Working with Artisans
The large majority of artisans working throughout France are professional and skilled and pride themselves on delivering excellent customer service and the highest quality of workmanship. Most home owners do not experience problems but to help reduce the risks we have produced some general guidelines. These guidelines are not a substitute for any regulation or law and do not constitute legal advice.
Click here for our downloadable guide:
Working with Artisans Checklist May 2017
The checks undertaken by Artisan Central do not in any way replace the checks you should always make before entering an agreement with an artisan. The best way to ensure quality workmanship and to choose the right artisan for you is to:
- Review the ratings left by previous customers about the member’s timekeeping and reliability, customer service, quality of work, and value for money.
- Ask them to provide a written devis (estimate).
- Check any business insurance policies, trade-related qualifications and accreditations stated in their member profile.
- Call the insurance provider and check the policy is valid and covers the scope of the project.
- Wherever possible personally view examples of the artisan’s work for customers.
Certain trades in France, particularly those in the building sector, are required by law to have Assurance Décennale (ten-year guarantee) in place and most artisans should have Responsabilité Civile Professionnel. These are usually separate policies but may be combined. For further information see:
Information about Assurance Décennale can be confusing; official advice differs from website to website and enforcement is weak. The requirement for an artisan to have Assurance Décennale depends on several factors including: their trade, whether that trade is regulated, the services the artisan offers, and whether the work could potentially affect the structure of a new or existing building, or make it unfit for use. Assurance Décennale is intended to cover an artisan’s liability in the event of problems with the work during the ten-year guarantee period and continues to provide cover if the artisan ceases trading or becomes bankrupt.
If the artisan has Assurance Décennale ask for a copy of the policy and call the insurance company to check:
- The policy is in date/valid.
- The policy covers the scope of the proposed project.
- The policy covers your area (location).
- The policy covers unfinished work.
If your project involves more than one artisan, the lead artisan should be able to provide proof that all the individuals involved are registered, qualified and insured.
Since July 2016, it is law for all building contracts to include a statement of insurance – Attestation d’assurance de Responsabilité Décennale – and this information must be attached to client invoices and devis (estimates). This is a positive step in enforcing the law where it applies to specific artisans, but there is still much room for improvement by the French authorities. An artisan can be registered with the relevant body – Chambre de Métiers or Chambre de Commerce for example – without being required to produce proof of insurance.
If you are considering working with an artisan who does not have Assurance Décennale we advise you to weigh up the risks, consider how difficult and costly it could be to put right any work that goes wrong, and seek independent professional advice before proceeding. Remember in France it is the home owner’s responsibility to ensure any artisans working on their premises are registered and insured. Embarking on a major project without Assurance Décennale is high risk, may prevent you from claiming if the project does not go to plan, and could make it difficult to sell the property later.
Insurance – home owner responsibilities
As a home owner, you may be required to take out additional legal cover on your home insurance before a project commences – ask your insurance broker for advice. If you hire a non-registered artisan or one without the necessary insurance in place, you may be financially liable for any accidents/injuries.
In France, it is the home owner’s responsibility to ensure any artisans working for them are registered and insured and there are severe penalties for home owners found employing unregistered individuals. Genuine artisans will readily share their trade identification, qualifications and insurance with you. In addition, ask the artisan for client references and photos of their work; where possible try to see the artisan’s work for yourself.
It may be a positive sign that an artisan is accredited to a professional body such as Qualibat, Qualifélec, CAPED for example, but these are generally voluntary arrangements and indicate that the artisan has a respect for the rules; they offer no guarantees.
Most construction projects in France require planning permission. Planning permission which was once handled locally, has now been centralised and can take longer to process – so it makes sense to have this in place before contracting a builder.
For larger projects obtain at least three estimates. A devis must be produced in the following circumstances:
- The total cost of the work (including tax) is estimated to exceed €150.
- The word ‘devis’.
- A date.
- Business SIREN/SIRET number.
- Name of the business/artisan, registered address, contact information and bank account details.
- Customer details including name, address, and where the work is to be carried out.
- Full details of the work, including services and materials, price of materials by unit, labour costs, travelling costs, quantity of materials required etc.
- Total to be paid including and excluding tax (TVA) and the prevailing rate(s) of tax.
- How long the devis will remain valid.
- General conditions for carrying out the work.
- Circumstances in which the cost of materials can be revised.
- Whether the devis is free of charge or how much the customer would pay.
- Date and signature of the artisan.
- A place for the customer to sign and date.
- The devis must be written in French otherwise it will not be legally binding.
- A detailed payment plan.
- Start date.
- Duration of works.
If the work is being funded by a loan or other finance, share the devis with your finance provider and ask them to check it before you commit; they may refuse to release funds if the artisan does not have appropriate insurance. If you are unsure about the devis or any of the proposed arrangements, you should seek professional advice, such as your architect, notaire, Chambre de Métiers, insurance company, relevant trade body, CMAUH etc. before committing to anything.
You will be sent two copies of the devis by the artisan. If you agree to the terms of the devis you will be asked to sign both copies, return one and retain the other for your records.
If you change the scope of the work during the project, the artisan should draw up a revision (addendum) to the original devis. This would again be signed by both parties, assuming you agree with its contents. An artisan cannot modify a devis, undertake additional work, or charge a customer for it without first agreeing it with the customer.
For more complicated projects involving several artisans, it is advisable to work to a contract d’entreprise (contract de louage-ouvrage). This is a formal contract, more detailed than a devis and should include coordinated work plans and schedules for all artisans involved, an insurance statement, payment terms, payment stages, whether TVA applies etc.
Preparing for the project
To enable the artisan to produce an accurate devis you will need to think through your proposed project in detail. Try gathering photographs, drawings, illustrations, catalogues and websites which closely match what you are trying to achieve. Think about your budget and what you can afford in total. Do you intend to supply any of the materials yourself (beware the pitfalls of buying UK spec goods)?
Ask questions to ensure there is mutual understanding. Has the artisan worked on similar projects and can they provide photographs and recent customer references? Do you have a strict deadline for the work to be completed? Will you need planning permission and do you need the support of an architect or project manager? Are there other projects going on at the same time which may affect the artisan’s schedule or access to the property? Will you be in the property when the work takes place?
Listen to any suggestions the artisan has – they are likely to know more about French materials, regulations and what will work than you. Will the work be undertaken by the artisan personally or will they delegate to an employee or a sub-contractor? If the latter, is the sub-contractor experienced, qualified, insured? What happens to any building/demolition waste – will the artisan remove it and is that included in the devis?
Did you ‘connect’ with the artisan, can you imagine working with them on the project? Did they seem keen, turn up on time, take measurements and notes, were they able to provide proof of their experience, qualifications, accreditations and insurance? Did they agree to share customer references and photographs of their work? Were all your checks on the artisan satisfactory? Did the artisan follow up in good time?
Energy efficiency renovations
If you are having work done on your main property in France designed to improve the energy efficiency of your home (eco-renovations) you may be able to claim a tax credit.
To qualify your chosen artisan must be a current member of the label RGE - Reconnu Garant de l’Environnement and according to current regulations, any claim which is not accompanied by an appropriate RGE certificate covering the work, will be rejected.
There are too many terms and conditions to list here, but we recommend you discuss the potential for a tax credit with your artisan before work commences, ask to see their RGE membership, and confirmation in writing that their work qualifies.
British registered builders
It is rare for British registered companies to be in possession of valid insurance covering France and unlikely they would be able to offer the compulsory ten-year Assurance Décennale required by French law. If a British registered company (i.e. one with no business registration in France) insists they have valid insurance, do the necessary checks and seek independent professional advice before committing.
During the project
It is a good idea to inspect any fixtures and fittings with the artisan before they become a permanent feature in the project, including fixtures and fittings sourced by you. Unpack and inspect items as they arrive. Take photographs as the project progresses. Raise any concerns or issues straight away and approve each stage of the project as it is completed; keep notes of any project-related conversations. If you are working remotely, consider hiring a qualified project manager to oversee the work.
Never agree to pay the cost of the whole project up front. Generally small projects which can be completed quickly do not require a deposit. For larger projects, it is not unusual for the artisan to request between 25% to 50% up front and the remainder on completion. Don’t be afraid to question the logic behind the amount requested – if there are few material costs then you could query why a large advance payment was required. The devis or contract should provide the rationale behind the payment plan and clearly explain the staged payments against key project milestones.
Ensure you receive an itemised receipt (including TVA details if applicable) as proof of advance payments made. Do not issue post-dated cheques as these can be deposited even if the work has not been carried out and are difficult to cancel.
Happy with the work? Pay the artisan quickly or risk being charged interest and earning a reputation as a late payer.
Keeping project records
Keep copies of all project-related paperwork in a file. It will be difficult to claim under Assurance Décennale if you have not kept copies of the devis, contract, insurance policies, official invoices, receipts for payments, formal communication between you and the artisan, and notes of any verbal conversations. Keep copies of user manuals and guarantees. Take photographs of the project before, during and after. If it is necessary to write to the artisan, send letters by recorded delivery and keep proof of postage slips. Problems may not be evident until some years later and without evidence you will be unlikely to successfully claim.
If you later sell your property you may be asked for proof that the work was covered by Assurance Décennale. It is not uncommon for sellers to be forced to take out costly insurance policies to cover future risks in the absence of an Assurance Décennale policy.
FAQs – Customers
Using Tradesmen in France by Duncan and Lesley Webster
General information about assurance décennale and specific trades.
General information about assurance décennale.