Mould in just purchased house - any legal recourse?

Hello all,
Well, the good news is we finally bought our French house in the countryside! The bad news is we haven’t even been in our house a week and we’ve just discovered black mold behind the wallpaper in our bedroom. We phoned our agent but he says if the house seemed in good order when you bought it then it’s in good order. I beg to differ as I believed (perhaps wrongly) that we signed a contract where the seller is obliged to reveal any known defects to the buyer. This is probably going to sound like deja vu to a lot of you and caveat emptor and all that but any input would be greatly appreciated. Do we have any recourse at all? We’re in the Haute Vienne.

Had the house been standing empty immediately prior to you moving in? If so, for how long?

Obviously it all depends on the circumstances, but to be fair, if you looked carefully at the house at the time of purchase, as it’s assumed that buyers do, and and you had seen no signs of black mold, it might be a bit tricky proving that it was there and the seller should have noticed it even though you didn’t. The seller can’t be expected to reveal problems that he’s not aware of …

If it were me, then unless the black mold is a symptom of a more major problem I’d be inclined to crack on and sort it out rather than waste time arguing the toss about it, but maybe that’s just me.


If it is a recently built new house you might get somewhere. If it is a period property it will probably be considered part of the charm of living in such a building.
Is the mould on a plastered stone wall or a fairly new placo wall? A lot of people renovate their houses quickly using placo to create a fresh living space but very often this can cause damp to accumulate in the cavity between the placo and the wall.
If the mould was behind the wallpaper it is quite likely that the previous owner of the property was [not] aware of it anyway.

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[quote=“Aquitaine, post:3, topic:16739”]
If the mould was behind the wallpaper it is quite likely that the previous owner of the property was aware of it anyway.[/quote]
Do you think they would? In a house I had in the UK I once discovered black mould behind the wallpaper when I started pulling it off to redecorate. I had no idea, was quite shocked at the state of it and at the thought I’d been living in it quite happily with it without even realising. That’s my only experience with black mould but I have an idea that it’s a health hazard. I was told at the time that it was probably down to poor ventilation, would that be correct?

French houses are essentially sold as seen, the only exception being a serious defect of which the seller was aware but did not disclose. Not sure that mould will count unless it is obvious that the seller eg covered it up with fresh wallpaper before you viewed.

Whoops! A missing not! I meant to write not aware. :frowning:

Thanks for your reply Anna! Not too long - judging by the spiderwebs maybe some weeks? I hear what you’re saying about inspecting a house upon viewing but I don’t think that includes X-ray vision of what’s behind wallpaper. :slight_smile: My man’s dad is coming Monday and maybe we can see what he thinks. I love your roll up your sleeves and soldier on about it attitude but I’d like to make sure that we know what we’re dealing with before we keep calm and carry on!! :wink:

Mmm yes, I know it’s a bit like cold water in your face when your dream house throws up its first problem. But most houses do have their little faults and David confirmed what I suspected - that without X-ray vision, the seller wouldn’t necessarily have known what had been quietly developing behind the wallpaper either. So unless there are clear signs that it had been very recently papered over to hide the mould (and why would you just paper over mould - you’d get rid of it first, wouldn’t you) you might find yourself on a hiding to nowhere. How did you find it - did you take the wallpaper off, or did it start peeling, or did you see the mould through it?

TBH I think my attitude came about simply as a reaction to discovering that very often when it’s a simple problem you can waste infinitely more time and energy and stress (and money) in talking and arguing about what needs doing and whose job it is to do it, than if you sort it out pronto and forget about it. Mountains and molehills and all that. Once you start getting involved with the French legal system, you can easily be looking at years and years before you get an answer, and even then it might not be the answer you wanted.

Good luck with getting it sorted anyway, and enjoy your new house.

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Hi Lison,
I tend to go with the comments from Anna on this. In my mind it’s a question of balancing things.

If you have a little black mould then washing with an anti-mould solution and proper airing will fix it. This will cost less than professional guidance and probably take less time than a first appointment.

I’d also be balancing my relationship with my new neighbours. I don’t know how long they lived there and what relationship they have with the previous owner but I wouldn’t want to be the ‘new kid on the block’ who sued the town’s kindest charity worker for a 10 EUR tin of anti-mould potion.

If on the other hand you can show (prove) that the black is a result of something poorly and knowingly done by the previous owner and it will be onerous/expensive for you to correct then you should consider taking further steps.

For me I’d have to think that leaving this room and the black mould as evidence for the duration of a long and miserable process, being reminded of the process that I initiated, feeling that I’d been ripped off etc every time I see the closed off room of mould,falling out of love with my new home would be a massive weight over me.
I’d be off to the DIY store, get the stuff, apply it, decorate and get back on with living my new chosen life, and, smiling inwardly as I bask in the joy of overcoming a hurdle and then enjoying the house as I imagined. By next week-end I’d be moved into my perfect new bedroom and smiling smugly to myself.

Wish you all the best whichever way you go,
PS. If you want to swap some black mould in one room for a selection of the joys that we’ve slowly uncovered then I’ll be happy to do you a trade :slight_smile:


Hi David, thanks for your thoughts. Not recent build, a classic wee fermette complete with various eras of renos. And yes ‘charming’! Hmm - good question - it doesn’t look like plaster so yeah I think it’s the mod stuff. It is of course entirely possible that the previous owner didn’t know. Having always possessed a guileless charm, I was under the impression the contract we signed that the seller is obliged to reveal known defects to the buyer - I guess the operative word is ‘known’ - people can sort of unknow things when it’s convenient. It is interesting that the snug next to the master seems freshly drywalled (do you say placo-walled?) and not painted as well as a stretch in the living room freshly drywalled (In Canada we ironically call it drywall) and also unpainted. Quick fix for a sale? Maybe. But as I write my response, it wouldn’t be provable nor worth pursuing I don’t think. I think as much as we didn’t want any renos maybe we need to look at it as a way to put our own stamp on it and ‘crack on’ like Anna suggests…as the last thing I want to do is get caught up in legal silliness…I just want to enjoy the simple lifestyle I’ve been dreaming about! Or is it just a dream??? :slight_smile:

There are certain legal diagnostic that must be made on the property such as energy, gas, electricity, asbestos, lead. Depending on the region you a termite test is also a legal requirement. Under the termite test there is a section for other observations, which include mold and other wood eating critters. Termite inspection reports are a legal document. If they have shown no other observations, then there is recourse. They can get away with it if they state “areas not inspected” but if the mold was clearly visible, you can chalenge the report.

If the Haute Vienne is obliged to have a termite test, then the report should show mold and damp issues. In which case you have recourse. Depending what mold, damp or rot you have found will depend what treatment is necessary.

Houses as previously stated above are bought as seen, they should respond correctly to direct questions “do you have mold?” in an ideal situation they will respond “yes” but unless you have anything in writing.

The last point is, did you not see any mold when you visited the property?

I can perform a diagnosis for you if you wish.


Hi Paul. Thanks for your input. Good straight comeback. I guess mold could be considered a relative problem depending on its severity. All things considered there can be a lot wore scenarios. As it worked out, we removed more wallpaper and it seems fairly contained and not throughout. I’m a bit jumpy as it’s my first house ever and of course I just wanted everything to be nice! Was good to get your guys’ feedback - sometimes just having an ear or acknowledgement on something of concern to you can make a world a difference! Thanks!!

Ha ha! Hi Ray - the voice of reason speaks. Absolutely agree! Even though I said legal recourse I think I meant to myself recourse. You’re right. As I said in one of my other replies, I could discover a whole lot worse I’m sure. :blush: The last thing I want to do is make myself persona non grata with anyone - I’m a Leo, I just want everyone to love me! :innocent: Aaannnddd - I’m not really sure this newby wants to know what you’ve discovered behind your walls…??

Hi Robert - thanks also for taking time to reply. Yes, I am aware of the diagnostics and they did reveal little patches of lead for example around window frames and some asbestos tile on the barn so they were straight up about that. There’s really no way of knowing if they were trying to cover up a mold issue or not. My man saw the house in February when there was a roaring fire in the living room and he noted that the master bedroom was even warmer. A coverup or someone legitimately trying to sell their house by showing how it can be warm and cozy in winter? But that’s ok - I think the situation has been caught hopefully early enough that we can manage. Like I mentioned in another reply maybe I meant more recourse than legal recourse per se because nobody wants any kind of legal wranglings if they can avoid it! No termite tests in Haute Vienne because if there were any termites, they’d be drowned by all the rain here! What kind of diagnostics do you do?

You will soon get used to the fact that most older France houses need ongoing maintenance, to treat the odd patch of damp, a new infestation in the woodwork, and suchlike. All part of the joys of owning your very own little ol’ piece of France :wink: it’s par for the course and it doesn’t mean you were ripped off by the seller. Don’t panic every time you notice something that needs doing, there are products to treat all the common problems. Of course in a new house it’s different and you shouldn’t to have to do that, but most people accept it as normal if they decide to become the guardian of an older property.

[quote=“Lison_McCullough, post:14, topic:16739”]
My man saw the house in February when there was a roaring fire in the living room and he noted that the master bedroom was even warmer. A coverup or someone legitimately trying to sell their house by showing how it can be warm and cozy in winter?
[/quote] Or maybe they just liked living in a nice cosy home …

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Yes! It’s early days yet, isn’t it? :no_mouth: I need to give myself a period of adjustment - we all do - there is so much different in a change from a big city to the country - never mind countries or continents!! That’s why a forum like this is so helpful - I have a few of you who can hold my hand while I learn about just what I’ve got myself into! :thinking: Thanks Anna for reminding me it’s not going to be all sunshine and roses to start but anything worth having is worth working for and I’m pleased and grateful that all our hard work and saving has got us to this place. Now - where is that apero everyone’s been talking about??? :wink:

I would just wash the mould off and buy a dehumidifier to make sure the house is properly dry.

We have found heating a dry house is much quicker /cheaper than a damp house.


Morning Mat, thanks for taking time to add your knowledge to the mix! Yes! Of course, I didn’t think of a dehumidifier! That’s a great idea to help keep moisture at bay! Where I come from we need humidifiers as it’s so dry so being so new to this neck of the woods and not being here a week even, it hadn’t occurred to me and I just reacted without really thinking. Is there a brand you prefer or would like to recommend as I’m sure they’re not all created equal?

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I keep black mould at bay all winter in a boat by using a simple fan. Keeping the air moving makes all the difference. Hopefully just living in the house will sort out the problem.

There’s a lot of good advice banding about, so seriously worth heeding!

There are a lot of mold treatments out there, I generally use a professional woodworm/mold composition, but drying the house, washing the mold (spores, so wear a mask) and generally living in the house should cure most of the problems.

There are 2 diagnosis’ that are available in my line. Both are legal docs: NF P 03 201 deals specifically with regard to termite diagnosis, with a section at the end for Other Observations, these should include any other types of mold, vrilettes (big, small and biblioteque), charençons, lyctus, curculionidés, capricornes. The diagnostiqueur should be able it identify all of these via their spoils (waste), along with the major rot problems. A diploma is required for this diagnosis.

The second report available is NF P 03 200 which is a diagnosis report as above but in reverse, so diagnosing all xylophages and molds and the Other Observations is for termites! No diploma is required.

I have done the termite course but didn’t take the diploma because if I diagnose, I can’t treat the problem, conflict of interest.

If you are intending on legal recourse, then an independent diagnosis would be a good idea, but you will have to prove negligence. So, best advice, light a fire, open the windows and enjoy to living in France and all it throws at you!