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Category Archives: Homes

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – D’oh!

Tom and I arrived at the house just before 6.30pm on Saturday 29th September. We had both enjoyed returning to the sheer beauty of the Puy de Dome on our left and the long ridge of Puy Mary to our right. We really do miss the mountains of the Auvergne when we’re traipsing around France!

Mademoiselle S, the hairdresser, was still in the shop section of our house that’s not a home. The small square window-panes were steamed up and we couldn’t see the shop interior. It was all a bit Dickensian! Tom and I looked at each other and we could almost read each other’s thoughts. Ah well, it was always going to be too good to be true!

Tom pushed open the front door to the house. That was easy – the entire locking device had been broken, no key-turning necessary, just a gentle push and the door swings inward every time. That was a brand new, double-glazed, front door, to match the brand new double-glazed windows, fitted in November 2007 and funded by us. The hand-crafted door and windows had been ordered by us the week before we completed the property purchase. What could go wrong at that stage? Plenty, as it happens! Eventually, we had discovered that we couldn’t cancel the order because we had signed the devis. Oh la la, one must not renege on a signed devis!

We plonked our rucksacks in the first floor apartment lounge and headed for a welcome cuppa made by our friend and neighbour, Madame Z, she lives three doors away. Sipping steaming mugs of English tea, we listened as Madame Z told us the male half of our sellers, Monsieur T, had passed away. Tom and I were genuinely saddened by the news, but we were not at all surprised. We have never considered Monsieur T to have been responsible for the fraud. He was clearly suffering with dementia when we all met in the notaire’s office for the final signing. At one point, I stopped the notaire reading the documents to us and asked Monsieur F, the Immobilier, if the proceedings were legal. He translated my concerns to the notaire and she responded so quickly that I couldn’t understand what she had said. Monsieur F turned to Tom and me and told us it was perfectly legal, he added, “In France, this is normal.”

Well, the news saddened us, but the possible implications worried us! We wondered if that might be the end of our quest for justice. We also wondered why neither Courts nor avocats had informed us. After three days in the village, no fewer than seven people from seven different families had told us Monsieur T had passed away just under one month ago. Surely, the avocats will have been informed?

An hour later we headed back to the house. The shop windows had cleared of condensation and we could see the shop was empty – apart from a large heap of hair cuttings and dust in a single pile in one corner. We tried to open the door, it was locked. So, we went inside the main door to the house and we were able to open the internal door to the shop.

I’ll try to explain the layout of the house, it’s a little like a maze! The ground floor comprises two large town-house style garages, side by side but divided by a wall. To the left of the garages is the main house entrance into a long hall that stretches through the building, right to the back door. On the left side of the hall are two good-sized rooms, ie the hairdresser’s shop, accessed by an internal door to the front room of the shop. At the far end of the hall, on the right, is the door to the steps that lead down to three cellars. Outside the back door there’s a large yard that houses several outbuildings. Originally, we planned for those outbuildings – most of them are derelict – to be demolished to make way for our ‘green space’, a garden. One of the outbuildings contains a wc, a hand-basin, a shower unit, and space for a washing-machine and tumble-drier. Electricity and running water are supplied to that outbuilding. We had planned to keep that section and use it as a utility room.

On the first floor of the house, there’s a large apartment with two double bedrooms, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. The second floor contains a second large apartment with one double bedroom, kitchen, lounge and bathroom; Monsieur C’s apartment is also on the second floor, a bed-sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.

A loft extension would have given us another apartment with three double bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and bathroom. Although, the open plan aspect would have brought all the apartments together to create one family home.

Lots of space for our big family! Also a major point for the Courts to consider, ie the architect’s main renovation Plans are dated April 2007, before any purchase documents were signed. Copies were given to the Immobilier, to our sellers, and to the notaire. Everybody was made aware of our plans – those plans did not include two locataires, those plans were created with the letter of the law firmly understood, the house was for sole use and enjoyment by Tom and me, and our family, and that was written in the pre-purchase/sale Contract.

Back to the hairdresser! She had gone! However, she returned on Sunday morning, accompanied by her cleaner, and we retrieved one set of the keys to the building. But, her cleaner did not return the spare set of keys that we know she has in her possession, the keys that she doesn’t know that we know she has in her possession!

Tom changed the locks during Sunday afternoon! Yes, we’re paranoid!

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Whoops! Are We Back On The Roller-coaster?

After the exhilaration of the past couple of days, family and I had to get our feet back on the ground and our heads back on our shoulders, the reality is that we still have a long way to go. We’re nowhere near getting out of la forêt, yet! We must still face the daunting experience of our Case being judged at the Cour de Cassation in Paris.

So, today, in response to many questions that I have been asked by folks living all around the world, I’m going to ‘chat’ about potential next steps. I won’t go into the entire workings of the Cour de Cassation, I’m certain that would be boring to read, and I know it would be a very cumbersome post for me to write! The information I will give is based on data sent to me by various legally and part-legally qualified professionals, one of whom actually works within the austere confines of the Cour de Cassation, on my own research, and on verification of my own and others’ research.

How much information have I received from four (to date) avocats, including our specialist Cour de Cassation avocat? None, absolutely zilch!

The Cour de Cassation is the highest Appeal Court in France, it’s the Supreme Court. To get a Case to the Supreme Court, it must first be heard in one of the Tribunaux d’Instance local Courts, or in one of the Tribuneaux de Grande l’Instance Courts. The latter depends on the severity and the monetary value of the dispute. Our Case was initially heard in the Grande l’Instance Tribunal in Aurillac (15).

The history of the French Cour de Cassation goes back to the French Revolution, it was established by the Act of 27 November 1790. But, the Court’s workings are still largely based, in principle, on the ancient Roman judicial proceedings.

Within the Court, there are six main sections in which a Case can be judged, these sections are as follows: Commercial, Labour, Civil, Criminal 1, Criminal 2, and the Chambre de Requetes – the last gives judgement on whether or not a Case is admissible for Appeal at the Supreme Court. During my conversation with Maitre at l’Huissier’s office in Mauriac, it emerged that our house Case has got through the Chambre de Requetes, and that is why we now have some action! Although, we have not received written confirmation, that might be one of the documents waiting for us at l’Huissier’s office, or at the house. We will find out towards the end of April.

Our house Case was referred to the Civil section of the Cour de Cassation, but a number of professionals have commented, during the past 2 years, that it should be heard by judges in the Criminal 2 section, because our sellers’ fraud has already been proved. Those professionals might well be correct!

If the Claimant fails to win in one of the lower Courts, an Appeal can be lodged in the Region’s Tribunal d’Appel; ours was Appealed at Riom in the Puy-de-Dome (63).

Failure to win the regional Appeal can result in a further, final Appeal to the Cour de Cassation, Paris. The judges in the Supreme Court do not judge on the merits of the Case, they are in situ to decide whether or not French laws have been correctly interpreted during the previous Hearings.

What sort of result may be seen coming out of the Cour de Cassation where our Case is concerned? Well, the previous Appeal decision can be upheld, and in that case, there will be no further French legal action, it would be all over as far as the French judiciary are concerned! Or, the previous Appeal Court decision can be quashed, and the Case can be returned to the Appeal Court in Riom for further consideration and a fresh Judgement. The Cour de Cassation might decide to quash the previous Appeal Court’s decision and order that there will be no further Appeal, the Cour de Cassation decisions about the Case will then be final.

Our Case will be heard by a panel of at least 5 judges, presided over by the Cour de Cassation President, or, a possibility, the most senior Cour de Cassation Judge.

There are a number of potential results.

The judges can decide that our Case is a straight forward vice caché and order the property to be returned to Monsieur and Madame T, with a full refund to us, and with no leave given for the couple to Appeal. On average, it would take 4 – 6 months for the final resolution to be attained, and the judges decision must first be endorsed by the Court President.

The judges can decide that, on grounds of the vice caché having been proved at Riom, the Case must be returned to the Riom Appeal Court for further consideration and a fresh judgement. That would delay the final resolution by up to a year.

The judges could rule that we, Tom and I, are partially responsible for the vice caché, due to whatever reasons they decide on the day. In that case, they could refer the Case back to the Riom Appeal Court for further considerations and a fresh judgement.

The judges could rule that our vice caché claim has been proved, but give Monsieur and Madame T leave to Appeal. That could result in us waiting for an Appeal to be lodged by our sellers, and the Case could drag on for a further period of one to possibly up to three more years.

Our fervent hope is that the Cour de Cassation judges find fully in our favour, with no right of Appeal to our sellers, and with an order that a total resolution must be attained within 28 days.Such a Judgement is rare, but it does happen, and it would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

If we are lucky enough to receive the justice for which we fervently hope, our sellers could plead poverty and state that they’re unable to refund our money! In that event, the Cour de Cassation judges can order them to give us their own home in return for taking repossession of our house that’s not a home, and they would need to live in the latter! Or, the judges could order that property and possessions, belonging to our sellers, must be auctioned and the proceedings used to refund us. That Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

According to a very knowledgeable source, our sellers are most likely to plead that they have shared their property and possessions among their children and grandchildren! In that case, the judges can order those items to be seized by l’Huissier, assisted by Gendarmes, and the property and possessions to be auctioned, with the proceedings used to refund us. Again, such a Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

So, there are many possibilities! At the end of it all, will we recoup all of our losses? Very possibly not! But, that’s another story!

 

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What Does The Future Hold?

Blogging our experiences has caused us grief, there’s no doubt in my mind about that! Quite simply, living the experiences put us on a roller-coaster that hadn’t stopped since July 2007. Being able to take time out from that constant movement during the past eight weeks gave us a false sense of security. My menfolk and I are tired, so very tired, and our emotions are raw. If that reads as dramatic or weak, I make no apology, we had long forgotten how to feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, betrayed and defrauded. All those emotions have returned, in force since I started writing this blog. But, we are well aware that we must keep going, there’s no way back, that’s reality.

On Wednesday this week, we ‘celebrated’ 5 years of living in France. But, we didn’t really celebrate, we just spent time recalling events of the past five years! Wednesday was a very solemn day in this household! I think our recent recollections, for this blog, had dragged all our emotions to the surface, emotions that we have constantly strived to keep under lock and key, metaphorically speaking.

So, on Thursday, to get us back on track, to buoy up our spirits without setting ourselves up for a fall, we talked about our future. Obviously, our plans are subject to that old adage, all things being equal!

We are fully aware that even an emphatic Cour de Cassation judgement in our favour will not immediately have a practical effect on our lives. Although our sellers would not be able to appeal the Court’s decision, they could use ‘accepted’ delaying tactics for up to six months, and force us to return to the Appeal Court to obtain legal enforcement. We firmly believe our sellers would do that. The only way that would be scuppered by the Cour de Cassation is if the Judge orders all arrangements to be finalised within 28 days. Such an Order can’t be undermined in any way, within the French justice system, that would be the final word. However, 28 days Orders are extremely rare in the French Supreme Court!

If we are awarded that 28 days Order, our sellers could then state that they have bequeathed all their assets to family members; our sellers are, like Tom and me, over State retirement age, they may already have done that, hoping to avoid giving us back our money! In that event, we would need to take our Case back to the Cour de Cassation for further consideration and judgement! The Judge could then place an Order on the family members to pay us. Although, that’s not likely to happen! Most likely, the Judge would make an Order for the sellers’ bequeathed assets to be sold by auction, and for us to be paid out of the profit. That would take time, estimated at 3 to 5 months.

Prior to bringing the lawsuit to the first Tribunal, our (then) avocat, Monsieur MA, ran checks to ensure our sellers had the funds or assets to use for settling repayment to us. The outcomes of those checks revealed that our sellers were property €millionaires. Had they not been in a position to refund us for the house purchase, it would not have been in our best interests to bring the lawsuit. We were assured by Monsieur MA that our sellers had the assets, even if not the ready funds, to refund us for the fraudulent sale.

Yet another aspect for us to consider is the fact that the Courts now know our sellers also defrauded the State, through tax evasion. It is possible that the more recent charges will take precedence over our Case. We have no way of knowing if the tax evasion charges are being dealt with even as we wait for a Cour de Cassation hearing date. If the tax evasion Case is under way, we may yet discover that the State will be paid before us!

But, all things being equal, we plan to purchase building land in France, and to have a property built, a ‘pukka  log cabin’, in our grandson’s words!

 

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Forever Friends

‘A Forever Friend’

Sometimes in life

you find a special friend;

Someone who changes your life

just by being part of it.

Someone who makes you laugh

until you can’t stop;

Someone who makes you believe

that there really is good in the world.

Someone who convinces you

that there really is an unlocked door

just waiting for you to open it.

This is Forever Friendship.

 Suzin Polish Schwartz or LaurieAnn Kelly (Author unknown)

Very late one night shortly after Christmas 2011, totally without warning, I was summarily dismissed from my forum moderator role. I was stunned! I had thrown myself into the role, despite our complex hobo existence, and helping others through their own difficulties and often life-changing experiences had become a way of life for me.  The forum was also my personal outlet, a place for me to immerse myself in good humour and light-hearted banter and, always just for a short while, put our house Case to the back of my mind. People often ask us how can we hold onto humour and equilibrium! Quite simply, we think along the lines of, ‘there’s always somebody else who is worse off’! That’s so true, as I discovered through the forum during my 2 years and 8 months period of moderating. If I remain positive, my menfolk remain positive.

But, there was another reason why family and I were deeply saddened by my impromptu, enforced exit from the forum, it had given us our much needed avenue for finding pet/house sitting opportunities. Although, we now have a good number of friends who can, and do, call on us to ‘sit’ for them throughout the year, we still have fairly long periods where returning to living in the tent has been our only option. Filling those rather large holes in our ‘sitting’ diary was mainly achieved through the forum. But, due to the way I was ousted, and the puerile nastiness directed at me behind the scenes, I will not return to that forum. End of an era, time to move on!

In the meantime, an even more pressing priority had come to the fore, Tom had developed yet another serious chest infection, or, the most recent deep-seated infection had not totally cleared and had returned, and he required more antibiotics, steroids, closely monitored care, breathing aids and rest. Dear, oh dear, could things get worse? Well, they could have done, but they didn’t! Out from the mist and murkiness came a wonderful woman, Nettie, and her super husband, Charlie.

Nettie and I have never physically met! We were colleagues through the ‘old’ forum, have become friends via emails, and we are now colleagues on our own forum, the forum that was set up by Nettie, my son and I, a young forum that runs on self-moderation, toleration, and good people skills! There are five administrators on ‘our’ forum, Nettie, my son, Sam, Jen and me! The five of us are like-minded people, and that is what makes the young forum work. Nettie had walked away from the ‘old’ forum, acting according to her principles, and supporting me. Prior to the last two or three weeks before I was ousted, Nettie had no idea about how family and I have survived as hobos – for that matter, neither did anyone else know anywhere near the full history, and definitely not about the ongoing saga! As soon as Nettie became aware, she and Charlie offered us use of their holiday home in the Gers,

Nettie and Charlie’s French house is where family and I have been living since we left Sue, Tchica and Elmo on the outskirts of Royan, in mid-January. Tom has now properly recovered from the chest infection that had taken a grip by the time we arrived here. We are all thoroughly rested, and we have enjoyed, immensely, our weeks in this wonderful environment of rolling fields and forestry, the foothills of the Pyrenees in the distance, with a solid roof over our heads and a huge, open log fire warming our bones! We love being here, we are so very grateful for being able to live here, especially through the cold, dark hours of yet another winter.

However, we will soon need to move on, at least for a while. We have pet/house sitting bookings, people who are relying on us to be there, to care for the most vulnerable members of their families. That’s what we do best!

During the past few weeks, other friends have also offered us comfortable, stable housing in different parts of France, all have offered us use of their homes. Jane, Joy and Sue, if our house Case saga continues for much longer, you might just find us on your doorstep one day!

Family and I are, without doubt, rich in friendship; we have more than one forever friend, that is a certainty!

 

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