When buying or selling property in France, one of the things you’ll need to be on the lookout for is the presence of termites. Hard to detect and capable of impressive amounts of destruction in very little time, termites do not make ideal neighbours but luckily, with a little help from the professionals they can be fully treated.
Also known as white ants, these incredibly invasive little creatures made their way to France from America in the 19th Century and after invading Bordeaux spread throughout the South West.
There are still some regions of the country which are classed as termite-free, but the problem is widespread so a termite check is always advisable when you’re thinking about selling or buying property in France.
To learn more about this pesky parasite and how to deal with an invasion, simply check out our guide on how to handle termites in your French property below.
What exactly are termites?
Termites or white ants as they’re also known are actually members of the cockroach family. Wood-eating, they live and work in colonies of up to 200,000 insects, made up of a king and queen, nymphs and workers.
Where do they live?
7 species of termite have currently been identified in France, 5 of which live underground and 2 of which live in dry wood. So, depending on the species, they may be hidden in a series of tunnels under your property or nesting in trees and logs in the grounds.
How do they spread?
Termites spread from property to property in early spring when they swarm and mate. They can also be spread by propagation when termite-infested wood is moved from one location to another. Only 100 insects are needed to form a new colony and they can now be found in over 50 departments in France.
What are the risks if I find termites on my property?
Organised and efficient, termites have just one mission in life, eating as much wood as possible. They burrow into timber and eat from the inside out, often going undetected for months or even years. They enter buildings via drains, waste pipes, ducts and joints and once inside, they can cross concrete, brick and even metal to get to their favourite food source.
Worker termites build galleries to provide easy access to timber and then go in search of fresh food to take back to the colony. By feeding on wood inside or outside your property, they can cause structural damage and create an unsafe environment which may lead to costly repairs.
How do I know if my property is infested with termites?
As termites are notoriously hard to spot, the best way to find out whether they are living in a property you currently own or a property you hope to buy or sell is with a termite survey known as the ‘etat des risques parasitaires’.
Currently only compulsory in departments declared by the French government as ‘termités’ or ‘partiellement termités’, this survey will be carried out by a qualified professional who will then provide a full report of their findings.
If you’re in any doubt, your local Mairie can tell you whether a property is located in a termite zone or not.
If I’m planning on selling/buying a property in France, who is responsible for commissioning the report?
As the owner of a French property located in a termite zone, you will be responsible for commissioning the termite survey when you decide to sell.
As the potential buyer of a French property located in a termite zone, you will receive a full copy of the termite report from the current owner.
What does the report cover exactly?
During the termite survey, the surveyor will check for visible signs of termite activity, active termites and wood decay in the main building and any outhouses/external structures on the property.
Who carries out the inspection and produces the report?
The survey can only be carried out by a qualified professional who will use a sound/movement detector to check whether there are termites in the house, garden or any outhouses in the grounds. You can find a full list of certified technicians on the Centre Technique de Bois et de l’Ameublement (CTBA) website here (In French).
How long is the report valid for?
The report is valid for 6 months, so if you are thinking of selling your property the inspection must take place no earlier than 6 months before the sale contract is signed.
What happens if no certificate is provided?
As the owner of a French property located in a termite zone, if you fail to provide a termite certificate, the buyer will be within his rights to cancel the sale. You may also be responsible for paying any and all costs related to the treatment of an infestation if termites are found on the property by the future owner. You also face being taken to court for non-disclosure of hidden defects if the buyer decides to take legal action at a later stage.
As the buyer of a property, you also have the right to commission an additional independent termite report by a company of your choice if you feel it is necessary.
What happens if termites are found in the property?
If termites are discovered in your property, you will be obliged to contact your local Mairie and make an official termite declaration. You will also be obliged to have the problem treated and repair, remove or replace any timber which has been affected by the termites. You can find a full list of certified technicians to carry out termite treatments on the Centre Technique de Bois et de l’Ameublement (CTBA) website here (in French).
If you are in the process of buying a property and the termite report comes back as positive, you have several options. You can withdraw from the sale completely with a full refund of your deposit, request a drop in the selling price to include the cost of treating the termites, or ask the owner to have the problem treated before you complete the sale.
How can I treat the problem?
There are several options for treating a termite invasion. Once the infected wood has been removed and replaced, you will need to prevent it from being attacked again in the future. Depending on the size and severity of the invasion, the technicians will be able to advise you about treatment options which include:
- Installing a physical barrier made from steel mesh to stop them from entering your home.
- Installing termite traps laden with bait which the worker termites will take back to the nest, killing the colony.
- Applying a chemical barrier treatment to the wood and timber in your home to protect it from termites.
- Applying liquid pesticides to the soil around your property to create a chemical barrier to prevent the termites entering the house.
Are there any other precautions to take?
There are quite a few things you can do in and around your property to make it less attractive to termites. By following a few simple guidelines, you will hopefully be able to keep your French home termite free:
- Make sure drainage systems and gutters are properly maintained to reduce moisture in and around your home.
- Have cracks in the walls or foundations filled to avoid termites entering the house.
- Check that pipes/holes for utilities are properly filled with cement or plaster.
- Make sure you have any leaky taps, air conditioning units or water pipes fixed immediately.
- Ensure that house vents aren’t blocked.
- Don’t store firewood close to the house and where possible raise logs off the ground using bricks or a metal frame.
- Try not to plant any trees or greenery too close to the house, and remove any plants growing on wooden surfaces such as sheds or outhouses.
- Check your property every few months for signs of termite activity.