Why is it so important that any Artisan you engage is registered and insured?
Recently my services have been called upon to rectify some particularly poor carpet fitting that had been carried out by a retired and uninsured carpet fitter: very badly joined carpets; carpets insufficiently stretched; visible ridges caused by overlapping underlay; badly fitted stair carpets; incorrectly placed gripper. In all, the customer was left in a terrible state.
The so-called carpet fitter and his assistant purported to be declared and insured for the work undertaken, however this turned out not to be the case. Fortunately, I was able to rectify the situation to the customer's complete satisfaction.
In France, in order to fit carpets professionally (i.e. for money), or other types of floor coverings such as vinyl or carpet tiles, a minimum of two things are required.
1. Registration with CFE, the 'Centre de formalités des entreprises' to obtain a Siret number permitting the artisan/company to work under the APE code '4333Z Travaux de revêtements des sols et des murs'.
This applies equally to French artisans/companies and foreign tradesmen/companies alike. For example, a UK based carpet fitter (or any other UK based tradesman, or company) would have to register their activities in France, in effect, as a French subsidiary of their UK based company. There are no exceptions. That is how companies such as Marks & Spencer etc can operate in France.
According to URSSAF, the main social security office in France, it is the place where the business operates (and not the location of the registered head office) that determines whether it is liable for contributions to the French social security system.
Failure to achieve either of the above two requirements will result in a number of consequences. Firstly, the artisan is liable to prosecution for working undeclared and/or uninsured. Secondly, the client is also liable to prosecution for employing an undeclared/uninsured person to carry out work on their property.
If an accident occurs on the property, the customer may be liable to be sued by an unregistered/uninsured artisan as they will be considered to be their employer.
Without a valid invoice covering the work carried out, problems can be encountered upon selling the house in the future, making the seller liable for any problems found by the buyer that should have been covered by the insurance within the guarantee period. Also, any amount of money spent on non-invoiced work will not be deductible from a future capital gains tax bill upon selling the property.
Always insist on seeing a valid, current décennale insurance policy, the insurer normally provides the artisan with a summary document exactly for this purpose.
Always check the artisan's Siret number, and that they are registered to carry out the correct category of work that you require them to do. If they are registered as anything other than the category of the work being done, then their insurance, if they have any, is not valid. Siret numbers can easily be checked using a variety of websites such as http://verif.com/ or one of many others which can be found by searching the internet for “verifier numero siret”. Usually the main activity is shown.
How to Check a Siret Number
Artisans will have been required to register at their local Chambre de Métiers upon setting up their business, and should have been provided with an identity card, which they are required to carry. It will list all the categories of work permitted. Ask to see it and check the 'valable jusqu'au' date. The only exception to this is if the artisan is an autoentrepreneur, whereupon this registration is not required. However, décennale insurance is still obligatory for a carpet fitter registered as an autoentrepreneur
Don’t be caught out by the many unscrupulous cheats that will try any trick or story to try to persuade you otherwise, the rules are quite clear and are in place to protect the consumer and artisan alike. A few simple, quick checks will tell you if an artisan is genuine.
Undeclared/uninsured tradesmen are easily able to unfairly undercut the prices of genuine artisans, and whilst they evade charges and taxes/insurance premiums, everyone else subsidises their reduced-cost lifestyles. But the bulk of the risk is borne by the client; they may be paying less for the work, but they have no protection in the event of an unsatisfactory job, and potentially a great deal more to lose, especially in the event of a serious accident, which could have devastating and far-reaching consequences.
URSSAF have an English language website containing a wealth of useful information to help you understand the complex French social security system http://anglais.urssaf.fr/
Here are some other links I found to some very interesting and sobering stories about trading in France