represent you in expert proceedings in or out of court and in French state court proceedings.
As specialist lawyers in public and private construction law in France, we also assist you with construction contracts and specifications. Our specialized lawyers accompany the execution of your construction project and relieve you from the burden of handling a wide variety of insurance policies and bank guarantees.