As, I’m sure, most if not all folks will realise, the words ‘mon garage’ translate as ‘my garage’. That rotten garage became the primary battleground for many skirmishes between me and the locataire (tenant) who lives his life in style in our French house that can never be a home for us!
In fact, there are two locataires. The guy, who I will call Monsieur C during these ramblings, has lived in the house since 1998, as far as we can ascertain – we have never seen a formal document to verify. The other locataire, a hairdresser who operates her business from the ground floor of the house, and who I will call Mademoiselle S, is not a resident living in the building. Mademoiselle S operates her business as a ‘lock-up’; she didn’t have her business when we purchased the property, she sort of ‘moved in’ several months after we purchased!
Neither locataire has a formal Lease nor a formal Contract to Rent any part of the property. Well, that’s what our first avocat told us in August 2007, and we have not seen any document to change our understanding. The only person who did have formal documents to Lease the hairdressing shop was Madame A. Madame A had leased the shop since 1998, her 9 years Commercial Lease was due to end in December 2007, she was moving on to enjoy extending her family, the shop would be closed forever.
We had been informed by the Immobilier (Estate Agent) that the house had previously been used as a block of apartments, but that would not be the case when we purchased. Every time we viewed the property, pre-purchase, we saw no evidence of inhabitants, nobody skulking around corners, no human presence except us and the Immo, and our commissioned architect on two occasions. The property was empty – apart from some junk in one of the cellars and more junk in a small section of the huge loft.
So, very happy with what we saw as our dream property; ecstatically happy with the architect’s formally quoted cost of renovating and restoring the property to one family house, we paid the deposit to the Immo to forward to the notaire. Voila! Our expectations were en route!
Now, for those who don’t know, paying a deposit in France is a legally binding agreement. I’m not going to explain, clarify, quantify or qualify all the French legalities, processes and proceedings when purchasing a property in France. That would be totally boring! But, please ask for more information if you want more information. Simples!
Once the deposit was paid and relevant documents signed, approved, sealed and filed, the rot set in! Monsieur C emerged from the closet aka his extended vacance (holiday) with a hand-scribed, crumpled piece of paper that had obviously been torn out of a note-book some time ago, and which he called his Rental Contract. The so-called Rental Contract included the following parts of the property: a spacious three-roomed bed-sittingroom, kitchen, shower/wc/sink, on the existing top floor, ie the second floor. In addition, his rented areas were the sole garage, for sole use of, one of the three cellars for sole use of, x amount of square metres of loft space for his sole use, and one of the five derelict outbuildings in the rear yard, again, for his sole use.
Almost distraught, we immediately drove to the Immo’s office in Egletons, in the Correze, and we told him we wished to withdraw our offer with immediate effect. Obviously, we told him why we needed to follow such a course of action, and we requested the return of our hard-earned money. The Immo’s response was life-shattering. We could not, in French Napoleonic law, withdraw our offer without subjecting ourselves to a lawsuit that he knew the sellers would bring against us. We would be held, in French law, to pay the full value of the property purchase price, plus all costs, plus the Immo’s fees, plus an amount to the notaire for her wasted time and effort, plus compensation to the sellers.
Well, that was reality! Where could we go from there?