You have just bought a car but a major problem, which was not visible at the time of purchase, prevents you from properly enjoying your property? Your car may be suffering from a latent defect… If so, know that you can be compensated thanks to the latent defect warranty. We will explain everything to you.
What does the legal warranty against hidden defects consist of?
Article 1641 of the Civil Code
The warranty against latent defects is defined as follows in the Civil Code: “The seller is bound by the warranty on account of the latent defects of the thing sold which render it unfit for the use for which it is intended, or which so diminish this use that the buyer would not have acquired it, or would have given only a lesser price for it, if he had known them. »
What is a hidden defect?
We can define the hidden defect as a significant defect affecting the car which has not been communicated to you and which is not clearly visible.
A latent defect must meet certain criteria:
- It must not be the result of misuse or normal wear and tear (this is calculated according to the age and mileage of the vehicle).
- It should not be clearly visible.
- He must question the normal use of the vehicle.
There are many examples of hidden defects on a car: defect in the braking system, failure of the steering which can lead to a break in the steering column, malfunction of the gearbox (skipping gears), structural defect following an accident. previous, existence of leaks in the hydraulic system.
The warranty against hidden defects protects the buyer
With this guarantee, French legislation aims to protect the interests of the purchaser, whatever the conditions of purchase, whether the vehicle is new or second-hand, whether it was purchased from a private individual or in a garage. But beware: if the seller agrees to sell the buyer an item as is, the buyer must also, for his part, carry out checks and assess the quality of the item before purchasing.
What is the procedure for turning against a hidden defect on a car?
If, after buying a car, you discover that it has a problem that is detrimental to its proper functioning. And if you are able to prove that this defect is:
- Before the day of the sale
- Serious enough
- Not visible or concealed
You can then request the cancellation of the sale or a reduction in the price (generally equivalent to the costs of repairing the vehicle) by invoking the guarantee against hidden defects. Here is the procedure to follow :
1 . Inform the seller
Immediately after noticing a hidden defect in your car, you must notify the seller. If he recognizes the latent defect, he must:
- Either bear the cost of the necessary repairs
- Either reimburse you for the entire purchase of the car
But if he refuses to recognize the hidden defect, you will have to have an expert report to prove the legitimacy of your request.
2 . Use your legal protection guarantee
Start by contacting your insurer. Many car insurance contracts have a legal protection guarantee which includes the intervention of an expert in the event of a dispute. Do not hesitate to use it, you will save the price of an automotive expertise.
3 . Ask for an expert
If you do not have legal protection, call on an independent expert. You can make a request to the court closest to you, it will send you a list of experts practicing nearby. The price of an independent car expert varies between 300 and 600 euros.
You should also know that the expertise must take place in the presence of your expert, that of the brand and, if possible, a workshop foreman. This is called a contradictory expertise .
If the hidden defect is recognized by the expert, try again to reach an amicable settlement with the seller. Send him a letter with acknowledgment of receipt providing him with the expert’s report and demanding compensation under article 1644 of the Civil Code (“The buyer has the choice of returning the item and having the price, or to keep the thing and have part of the price refunded.”).
4 . Go to court
If despite the contradictory expertise, the seller refuses any compensation, you will have to go to court:
- For a dispute not exceeding 4000 euros, contact a local judge.
- Between 4,000 and 10,000 euros, enter the district court.
- Beyond 10,000 euros, take the case to the tribunal de grande instance.
A legal expert will be appointed and he will rule definitively on the case.
Be aware that a legal action will cost you around 1000 euros. The entire procedure (letters sent to the seller, cost of the expertise, lawyer’s fees) will be at your expense, even if you have taken out legal protection cover.
If you win your case, you will be reimbursed for all or part of the costs incurred, but you will still have to advance them.
SAVE €360 / year** on your car insurance
And in the case of a hidden defect on a car purchased abroad?
If you bought a used car abroad, the situation gets a bit more complicated.
If you have gone through an agent (automotive professional that you have appointed for the purchase), his liability may be engaged. But beware, some agents present themselves as such even though they are only intermediaries, they are only buying the vehicle with your money. Check the content of the mandate carefully before ordering.
If you bought the car from a small garage or directly from a private individual in another country, the situation becomes even more complicated. If you manage to contact the seller and he agrees to compensate you, everything works out. But if he turns a deaf ear, the only solution is to take legal action in the territory where he resides.
How long to turn against a hidden car defect?
According to article 1648 of the Civil Code, the time limit for taking action is 2 years after the discovery of the latent defect (“The action resulting from redhibitory defects must be brought by the purchaser within a period of two years from the discovery vice.”).
If you have had recourse to an automobile expert, the legal period runs from the day of becoming aware of the hidden defect in a certain way, upon receipt of the expert’s report for example.
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