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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dare We Even Begin To Hope?

This morning, we received a letter from the Ordre des Avocats at the Cour de Toulouse, aka the Regional Law Society that is investigating the incompetence of our first and third solicitors, Maitre MA and Maitre AB, respectively.

We were very surprised to receive the response so quickly, but we are delighted! We’re not sure if the Post Office will be open tomorrow morning, as tomorrow will be a public holiday – at least, the afternoon will be a public holiday, ie All Saints Day. However, if we can’t post our response to the Ordre des Avocats tomorrow morning, we will get it off on Saturday, or Monday at the latest. In the cover letter received, we have been asked to submit any evidence we might have to further support our complaints made against Maitre MA.

Pas de problème!

When our response, with any evidence, is received by the Ordre des Avocats, a decision will be made by them regarding our complaints against Maitre MA. We don’t know for sure, but we think Maitre AB may well have already passed our file to the Ordre des Avocats.

The cover letter was accompanied by a copy of Maitre MA’s response to the complaints we have laid against him. Here’s the gist of his response.

He stated that our house Case was complicated, but he said he had collated sufficient evidence for our Grand l’Instance hearing to proceed in our favour, and he also stated that his hard work had benefited his former Cabinet (Company).

Really? We disagree.

We will provide evidence to the Ordre des Avocats proving conclusively that Maitre MA did not obtain the following witnesses’ Attestations (Statements) and documents for presenting to the Grand l’Instance Court. Without the presentation of the following Attestations and documents, vital evidence, we didn’t stand a remote chance of winning at the Grand l’Instance:

  1. The architect’s Attestation – he had offered to provide Maitre MA with the documents and Plannings drawn up in April 2007 that confirmed we would not proceed with the purchase if we could not have a lift installed in the garage to take us to the first floor. Maitre MA was given contact details, but did not contact the architect, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  2. Madame B’s Attestation (a French neighbour) – she had offered to confirm that she translated for Tom and me when we attempted to return to the notaire, during the afternoon on the Thursday that we completed our property purchase, but she was emphatically told by the notaire’s secretary that the notaire had left the office and would be away on holiday for two weeks. Madame B had also offered to confirm that she translated for Tom and me when we returned to the notaire, two weeks later, to complain about the presence of Monsieur C in the property, also to complain that we could not have the lift installed as Monsieur C was adamant that he had sole use of the garage. Madame B could have added a lot of weight to our vice caché evidence and the fact that the notaire was not prepared to consider the facts, ie primarily, that she had been instrumental in permitting a vice caché situation. Maitre MA was given her contact details, but did not even contact Madame B, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  3. Monsieur C’s Attestation – he had offered to provide documents to Maitre MA, ie copies of his rental contract and household insurance policy, to prove he had been an existing tenant of our sellers, Monsieur and Madame T, for a period of eight years before we purchased the property that was signed over to us as being free of constraints and for our use only. Maitre MA was given contact details, but did not even contact Monsieur C, he did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

  4. Copies of the medical documents we had to hand to prove that we required, as a matter of undeniable necessity, the means to traverse the property from ground to first floor without using stairs, ie the lift installation was an essential requirement by us if we were to proceed with the property purchase. Copies of the documents should have been presented with the architect’s supporting documents and Plannings to the justices at the Grand l’Instance Court hearing. We told Maitre MA (in writing) that we had the medical documents, but he advised us that he did not need to use them. Of course he did, as was proved when those documents were presented to the Cour d’Appel in Riom over a year later, after the Grand l’Instance hearing. Maitre MA did not obtain the evidence and it was not presented to the Grand l’Instance Court!

 Maitre MA admitted in his response to the Ordre des Avocats that he had been dismissed by his previous Cabinet, but he did not confirm the reason(s). He chose not to respond to our complaints about his incompetence.

In his response, Maitre MA chose to throw blame for our missing Deeds at our third avocat, Maitre AB. However, he admitted that he received the Deeds from us. Our second avocat, Maitre JJ, stated that the Deeds were not immediately found in our file when she dismissed Maitre MA and took on our Case herself, but she added that our file was very bulky and she may have missed the Deeds during her first search, she said she would look again once she had collated the new evidence (as I have given above) for Appeal presentation. Maitre JJ was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery just a few days before our Appeal was heard. Sadly, we now know she did not recover. Therefore, the Deeds are, either, still in the file, or, they were lost by Maitre MA and were never passed to our third avocat, Maitre AB – her incompetence lies in the fact that she did not return our file to us, with or without our Deeds.

We will confirm the above in our response to the Ordres des Avocats.

Maitre MA confirmed in his response that we had paid all fees in full. He denied sending us further bills for additional work that he had not done. But, copies of those extra bills are in our file (we have the originals stored at the house), ie the file that Maitre AB did not return to us when we requested. Also in our file are the letters we sent to Maitre JJ, with copies of the bills, in which we complained about being sent additional bills by Maitre MA for work that was not clarified.

I mustn’t forget, in our file, there is also copy of the coup de grace that stopped Maitre MA’s money-grabbing shenanigans and contributed to his dismissal – ie the letter we received from our second avocat, Maitre JJ, aka Maitre MA’s boss, from whom he had very recently parted company, in which she told us we were not to pay any further bills sent to us by Maitre MA.

As it appears possible that the Ordre des Avocats have now received our file from Maitre AB, we’re fairly certain they will have more than enough evidence of incompetence and lies to consider!

Are you confused? If not, can you please assist us with deciphering the text above so that we can write our response to the Ordre des Avocats? Chuckle!

We really would like to begin hoping, but, with complete honesty, I can tell you we dare not! 

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in World

 

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Farewell L’Auvergne…Until The Next Time!

This afternoon, Sunday 27 October 2013, the menfolk and I will be packed and ready to hit the road again, 24 hours earlier than originally expected. We will be leaving the magnificent Auvergne puys and heading back to the relatively flat lands of the northern part of the Haute-Vienne.

We have become good friends with the resident dog, cat and chooks. Despite our canine friend clearly feeling below par for the first couple of days after we arrived, he has been a chirpy, happy chappy since recovering. Our feline friend is a real character and she is welcome to rule our roost any time! Florence and Elizabeth are the most un-fowl chooks we have ever had the good fortune to meet!

We wish we weren’t going and that’s a fact! But, we must, and, a huge plus, we know we will be returning to the home of a friend who couldn’t have supported us more than she has done throughout the past fifteen months, specifically. So, the thought of seeing Kay on Tuesday lightens our hearts and makes us smile. Although we have been homeless since early in 2008, we don’t feel homeless when we return to Kay’s home. That feeling of belonging is worth gold-dust to us.

During the months since the ‘birth’ of this blog, and before and since that advent via forums, Facebook and Twitter, I have been asked many questions about our hobo lifestyle and the reasons why we were forced to leave our house that’s not a home. Most of those questions have been relevant, a few have been accompanied by sarcasm or disbelief, most have been asked because many folks haven’t read my blog page by page. That’s fine, our story doesn’t interest all and we expected and appreciate that choice is the preference of the individual.

However, I started this blog at the suggestion of one specific friend, called Jane, who supported my wish to ensure as many folks as I could possibly ‘reach’ would be made aware of the totally hidden, soul-destroying evil of vice caché associated with property buying in France. Family and I will do everything in our power to ensure no other family goes through what we have endured here.

Therefore, for those who are planning to purchase a property in this beautiful country, here are a selection of questions, with my answers, that folks have put to me during the past 6 years. You may find I have answered many of the questions in my blog pages, or when responding to comments made by readers and followers of my blog – there are near enough half a million folks, around the globe, who have read at least one page. That makes me feel very humble, I’m not a professional writer and I am sure my writing style very probably makes better writers cringe! But, I do my best, often in very difficult circumstance that are not conducive to producing anywhere near good enough grammar and spelling. I don’t carry a dictionary or a thesaurus, and, when I don’t have immediate access to Wifi, Google can’t be my best friend! Also, I usually forget to proof read and edit when the opportunity to access Wifi suddenly arises!

FAQs

Q Will you be writing a book?

A Yes. But, probably to the relief of many, I have requested assistance with the writing from a very good friend who is a widely recognised, extremely competent writer, she has agreed to help me. Phew!

Q When will you write the book?

A The first book is already in draft form. I am now working on the sequel. But, a book needs a beginning, a middle and an end – I’m waiting for the end to arrive!

Q Will you name names?

A Yes. If folks can’t identify the culprits, they could fall victims to the same incompetence, at the hands of the same so-called professionals, that scuppered us!

Q Is the first book all doom and gloom?

A Of course not! We are not about doom and gloom, we are survivors! Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…….” That’s spot on, in my opinion, and, oh boy, we certainly have not known what we were going to get from one day to the next – life has not been ordinary, normal, mundane, boring for us throughout the past six years, chuckle!

Q How did you get into your current situation? Didn’t you do your homework before moving to France?

A Yes, we did our homework, three years of researching and visiting France during all four seasons, north, south, east, west and central. We read up on the real life horrors that others had suffered when purchasing properties in France. We also spoke with folks who had moved to France and who moved back to the UK for a variety of reasons.

Q Did you really move to France with sufficient funds?

A Yes. We moved to France with just under 250,000 euros. We planned to spend no more than 150,000 euros on purchasing a property, including renovating/modernising it to suit our family needs. We were well within budget when everything came to a halt. It took just three years for our remaining funds to be drained by legal fees and our hobo lifestyle. Camping site fees are far from cheap; fuel and car maintenance/repairs were phenomenal – we have travelled over 200,000kms since early in 2008.

Q Why did you leave the property you had purchased?

A When vice caché proceedings commence, no changes can be made to the property, that is French law, not even minor repairs. We started vice caché proceedings within hours of property purchase completion. Temporary electrical and plumbing works completely failed after eight months of us moving into the property. We had no running water, no sanitation and no safe electricity supply.

Q Have the tenants paid rent to you?

A Not directly. Our first avocat told us we could not, in law, refuse to accept the rent, but, to accept the rent would have been considered by the Courts as accepting the tenants. Catch-22! So, we battled to have the rent accepted directly by the taxes foncier and d’habitation bureaucrats, ie equivalent to the Council Tax officials in the UK. The annual rental income just covered the annual property taxes, it has always been paid directly to the French equivalent of Council Tax office. Therefore, we have not directly received the rent throughout the past 6+ years.

Q Wouldn’t it have been better for you to return to Britain and continue the legal proceedings from there?

A No. We moved to France for reasons that remain, today, as strong and constant as they were in March 2007. Also, if we had returned to Britain and ran out of money to fund the proceedings, we could not have received Legal Aid from either country. Britain would not have been legally bound to help us, rightly so, the property is in France. France would not have been legally bound to help us, rightly or wrongly, we would have been resident in Britain. Although, eventually, our Legal Aid application was rejected in France, the reason for that rejection is still to be investigated, it was an unfair (at best), possibly corrupt (at worst), decision made by a clerk.

Q With hindsight, could you have done anything different that might have changed the course of history before it occurred?

A Yes. With hindsight, we could have continued travelling south in March 2007, to Gaillac in the Midi-Pyrenees. That was our intended destination when we left the UK on 6th March 2007. However, then, we would not have discovered what we believe is the most beautiful Region in France, the Auvergne.

Q Do you still feel that France is the country where you should remain?

A Yes. France is our home. We do not hold the country or the French people responsible for our plight. We were defrauded by one couple, ie the sellers, and that fraud was assisted by an incompetent notaire, two incompetent avocats and, in our united opinion as a family, a greedy Immobilier.

Q Do you feel you have suffered greatly through your experiences of the past six years?

A Tom and I have definitely suffered. We both moved to France with pre-existing health issues that could have caused one or both of us to pop our clogs at any time. Our often harsh lifestyle during the past six years has made things much more difficult for us. Losing toes to excruciatingly painful gangrene initiated by frostbite has certainly been Tom’s worst experience over all, although, his deteriorating health, due to advancing emphysema, has been our greatest concern. However, our lads have gained from our experiences of the past six years; grandson is definitely far more healthy than he was when we first hit the road!

Q Do you know other folks who have been caught up in a vice caché property nightmare in France?

A Yes. During the past four years, I have been put in touch with 107 families who are caught in the vice caché trap. I have no doubt that we and those 107 families are merely the tip of an iceberg!

Q Has anything been said to you, relevant to your long fight for justice, that you feel you will never forget?

A Yes. I can quote, virtually word for word, the comment of a British Immobilier who lives and works in France. He said, ‘Chrissie, if the world’s Press get a hold of your family’s horrific story, I might as well sell up and return to the UK. Your experiences, and your treatment at the hands of the French judicial system, will scupper real estate sales in France for many years to come.’

Well, that’s not what we hope to attain. But, we do hope the publicising of our fight for French justice will go some way towards preventing Napoleon’s archaic Civil Codes destroying the lives of others who fall foul of seemingly protected fraudsters and their supporters.

Onward, and upward!

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in World

 

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Two Down – Two, No, Three To Go!

We have received a very welcome message from our lovely friend, Kay. Kay is receiving our mail at her home in the Haute-Vienne while we’re in the Auvergne, pet/house sitting.

Before leaving Kay’s home just over a week ago, we asked her to open any mail that arrived for us from the overseeing bodies for notaires, avocats and Immobiliers, also from the Cantal Ombudsman. We also asked her to let us know the contents of any such letters via email or Facebook private message. Kay is English and she speaks, reads and writes fluent French, she is truly bi-lingual.

Immediately prior to leaving the Haute-Vienne for the Auvergne, Tom and I had received a swift response to our letter of complaints about our first and third avocats. We were advised by the French equivalent of the national Law Society to send copy of our complaints to the regional Law Society in Toulouse, the city where all three of our avocats are based. We followed that advice last Saturday, 19 October 2013.

This is a reproduction of the Facebook private message that we have received from Kay:

“Hi Chrissie

Good news!

As promised an important looking letter so I have opened it for you…

It is a letter from the Ordre des avocats at Toulouse Courts; a same day reply too and in French it says…

Toulouse le 21 Octobre 2013

Ref: GM678213(ML) Dossier No G 7934 AFF. BAXTER Me AB

Dear Sir and Madame

We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated the 7th October, received this day the 21st.

I am immediately interrogating both MA and AB and will be getting back to you.

Yours sincerely etc.

Fredric DOUCHEZ

Hope things are now moving in the right direction for you all Love Kay”

I have removed both avocats’ full names, leaving initials only, the time to name and shame is still not here.

One day soon…………..!

So, the overseeing body for Cantal notaires is now investigating our complaints, and the regional overseeing body for Toulouse avocats is also investigating our complaints.

FNAIM (Immobiliers aka real estate agents) and the Cantal Ombudsman to go. Oh, and a decision to be made by our tenant, Monsieur C, regarding whether or not he wishes to buy the pile. 

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in World

 

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Truth Will Out, But Who Will Benefit?

During the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time writing letters, and translating them to the best of my ability, to the three main governing bodies that are reputed to exercise some form of control over the real estate agents, the solicitors, and the notaires of France, predominantly, in the Cantal Department, for obvious reasons.

Just for the Hell of it, I copied our six years long tale of woe to the Cantal Ombudsman who also determines the facts and solutions when Human Rights appear to have been breached. Well, what the heck, in for a cent…in for a euro!

Between the composing, all verifiable and well documented facts of course, the writing, the translating and researching to ascertain the correct governing bodies and relevant addresses, I have been battling with the return of chronic and, often, acute bouts of asthma! Unfortunately, I have discovered that I am still allergic to birds – just as I was 60+ years ago when the allergy was initially determined by the medical profession in Germany. Actually, I am highly allergic to the powder found in the feathers of birds, a parrot in this case!

There is a wonderful, highly intelligent, very verbal parrot in the household of our good friend who has provided family and me with a home since last summer, between pet/house sits. My allergy is not Tommy’s fault, Bless him, in fact, he is possibly just as sensitive to this Golden Oldie as I am to his feather dust! Yet, he doesn’t complain!

Anyway, onward, the letters were received by each of the four intended recipients. Well, the LRAR envelopes were received, one can’t assume that the envelopes contained anything when they were delivered – not according to the Cour de Cassation Bureau d’Aide, anyway!

To the great surprise of my menfolk and me, we received swift responses from two of the governing bodies at these offices:

Conseil Régional des Notaires d’Auvergne

10 rue Maréchal Foch

63000 CLERMONT-FERRAND

and………..

Conseil National des Barreaux

French bar Association

22 rue de Londres

75009 PARIS

The response letter we received concerning our complaints about the notaire (Maitre CB) who administrated our property purchase and the fraudulent sale of our sellers contained empathy, a clearly defined level of shock, plus the undertaking to secure our file and thoroughly investigate the complaints we have laid down before them.

The response letter received from the National French Bar Association contained the information that they would not investigate our complaints about our first and third avocats, but, they signposted us to the correct overseeing body in Toulouse. Fair enough, they even gave us the full postal address. No problem, I copied everything directly to the Regional Conseil that oversees all Toulouse avocats – sent LRAR, of course.

We’re currently pet/house sitting in our favourite mountains in the Auvergne, so, we will find out early next week, when we return to the Haute-Vienne, if FNAIM (insurers/overseeing body for French Immobiliers aka real estate agents) and the Cantal Ombudsman have responded to our complaints.

I am not accepting bets, not yet!

Having saved the best part of this particular blog page until the end of my musings for today, I must first thank my wonderful HIFF colleagues, specifically, Tracey and Pip (ladies first!), for keeping everything Hobos In France together in my absence. The HIF Forum, the Hobos Facebook Group, both of the Hobos Facebook advertising Pages, HIF Twitter Page and the Hobos brand new, just launched Google Group – Tracey and Pip, thank you both from the bottom of my heart, you are Hobo champions and the best friends anybody could ever hope for, truly.

Monsieur C, our remaining tenant, has, at long last, revealed his reason for playing his part in our six years of living as hobos in France. His revelation came in his written response to our formal letter offering him first refusal regarding the purchase of the property that is our house but can never be our home.

That offer of first refusal to existing tenants is standard law in France. It is an absolute must when selling a rented property in this country that remains firmly under the thumb of Napoleon and his centuries old Civil Codes! Whatever we think of the archaic legal system, however much we strive to persuade France that she needs to struggle and scrape herself into the 21st Century, Napoleon retains his grip and there’s little to nothing that we can do about it!

So, be aware, all or any who believe they can purchase a rental property in France, make a fortune – or, merely a living – then sell on when the novelty wears off, or the going gets tough when fortunes or world economy change, or simply because they want to move on. Luck never supercedes law in France and Napoleon’s Civil Codes are the ultimate sky-high solid wall that simply can’t be scaled or toppled!

However, it appears to be a simple matter for a law-breaker to pass on legal responsibility to an unsuspecting property buyer and walk away from the mess that ensues!

That’s what happened to us, as we have learned from Monsieur C in very recent weeks.

In reply to our offer of first refusal regarding the purchase of our property at the 2007 price, with no agency fees and only 50% of the notaire’s fee to pay, Monsieur C had until the end of November to respond, but he responded very quickly with his (seemingly sincere) thanks to us for recognising his tenancy rights. He also congratulated us on ‘knowing, acknowledging and applying French law, unlike Monsieur and Madame T’, aka our fraudulent sellers and his former landlords.

Monsieur C went on to tell us that he was interested in purchasing the property from Monsieur and Madame T in 2007, but he was not offered the opportunity and they sold to us, despite the objections that he apparently lodged with the administrating notaire. Yes, the notaire who we know as Maitre CB! Hence, the forming of the bone of contention that has dominated the lives of my menfolk and me throughout the past six long years.

However, Monsieur C then confirmed in his letter that he might still be interested in purchasing the property – from us. He requested time to “sleep on it”, asked us for details of the notaire we will be using to administrate a sale and requested copies of relevant documentation. By return of post, we sent all requested details and documentation (including the necessary Energy Report etc) to Monsieur C – via LRAR, of course! We also included copies of our letters of complaint sent to the overseeing bodies and the Ombudsman. Why? No stand-alone reason, it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time – Monsieur C has long complained about his treatment at the hands of our fraudulent sellers and the equally guilty notaire, Immobilier and our first avocat.

En route to the Puy-de-Dome to start our current pet/house sit, we called in to our house that’s not our home in the Cantal – both Departments are in the breathtakingly beautiful and as yet unspoiled Auvergne Region. We spoke with Monsieur C, he was open and friendly – and seemed to be somewhat relieved and happy! He told us he would be in touch about purchasing the property very soon, he would be attending a relevant rendez-vous the following day.

On this aspect, I am taking bets!

I’m thinking along the lines of world recession, France still teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, property prices in the Auvergne in 2007 and now, our lifestyle and our need for a settled home, Monsieur C’s knowledge of our circumstances……………my bet is that Monsieur C will offer us a pittance! He knows all about Napoleon’s Civil Codes, too, and if in doubt, one of his sons is an avocat! He will know that if we refuse his offer, we will not be able to sell at a higher price than he offers without a legal wrangle and clear evidence that his offer is unreasonable!

Bets – any takers? Or, do you think I’m being rather cynical and a tad paranoid?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in World

 

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