Assurance décennale

As most of you will know, every builder is required to carry decennial liability insurance (assurance décennale). The decennial liability insurance coverage is mandatory for individuals and businesses under article 1792 of the Civil Code since 1978.

We are having work done at present and since we were changing our insurance policy the agent, a member of our social scene at that, came to have a good look. He took into account all of the work we will have done but then began to ask about the people doing our work because some of it is structural. He is a very thorough type, to the point where he gets boring spouting advice at times, but some things need to be remembered. Because he has quite a few builders from small to large operations on his books he knows his stuff. He gave us a warning that I am repeating here.

All builders who are not registered as businesses here in France are not covered anyway, so any damage or problems arising cannot be covered. However, I think we all know that. What was new to us is that he explained that auto-entrepreneurs (AEs) who are now gradually being renamed micro-entrepreneurs cannot have decennial liability insurance, they must be at least a registered micro-enterprise, but do not confuse the two almost identical terms. The people doing the work, or at least the company 'boss' who supervises and bears responsibility for it, must have at least CAP or BEP français and a minimum of three years work experience here in France before they can take the insurance out, so no unqualified builder can have the insurance. Although many of them will give a receipt that appears to give the 10 year cover, in many cases it does not. Certainly, work that is not itemised is also not covered, therefore a receipt that in effect says something like 'renovating a room' or 'building an extension' without explicit detail is not fully insured.

We have people in and out at present as they prepare to start the work during October. It appeared as though one of the people we have is only an AE. So we asked the carpenter doing much of the work who is doing it along with a local joiner who is doing the windows and a flight of stairs plus some of the work with the carpenter, both of them being proper businesses, and it seems the carpenter is sub-contracting the builder who is qualified but an AE, so that he can assume responsibility for the estimate (devis) and eventually invoice and cover the work under his policy, then pay the man. The separate estimates are just for the sakes of those specialist in their area of work to get those right.

Given we have had a few jobs done by people who are AEs in the past we decided to check on what our insurance agent friend told us and in fact he is quite right although it takes a lot of looking at the insurance regulations and explanations of decennial insurance to get there.

You are probably right. Our original insurer cared nothing other than taking our money but claims were another story, then asked about who had done some work when it was damage caused by weather that even the finest craftsman/woman in the world could not have avoided. They are, I suppose, selling insurance that looks good but does not cover what the law says. I suspect we were told what we were because we are 'friends' but if it had been other punters...

Ha ha, I have long been very suspicious of insurance based schemes. They are perfectly happy to take the AE's money in the first place and have "him or indeed her" believe that they have adaquate cover.

If the work is done properly in the first place there is no need for insurance at all. This can be achieved by having said work properly specified and supervised in the first place. I.e....have an architect or a "maitre d'oevres" (check spelling) taking responsibilty. There has been an increasing reluctance (a finacially based decision?) on the part of the "client" to do this for years both here and back in the UK. The expression "something for nothing" springs to mind. I used to do loft conversions back in the UK and would always have a structural engineer underwrite my schemes. Unfortunately, because of their "insurance" (RICS) they had to put a safety factor of 3 into the mix and therefore things would become silly quite often.

Many thanks Brian, a timely reminder and useful info when my work is also about to start.