In a ruling handed down on September 21, the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) reiterated that in the event of the lessor failing to send the lessee a statement of natural and technological risks drawn up more than 6 months before the date of signature of the commercial lease, the breach of contract must be sufficiently serious to result in termination of the contract.
A reminder of the facts
In this case, a société civile immobilière had leased premises located in an area covered by a technological risk prevention plan, a mine risk prevention plan or a foreseeable natural risk prevention plan, to a company on May 9, 2012 with effect from June 1, 2012. The lessee eventually decided to give up the lease without taking possession of the premises. The SCI then sought an order to pay the tenant the rent and charges due under the commercial lease from June 1, 2012.
Opposed to this request, the tenant asked the landlady to rescind the contract and pay damages on the grounds that she had breached her duty to inform by not attaching to the contract a statement of natural and technological risks drawn up less than 6 months before the contract was signed. In fact, only a statement of natural and technological risks dated October 2, 2009 had been provided. This document is required for any property rented or sold in a commune with a seismicity level greater than 2, or within the perimeter of a prescribed or approved natural, mining or technological risk prevention plan. In the case of a rental property, the risk report must be drawn up no more than 6 months before the lease is signed. It is then valid for the entire duration of the contract, including any renewal.
In a decision dated February 2, 2022, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the lessee, stating that the provision of a statement of natural and technological risks dated less than 6 months ago constitutes a legal obligation on the lessor to provide information.
The breach must be sufficiently serious
In a ruling handed down on September 21, 2023, the 3rd Civil Division of the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) censured the position of the Court of Appeal. The judges consider that it is necessary to determine whether the breach imputed to the lessor was sufficiently serious to justify the termination of the lease contract.
In this case, the fact that the lessor does not provide a statement of natural and technological risks drawn up less than 6 months previously is not sufficient to justify termination of the lease or a reduction in rent. Consequently, the Court quashed the Paris Court of Appeal's decision of February 2, 2022 and ordered the lessee to pay the costs.