The ten-year liability presumption created by Article 1792 of the French Civil Code applies not only to damage jeopardizing the solidity of the works, but also to any damage “that, by affecting it in one of its essential component parts or one of its equipment items, renders it unsuitable for its purposes.”
Thus, absent even any harm to the solidity of an equipment item as referred to in Article 1792-2, any defect impairing any equipment item is covered by the decennial warranty under Article 1792, if such defect renders the property unsuitable for its purpose.
Little does it matter that such equipment item pertains to a building or to the works in general; also, little does it matter whether such item “forms an integral part of the works of practicability, foundation, frame, finishing or roofing.”
This rule is clearly recalled by the Cour de cassation in the decision analyzed here. For the French Supreme Court, the malfunctions impairing a heat pump installed in an existing building are covered by the decennial warranty when they make the works unsuitable for its purpose, i.e. in the instant case, when they make the works uninhabitable.
In the instant case, an individual had procured the installation of a heat pump in his house. After noting malfunctions, he had sued the installer in order to activate the decennial warranty. The Court of Appeals of Douai had dismissed his action on grounds that the equipment items covered by the decennial warranty were the items installed upon completion of the works, which was not the case for the heat pump concerned in relation to the works consisting in the building of the appellant’s house.
The Cour de cassation quashed the said decision on grounds that the defects impairing equipment items, whether separable or not, whether original or installed on existing assets, are covered by the decennial warranty when they render the works unsuitable for their purpose.
Cass. 3rd Civ., 15 June 2017, No.16-19.640