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Category Archives: Legal aid

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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A Reflection On The Appeal

Family and I have met so many wonderful people during our hobo years in France, some are now counted as being among our closest friends. Without doubt, one close friend is a super gentleman named Pete, and his family of pets that consists of Alf the Hound, and Misty and Arry, ie two cats that remind me of T.S. Eliot’s Jennyanydots (Misty) and Skimbleshanks (Arry)! After leaving Janet and Mark’s camping site in the Deux-Sevres, we spent the next six weeks with Pete’s pets in a beautiful medieval village in the Tarn-et-Garonne, during November and well into December 2011.

Sadly, Tom’s health had been deteriorating for several weeks; one chest infection after another had rendered him virtually unable to walk and breathe simultaneously. Emphysema is an insidious disease that is included in a group of lung diseases known collectively as C.O.P.D., Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (or Disease). So, after a visit to the local village doctor and the dreaded diagnosis of pneumonia, Tom was confined to the house and loaded up with antibiotics, steroids, nebules for his nebuliser, and inhalers. To say we were extremely worried about him is an understatement. The bottom line is that family and I seriously thought Tom would not survive that dreadful infection.

Here, and with all honesty, I will say this, for the first time throughout this saga I became extremely angry, very bitter, very frightened, and I wrote to the ECHR to tell them how I felt, how we all felt as a family in fear of losing one of our own to death. We did receive a response, quite quickly, acknowledging receipt of my letter and telling us that it had been included in our Case file. The letter went on to tell us to notify the ECHR as soon as we receive correspondence from the Cour de Cassation; and so we continue to wait!

Tom’s health issues, specifically emphysema, were included in the reasons why we needed to have a lift installed at ground level, to access the first floor of the house in Champagnac. Emphysema doesn’t go away, it can’t be cured, it can only be treated according to the level of advancement, existence and severity of infection, assessment on a day to day basis. Tom can develop a chest infection overnight. We did our homework before moving to France, we knew exactly what types of property we needed to purchase, we knew exactly what provisions needed to be put in place to meet Tom’s needs as a disabled person. That was all deemed to be of no importance by the Riom Appeal Tribunal, in December 2009.

Through life experience, I have found that anger and bitterness are generally counter-productive, but, occasionally, human nature over-rules the need for cool, calm consideration!

Towards the end of our six weeks with Alf, Misty and Arry, Pete returned home and invited us to stay as long as we wished; the house was spacious with several bedrooms, and we all got on like a house on fire! How many people would make such an offer after knowing a family for what, in reality, amounted to no longer than a couple of days?

However, we were booked to cover Christmas and the New Year just outside Royan, a ‘sit’ that we anticipated with much pleasure because the ‘sit’ was for another very close friend, Sue, and we have a great love for her two dogs, Tchica and Elmo. A bonus, Royan is on the same coastline as Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, our favourite coastal town in all of France! Bormes-les-Mimosas, on the Mediterranean coast of France, comes a close second, but hasn’t quite got the edge!

The 17th December 2011 saw us heading back up-country, away from the Tarn-et-Garonne and towards Sue, Tchica and Elmo, just outside Royan. We were driving through yet another major tempest, with another Christmas on our minds as we travelled, our fifth Christmas as hobos in France. But, at least there were still four of us, that was all-important!

 

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Phew! Close To Being Deported

2011 brought a lot of health problems for Tom and me, but, at our ages we don’t expect to have robust good health, especially as we both had pre-existing health conditions before we moved to France in 2007. However, we are convinced that our health has deteriorated far more quickly, due to harsh weather conditions spent living in the tent, than would have happened if our ongoing housing situation had never arisen.

The other two members of our family who have lived this life with us, have thrived! They have not lived according to their expectations, but they’re both young enough to take a lot of positive experience from the past 4+ years. Whereas, in truth, Tom and I feel the bottom line is that we have had 16+ years stolen from the four of us, to date, and those years can never be returned to us. They are lost to us forever, and not only to us, but also to our family in the UK.

However, thanks to supportive, caring friends, here in France, we have survived so far! Although, we did wonder if we were about to be deported back to the UK, in May 2011. Once again, as has been the case every year since 2009, we had not received our French Tax Declaration form, and we set off to Mauriac to complete the form in the Tax Impots office.

We waited to be called to the desk by the duty clerk, and I gave her copies of our previous year’s French Income Tax Declaration and Assessment documents, containing all the information she needed, with evidence of my pensions increases. The clerk read the documents, looked at us and asked for our Carte de Sejour. I was ready for that! I handed over our Residency Certificate to her without saying a word. She looked at it and said, “This is out of date.”

Tom and I were dumbfounded, I replied that we didn’t actually need a Carte de Sejour or a Residency Certificate, being British citizens living in another EU State, and owning our only property in that EU State. The clerk looked at me and said she would not give us a Tax Declaration form until we provided a current Carte de Sejour, or an updated Residency Certificate stamped and signed by the Champagnac Mayor.

Without completing a current Tax Declaration, and sending copy of the ensuing French Income Tax Assessment to the Bureau d’Aide, we would lose our right to Legal Aid. I explained that to her, she shrugged and looked away from us, just couldn’t meet our eyes!

I was close to tears! Turning to Tom, I said, “What have we done wrong?” He shook his head, took my hand, then, in English, he said to the clerk, “We’ll get a new Residency Certificate and will post it to you.” The clerk understood, she nodded and waved us away from the desk, saying, “You must get one soon, or you will have to return to England.”

Tom and I drove to Champagnac, to the Mairie, where we spoke with the office staff, we know them all! Jacques, the Mayor, was in a meeting, but the senior receptionist was horrified when I told her what had transpired with the Tax Impots clerk, she said, “You don’t need a Carte de Sejour or a Residency Certificate. This is stupid, she is racist.” The ladies made us coffee and asked how we were managing, they were obviously, genuinely angry and very upset at what had been going on in our lives. Within half an hour, we had the updated Residency Certificate to hand, and we left the office after being kissed on both cheeks by all three Mairie ladies! We climbed into the car and headed back to Brittany.

I completed the tax Declaration form and posted it, with enclosures, to Madame Cosson at the Tresor Public in Mauriac. I also included a brief letter to explain why we were sending an updated Residency Certificate, and why we were sending the enclosed documents to her, ie a person we trusted. We received our Tax Assessment document in October, a couple of weeks earlier than usual, and we immediately posted off copies to the Bureau d’Aide in Paris, and to the ECHR in Strasbourg.

We received acknowledgement from the ECHR within a few days. As usual, we received nothing from the Bureau d’Aide! But, every letter we send to bureaucrats and Courts are sent LRAR (Lettre Recommandé avec Avis de Réception aka Registered Mail), We track them on-line until we see they have been received, accordingly with a signature, because the receipts are always sent to our house that can never be our home.

We wonder what will happen this year!

 

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On A Roller-coaster!

As the wheels of 2010 slowly turned, I began to feel quite depressed and bogged down with the sheer volume of paperwork, obstacles and worry that seemed to be never-ending. I was burning the midnight oil, writing letters, collating information, honouring my commitment to the forum moderating team, and putting together the facts of our house Case to create the main points for writing a book.

Never a big eater, and hating the texture of meat, I was by then living on cereals, cheese and crackers, and tea; I never seemed to have the time to eat a meal! In truth, I probably didn’t make the time! I lost a terrific amount of weight, there was more fat on a chip, and I started to feel quite unwell at times. Having Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and an historically ‘dicky ticker’, were obviously at the root of my general malaise. But, I had stopped taking medication for the diabetes and cardiac issues when we were becoming so short of funds towards the end of 2009, and I was so busy all the time during 2010, I begrudged the time to see a doctor.

Tom and I have both been seriously ill during our nearly 5 years of residency in France; living in a tent has certainly not been helpful, but, unlike Tom, I received the best medical care I could have had, although we had to pay for it all – but, that’s another story! However, in 2010, I really did begin to wonder if either of us would see the house Case through to the end. Tom and I were feeling very tired, but we were all feeling as though we were on a roller-coaster!

Something had to give, and family and I needed a positive boost to keep us focused!

We hadn’t heard further from the Bureau d’Aide about our legal aid application since we had received notice that we were “out of time”. However, in August 2010, we received a letter from the ECHR. We were advised to send copy of our forthcoming 2009 French Income Tax Assessment directly to the President of the Bureau d’Aide, in order that we could be considered for legal aid funding. That was the breakthrough we needed. In November, we posted the required copy document to the President of the Bureau d’Aide, our income tax liability was zero, we were below the threshold, as we knew we would be. By return, we received a demand to know how many French Benefits we were receiving, and how much money in total. It gave us quite a lot of pleasure to reply that we were not receiving any Benefits from the State, and we had not ever claimed any Benefits from France. Voila!

We have not heard since from the Bureau d’Aide, but the ECHR periodically sends letters to enquire if we have received communication from the legal aid office. Apparently, once we receive a legal aid award notice, our Case will be heard at the Cour de Cassation, in Paris, within six months to one year, at latest.

As that was going on, Madame Cosson at the Tresor Public in Mauriac, who had written to us earlier in the year, was making some headway on our behalf with the Cadastre in Aurillac; she was also ensuring that ‘historical’ income tax matters were being guided in the right direction towards full clarity! Two rooms, a garage, a part of the rear courtyard and a section of loft, that once belonged to the property we had bought, had been sold to the next-door neighbours, but the sale was never declared by our sellers, not to the tax man, not to the Cadastre. The property that we bought no longer has the dimensions for which we paid! On the plus side, our annual tax foncier has decreased by one-fifth! Sadly, there is no refund payable for the previous years! France doesn’t ‘do’ refunds further in arrears than twelve months.

In addition to that startling revelation, the (several) residential locataires who had apparently paid rent to our sellers had also not been declared to the tax man. Monsieur C, being the last of those residential locataires had, in fact, provided all necessary hard evidence of the tax evasion to the Appeal Tribunal in Riom, in December 2009. Even more of a surprise to us was the fact that another previous locataire of our sellers, a retired postman who still lives in Champagnac, had also given evidence against our sellers! That evidence was  presented to the Appeal Tribunal in Riom in December 2009.

By Christmas 2010, all the fresh evidence of fraud and tax evasion against our sellers had been filed at the two Courts, ie the Cour de Cassation in Paris, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

2010 was a very long year for us all, and Madame Cosson certainly ensured the end of that year was looking much more positive for us than the beginning of the year.

 

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