Mould in just purchased house - any legal recourse?

You live on a boat? How cool is that? I’m always surprised that sometimes the easiest solutions are so low-tech once we get over the initial shock of things. Another great suggestion. This newby thanks you David!

We had the same under the wallpaper I dryed it with electric heaters, vacuum it with HEPA filters and wiped the whole wall with Dettol, 6 years ago, no problems anymore.

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Hi again Robert - gosh! You’re an encyclopedia!! Who knew all these critters we share planet earth with? Yes! It’s been cool enough here to have a fire but being somewhat over cautious we’re thinking we should have our flue checked out beforehand. Let the games begin! :grin: I must say the peace and quiet of where we are is absolute heaven after living with constant 24/7 noise pollution in a big city - a few minuses as anywhere but many pluses for us to discover!! Thank you so much for your encouraging words - it’s so nice to hear I’m not a freak just new and learning with a handful of expert pals to offer some helpful advice enroute!! Merci encore!

Hi there… possibly, the chimney was checked for the sale… but, better to be safe than sorry… too many house fires in France due to folk not taking this simple precaution.

Our house was damp, sodden, soaking… did I mention damp…:grin: we left windows open (with shutters shut where necessary)… and heated as and when appropriate… but the fabric of the house still took quite some time to get sorted.

If you feel there may really be a basic problem with the house… you could have a quiet word with the Notaire who handled the sale/purchase… just to keep him/her informed. It can’t hurt to talk things through and it won’t cost you anything.

best of luck

For a dehumidifier I would recommend having a look at Amazon UK as they are much cheaper and shipping to France is cheap.

The are 2 types of dehumidifier a refrigerant type and a desiccant. Have a quick read via Google to ensure you get the correct type.

We have just bought an Ecoair desiccant type to replace our refrigerant type as it will be in a cold location.

We leave it in our unoccupied holiday home with a pipe into the sink so it doesn’t need emptying.

Did you have a survey done or took a chance. If not it’s an open question as to if you have any recourse in law. Greater minds than mine will help you there. On a more positive note, check out where the damp is coming in. Maybe from a choked gutter or a broken down pipe or a couple of tiles off the roof. Buy your self a dehumidifier and get some heat into the house plus attack the damp areas with suitable anti mould treatment. Theres bound to be stuff in B&Q, Leroy Merlin and Bricomat . Good luck

My understanding, having had some experience, is that there is a duty on the seller to reveal any information that would affect the purchasers decision to sign the contract. This can include any information that the court might consider that it would be reasonable for the seller to know, even if they claim that they didn’t. Article 1112-1 of French Obligation law seems quite specific as follows;

“The party who knows a piece of information whose importance is critical for the consent of the other party has to inform the other party, as long as the latter legitimately ignores this piece of information or trusts its co-contractor”. This is a public order obligation, meaning it cannot be excluded or limited and it must be applied by all parties regardless of their quality (whether or not they are professional).
To be included in the scope of this obligation, critical information must have a direct and necessary link to the content of the contract and the quality of the parties; however, the estimation of the value of the subject-matter of the contract is expressly excluded from the scope of the obligation.
Withholding information determining to the consent of the other party is a cause of liability of the wrongful party and the contract may also be declared void if the withholding was on purpose.
The onus of proof that the information was due to be given lies with the party that alleges wrongdoing: it must demonstrate that if the piece of information had been given, it would have modified its consent. Then, the party that had the obligation to disclose information must prove that it did communicate it to the other party"

I would say that it’s worth an hour or so with an Avocat, mentioning Article 1112-1.

Good luck, hope it helps.

Which would be more productive though, really - an hour spent getting rid of the mould at a cost of 10€ or so, or an hour with an avocat, followed by a couple of years’ intermittent correspondence and court hearings, at a potential cost of 100s or 1000s of euro, and meanwhile what about the mould?
I’m not saying it’s not an option, and it is of course the OP’s decision, but if as seems possible the OP is from the States where there is very much a culture of taking anything and everything to court as a routine procedure, I think it’s important for them to be aware that it is very different here. I find it quite sad to think of someone arriving in France looking forward to a new life, then immediately getting tangled up in a legal process that could potentially cast a shadow over things from virtually Day 1 into the foreseeable future, over something as, dare I say it, trivial as a small patch of mould behind the wallpaper. Unless they actually like legal processes in which case, each to their own.

PS … googletranslate for legal texts … :frowning_face: e.g. “ignorer” in the first sentence does not mean “to ignore”, it means “to be ignorant of”.

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Lison McCullough

Before you go spending any money… as I have already suggested… have a quick word with the Notaire (or Secretary)…about the damp.
On Sale Day there is always a mountain of papers and… unless the whole thing was carefully translated for you… or you speak perfect French… you may well have not noticed some of the details…

Also… the damp may be the result of something else… and the Notaire will need to know sooner rather than later…

Friends in Jarnac found that the CH boiler did not work. On Sale Day… it had been clearly stated that said boiler had been serviced and worked :wink: (I was there and paying close attention)… Anyway, a quick word with the Notaire’s Secretary and… lo and behold… a CH chappie arrived the next day and put the whole thing straight (free of charge naturally). He said it was obvious that the CH boiler had not been touched in years… Hmmm…

Fortunately, we were simply checking things through… on a hot Summer day… but if we had waited until Winter to find the boiler problem… the Notaire might not have been so sympathetic.

Hopefully, your damp just needs some fresh air… and the Notaire may well suggest this… and shrug his shoulders…:smiley:

Bonjour Dominique, beautiful name! Thank you for your suggestion also - I reacted at first as I’m new to all this but now I see it’s something that is often dealt with here and you guys have a whole whack of solutions to address the situation. Thanks for your contribution.

I live in a stone house that dates back to the sixteenth century. I chose to buy a house like that in preference to an all singing and dancing modern box for personal reasons. It isn’t perfect and it never will be. The house needs constant maintenance and the problems encountered are often very different to those found in modern homes but that’s just par for the course. I find it amazing that anyone is suggesting initiating legal action because someone has found a bit of mould behind the wallpaper in one room in an old house. If they had discovered that the previous owner had built a new placo wall to hide a spring coming into the corner of a bedroom or to hide a structural weakness then go ahead but, let’s be realistic, anyone buying a period stone house in the French countryside, constructed without building regulations or damp courses needs to go in with their eyes open. Early on the word ‘known’ was mentioned. As the mould was found behind the wallpaper there is no way to know if the previous owner had a clue that it was there let alone prove the fact. Forget looking back, forget legal pathways, forget attempting to get compensation, sort out the (common) problem, enjoy your new home and get in with your life.


I see you’ve received lots of helpful replies regarding the mold behind the wallpaper and just wanted to that if you bought Assurance Juridique along with your house insurance you can claim legal advice with the issue through that - your insurance company will hire a lawyer to fight the case for you. There are two options of that insurance: one for claims under 5,000 euros and a more expensive one - but well worth the price as it will cover you for multiple issues - for over 5,000 euros.
If you bought the property ‘as is’ ask your notaire about ‘vices cachés’ (hidden defects). Usually once a month each Maire has a free legal expert who will advise people over issues like this. Or join Que Choisir (consumers union) it costs 25 euros a year and they offer free advice - they set up once a month in major towns - you can pay on the spot while getting advice and once a member you can go back whenever you have a problem.
Make sure you take photos before you remove the mold - set the date option on your camera.
If you decide to remove the mold yourself be careful and wear a mask as the spores can enter your lungs and cause lots of problems. Keep a window open to help kill the spores and use a dehumidifier. Perhaps the gutter above is leaking so have it checked and also see if there is any wood rotting.
Here’s link to FrenchEntré’s take on 'vices caches:
All the best,

I have to come down on the side of those who suggest you relax about this matter. None of us have seen the offenidng mould (note spelling) but unless it’s some rampant growth I’d simply clean it up & keep an eye on it. Sometimes mould is encouraged by placing furniture against walls which can restrict air movement - maybe the spot in question had something against it in the past?

As already mentioned, old houses have many quirks. Remember that these stone buildings used to have plenty of ventilation before we all started to renovate them & close of all the air movement by getting double glazing, internal &/or external insulation etc. Modern French homes have mechanical ventilation (VMC) in them to create air flow/changes as it was realised many years ago that hermetically sealing a home is a bad idea. Such ventilation is often ignored in a renovation with consequential damp problems. This is a big problem with holiday homes which are left locked up for long periods. I’ve even known people wonder why their VMC hasn’t helped, until I point out that when they turn off all the power for a long absence they knobble the ventilation too…

Not only that but it is worth occasionally checking that the system is working. We have VMC which I thought was fine until I went up into the loft for something else and discovered that the main exhaust duct had fallen off of the roof vent and was pointing straight down with the result that it simply made the rock wool damp :frowning:

As to desiccant and refrigerant dehumidifiers the difference has been hinted at above but not fully explained. Refrigerant units work like a fridge - they create a cold surface over which the damp air is drawn where the moisture condenses out. Typically they use about 250W of electricity so don’t heat the space that they are in very much and don’t cost too much to run. However if the room that they are in is cold (generally less than about 5-10°C) then the cooled surface risks freezing which stops them working effectively.

Desiccant dehumidifiers use a substance not unlike silica gel which absorbs moisture from the air. Moisture is recovered by heating the desiccant. They consume more power but can run in a colder environment and even provide a bit of heat. I have one which has a “low” setting of about 450W and a “high” setting running about 700W.

Basically cold+damp - desiccant might be better, warm & damp a compressor unit might be better.

I’d be surprised if you didn’t find mould behind wallcoverings in an old stone house. You’ll probably find worse if you remove any panelling :slight_smile:

I used to wonder why people seem to wallpaper a house here and then don’t do it again for fifty years or so. After some experience now (I’m on my third old stone house) I reckon it’s because they know that when they strip it they’ll more than likely have a lot of repairs to do and it turns into a total renovation. This can range from all the plaster falling off along with the wallpaper to simply having to clean the walls of mould and repair cracks.

Part of the problem is the wallpaper. They tend to use vinyl wallpaper and it doesn’t allow the walls to breathe. Or they ‘insulate’ the walls with polystyrene sheeting and then wallpaper on top of that and the result is a soggy mess behind the polystyrene when you strip the wallpaper and find that coming off along with it.

My latest house was worse than the last two in that there were three layers of blown vinyl wallpaper to strip. How they ever got each layer to stick on top of old blown vinyl wallpaper I’ll never know. Some of the walls also had polystyrene below those layers. The house had been empty for four years so my initial plan of giving it a coat of paint to freshen it up and work room by room to do it properly once I’d moved in went out of the window when I tried and the wallpaper started falling off as soon as the paint wet it :slight_smile:

What I did was strip the lot - the whole house. The plaster was in surprisingly good condition underneath (unlike my last house, which was one where the plaster came off along with the paper). I then repaired all cracks in the corners and sometimes horizontally (some of the rooms had had their ceilings raised and the join cracked). Washed any mould off. Let it all dry and then emulsioned it. This way it’s all clean and white (though French people are horrified I removed the ‘insulation’) and I can watch it to see if any problems emerge that aren’t caused by condensation because of the house being unaired and the walls smothered, which I hoped was the cause of the problems.

I’ve only got one room, my living room, which has a possible problem and it may be related to the stuff on the outside of the walls being cracked (another thing they do which stops the walls breathing) in one part and I’m not sure whether I have a plumbing leak in the bathroom which is causing a problem on another wall in my living room. I suspect there could be a problem there because I have hardly any pressure on the hot water of a sink, compared to the cold, so the hot water pipe may be damaged under the floor. I’m going to put a new bathroom in anyway so I’m going to check the pipes at that point. It’s not mouldy but the paint is bubbling off and going dusty - could simply be a symptom of the walls drying out and I may need to aid it with a dehumidifier.

I’ve been waiting a year and a half for problems to appear and like I said, I only have issues in one room when I’ve stripped five bedrooms and a hallway of soggy wallpaper and in some places, polystyrene.

Where I had panelling in the kitchen I had to replaster the wall as it was beyond repair - not to mention it looked like some creature had hibernated behind there and then got stuck and clawed it’s way out, which hadn’t done the plaster any good :slight_smile: I was worried a couple of walls in the kitchen were damp (the floor is below the outside pavement level) but stripping off the panelling and the wallpaper and having freestanding furniture in there has meant that so far, the walls have stayed dry.

The lady has also stated that she’s brand new to France. So as well as setting out the options and leaving a newbie to choose which are realistic and which are not, with no background knowledge or experience to guide her, do you really not see a value in advice from people like David, who has lived here a long time and knows how things work not just in theory but also in real life? I’m sure the OP is quite capable of ignoring it if she doesn’t like it. But as I said, there seem to be indications that she may be from the States where there is a big compensation culture. I don’t think we should be giving the impression the same culture exists in France because it doesn’t.

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A tip if you do decide to strip wallpaper - don’t use a steamer. French plaster is quite soft and you can bring that off with the paper when if you strip it gently with a sponge and scraper it may dry out quite well and be fine to redecorate.

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Why didn’t I think of that?..have exactly the same problem…thank you.

Arguably it has, but it’s not really the French way, is it. It depends how you define ‘valuable’. It could be argued that there is also a value in living in a society where you have reasonable peace of mind that as long as you act in good faith, you’re not open to being forced to compensate someone for an entirely innocent oversight. No win no fee is prohibited by French law, and the reason for that is that France wants to prevent this culture from getting established. You may think they’re behind the times but it’s up to them how they run their country…

I first replaced the tap, Chris, along with a few others that were leaking. The others all work fine now, including the bath and bidet in that same bathroom and the sink is after those so that’s the only other thing I can think of, that the pipe is damaged before it gets there. The trouble is it’s under a tiled floor. If I don’t want to replace the floor I may just cut it off before it gets there and take the bidet out and put the sink there instead. I can’t see any damp in the bathroom but that sink happens to be against the wall that has problems on the other side, in the living room. It could be a slow leak which reduces the pressure but isn’t enough to affect the floor but the water is soaking up that wall (which is solidly tiled in the bathroom so nothing can be seen on that side). As the wall is quite wide as it’s on the bottom floor (the walls get thinner as they go upstairs) the effect could be milder than one would normally expect. That’s my logic anyway :slight_smile: