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Monsieur C Is A Very Happy Bunny!

So, the hairdresser will be moving out on 30 September 2012, but what about Monsieur C? No! He will not be moving out any time soon! In fact, he’ll possibly only need to move out in a box! Then, we would have more problems as one of his children could step into his tenancy shoes. French law is marvellous, it is very protective, but not if you’re an existing victim of fraud!

As a starter, it appears that his tenancy has the highest level of legal protection in France, I will explain, and he is further opposing eviction on grounds that he is a resident in the property, his tenancy is not commercial.

To clarify Monsieur C’s tenancy protection. It was revealed during our recent visit to Champagnac that Monsieur C was ‘placed’ in the property by the Social Services. We have no more details as that would ‘breach his human rights’, but the fact was confirmed by the former village Mayor, Monsieur G. It appears that our sellers were not given opportunity to refuse Monsieur C a tenancy agreement, the Social Services rule the roost in such cases.

No wonder our sellers felt the need to resort to fraud to sell the property, Monsieur C had apparently informed them that he would not move out to permit them to sell the house without a sitting tenant comfortably in situ.

Where can we go from here, regarding Monsieur C? The short answer is ‘nowhere’! The Cadastre can’t evict him, it was made clear to us that the Church will not object to Monsieur C remaining a sitting tenant in our house that truly cannot ever be our home.

In addition to the above shock, we also received a letter from the local Trésor Public to say they will no longer be able or willing to receive the rents directly from Monsieur C and the hairdresser. We must receive the rental payments directly, and pay our building taxes directly. If we refuse to accept the rental payments (as advised by our first avocat), we are “…breaking the law, Madame, and you can both go to prison.’

Do French prisons have central heating? If so, that just might be an option!

Just before we left the house, Tom and I heard Monsieur C walking down the stairs. Then, less than 30 seconds later, he walked back up the stairs to his apartment and quietly closed his door. He was obviously aware that we were in the building, Tom has great difficulty getting up the stairs to the first floor, he doesn’t climb stairs quietly as his breathing difficulties render him sounding like a traction engine, Bless.

As we left the property, we noticed an envelope in ‘our’ mailbox. Inside the envelope, addressed to us, we found a cheque made out to us and the following note (exact words):

“Bonjour! Cheque pour le loyer d’avril 2012 plus 0,38€, ci joint pour solde de 2011. Bien le bonjour à tous.”

For those without French language knowledge, here’s the translation:

“Hello! Cheque for the April 2012 rent plus 38 cents to balance the 2011 rent payments. Good day to you all.”

Monsieur C is, indeed, a very happy bunny.

That’s not all, it appears that the hairdresser needed to move home a few weeks ago; she is now a tenant in the same Public Housing apartment that the former Mayor was going to offer to us, before he was ousted by the current Mayor. I suppose looking after one’s own is normal, in any country.

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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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A Good Doctor And A Pleasant Bailiff!

Such a huge relief, Tom’s chest x-ray showed nothing more sinister than congestion and infection, just as the doctor thought would be the current situation. So, armed with a change of inhalers, antibiotics, 5 days worth of Prednisolone pills, and a rather “pleasant fruity decongestant drink” (Tom’s words), he is set to recover from this latest lung infection. Several digits are crossed for that outcome, and Tom will return to the doctor on Thursday morning for an updating examination and assessment. Voila!

So, with a much lighter heart, I telephoned l’Huissier’s office in Mauriac, I was fully prepared to hear news of a less than positive calibre! Almost five years of negative results and lost battles were very much to the fore in my mind, although, nothing could reduce my relief that my wonderful husband will soon be well enough to return to our ‘thought showers’ sessions regarding the house Case. I have used the alternative expression to ‘brainstorming’ because, as a retired teacher, I am aware that the original term is politically incorrect, despite the fact that it is very much more appropriate to what actually happens during the sessions!

The clerk who answered my call struggled with my French language skills, so, I used two of my better stock phrases, told her my name and asked to speak with the English-speaking gentleman with whom I have had several conversations through the years. That gentleman was “out of the office”, but, the phone was passed to the Maitre. Brilliant, straight to the top!

Maitre was very pleasant, extremely reassuring, I really did have the feeling that she is definitely on our side! Using a combination of facts, clear empathy, superbly appropriate humour, and concisely worded phrases that I was able to fully understand without any difficulty, this is what I was told by the Maitre.

Both locataires have been given formal Notice to Quit the property on or before 30th September 2012. If either locataire is still in the property on 30th September, l’Huissier and supporting Gendarmes will carry out eviction processes on 1st October 2012. The Cadastral (Department Land Registry) has been given a Court Order to have the locataires removed, l’Huissier has also been granted a Court Order to ensure the eviction processes are actioned, if necessary. It was l’Huissier Maitre who served the formal Notices to Quit the property.

I tentatively expressed my concerns about the resident locataire, Monsieur C, he is not rational when he feels he is under pressure! Laughing, Maitre immediately agreed with me – she has obviously already had a run-in with him! However, she told me the Court Orders have been issued to a Government Department, ie the Cadastral, and l’Huissier have been granted their enforcement powers as Government representatives upholding the laws of the State. Maitre told me that Monsieur C can object as much as he wants to, nothing will stop the processes being carried through on the dates given. I told Maitre that I felt Monsieur C would not wish to be observed by the neighbours during an enforced eviction, she agreed with my comment and told me his possessions would simply be thrown out via a window, and he would be escorted off the premises by as many Gendarmes as required; that would be explained to Monsieur C by letter before 30th September 2012.

Maitre then explained to me that both locataires will require tenancy references from their former landlords to obtain alternative rental premises. To that effect, the hairdresser has paid l’Huissier to deliver a tenancy reference request letter to Tom and me. Here we go, I thought! I informed Maitre that Tom and I are not qualified or prepared to give references, because the locataires are nothing to do with us. Maitre commented that they require references from us because we are the owners of the property. She then listened, without interrupting, while I briefly clarified to her the facts of our vice caché suit.

When I stopped speaking, Maitre asked, “Did Madame T give the locataires their tenancy contracts?”

I told her, “Yes, and we knew nothing at all about the current hairdresser until months after we purchased the property, despite the conveyancing notaire having presided over the sale of the shop Lease, months before we purchased the property.”

Maitre commented, “Classic vice caché, Madame Baxter. So, Madame T can provide the locataires with their references. I will write to her, today, and I will deliver the letter in person. There are documents here for you to collect, I need your signatures for you to receive them. Documents were also delivered to your property in Champagnac, I understand that you and your husband are happy for your neighbour, Madame ZC, to hold them safely for you, yes?”

I agreed with Maitre and told her we would collect all the documents from her office, towards the end of April, and Madame ZC has already forwarded mail from the house to the address of our friends in the Gers, from where we will collect them when my husband is well enough to travel. Maitre replied that she hoped my husband recovers fully and quickly, and she thanked me for phoning her.

Nothing was mentioned about the hairdresser’s outstanding, unpaid water rates bills!

Well, can’t get more positive than that! Or, should we wait until we have all the documents to hand, translated, read and fully understood, before we celebrate? Family and I have decided the latter is prudent!

Since yesterday, I have received many very kind messages of support, and several comments about us being able to move into our house that’s not our home on 1st October 2012. That can’t happen! Our vice caché lawsuit is designed to return the property to our fraudulent sellers, as though we had never purchased it, to receive a full refund of the purchase costs including all monies spent on improvements prior to the proceedings starting, eg the double-glazing. The vice caché lawsuit was not brought to remove the tenants.

Even if we were to move into the house, we would still have no electricity and no sanitation, and we would still not be able to legally make good the electrical and plumbing installations.

Yes, after 1st October, we could drop our vice caché Case – would you?

 

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One Down, One To Go – Maybe!

Three of us have just spent the lion’s share of a week a few kilometres inland from our favourite French beach, ie Saint-Georges-de-Didonne in the Charente-Maritime. We have visited just about every coastal area in France, from Brittany southward and from Nice westward, and we have yet to find a cleaner stretch of sand than the Saint-Georges beach. If anyone who is reading this has a hankering for a seaside holiday in France, I personally recommend Saint-Georges and immediate neighbour, Royan. Superb!

Our fourth family unit member, our son, was working for a wonderful couple inland, Gilly and Dave, pulling down a rather large shed! There can’t be many things that appeal more to menfolk than demolition! My other two menfolk and I slept soundly in the holiday home of yet another lovely friend, a super pal who has offered, on more than one occasion, to lobby the French judiciary by wearing a sandwich-board bearing words to the effect, ‘Justice for the Hobo Family’, whilst traipsing the main streets of Paris! This might present as being a tad unlikely to happen, but, believe me, that is not the case where this straight as a flying arrow friend is concerned!!

Anyway, during our few days of separation, an urgent request for pet/house sitters came our way, from a friend who lives on the outskirts of Civray. The super lady who contacted us, and who will remain anonymous, has much greater need than ours at this time. We still have the keys to the Gers property of our friends who live in the UK – we had only envisaged being away for 5 days, 6 days maximum with travelling, and we also needed to get to the Cantal to tackle the issue of having no French Income Tax Declaration documents, yet again! But, to reiterate, our friend’s need is more pressing than ours. So, we decided to drop off our two youngest family members to start the pet/house sit, Tom and I then planned to travel down to the Cantal to engage in this year’s inevitable battle with the bureaucrats! From there, Tom would drop me back at the pet/house sit to join our lads, and he would continue down to the Gers, returning to Civray to collect our lads and me in a couple of weeks. 

Good planning – not! Temperatures on the Atlantic coast barely crawled out of single figures; other than on the Tuesday afternoon, the weather was persistently cold and wet, biting winds chewed through our lightweight clothing, it was a really damp, icy, miserable week! The highlights were super lunches with Gilly and Dave, and with our lovely friends, Sue, Tchica and Elmo aka El Nino! At least we felt normal, not at all like hobos! In fact, all round, we were pampered – we appreciated that more than words can ever say.

Sadly, Tom’s breathing became more laboured as the days passed, and we knew he was fighting yet another severe chest infection come the day that we travelled to collect our son. Despite the many inhalers, the antibiotics, the steroids, the nebuliser that provides a limited period of time pumping oxygen into his lungs, Tom really does need better medical care and a stable lifestyle. We are so hopeful that 2012 will see an end to our years as hobos living in France. But, we fear we still have more mountains to climb before we even get a sniff of justice!

So, tomorrow, Tom will visit a local doctor and, once again, will be put back on his feet – for a little while at least, Bless him. The Cantal bureaucrats will just have to wait. Voila!

However, while we were off-line, an email came in from our friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC, I picked it up yesterday. It appears that the cadastre has been true to the word he gave in November 2010 – our hairdressing locataire (who is, and always has been, without a tenancy contract) has submitted her Notice of intention to quit our house that’s not our home!

To recap – after continuously querying the annual Tax Foncier cost, we were advised by letter sent from the Cadastral in 2010 that the property has always been, and will always be, residential only, due to it’s proximity to the village Church. The cadastre further advised us that both locataires, ie Monsieur C and the hairdresser, must find alternative accommodation/business premises, and the Cadastral would, as a matter of legal necessity, enforce that requirement.

Well, it has taken sixteen months, but, it appears that it’s now ‘one virtually down, one more to go’!

Do we envisage problems? Yes, we do, this is France! The hairdresser owes just under €4,000 for unpaid water bills. The Tresor Public has demanded that we must pay the unpaid bills, we have refused to pay; we advised the Tresor Public to cut off the water supply if the bills remained outstanding. The situation has been at a stalemate level for some considerable time.

If the hairdresser moves out of the property without paying her unpaid water rates, the onus of responsibility for payment of those unpaid bills legally falls on Tom and me – despite the fact that the hairdresser should not have been operating her business in our property, she has never had a rental lease or any kind of contract with us. We didn’t even know she existed until months after we purchased the property – the sellers, the notaire, the Immobilier, the former hairdresser, all had been aware of her impending takeover of the hairdressing business. Nobody informed us, we were told, by the Immobilier, the notaire and the original hairdresser, that the hairdressing business would be closed at the end of the 9 years commercial lease period in December 2007. We were given copy of an Attestation that confirmed what we were told. 

Madame ZC has advised us that the hairdresser actually had her Notice delivered by l’huissier (a French bailiff), a service for which she would have been required to pay. In fact, all the hairdresser needed to do was to send a Registered letter to Tom and me, and sending the letter to our house that’s not a home would have been legally considered as good enough! Tenants have virtually all the rights here in France, landlords (willing or not!) have very few rights. Certainly, a tenant who does not give Notice is very unlikely to be pursued, it is too costly in both time, effort and money!

Why has the hairdresser gone to time, trouble and expense to notify us, via l’huissier, that she is vacating? Well, we may be exhibiting classic signs of paranoia – that wouldn’t surprise me, but we honestly believe the hairdresser’s action heralds more trouble to come! I will be speaking with l’huissier tomorrow, for as long as my mobile credit lasts, after Tom has been seen by a doctor.

 

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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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The National Debt

February 2011 on the outskirts of Chateaubriant in Brittany wasn’t too bad, weather-wise, and March was even better, spring had sprung! So, Tom and I decided to take a chance and travel to the house in Champagnac to collect some summer clothing. The four of us only carry three changes of clothing each plus wash-bags; our tent, cooking equipment and sleeping gear virtually fill the boot of our ‘old girl’. So, other than when we replace with new any clothing and shoes that are outgrown or beyond needle and cotton, we transfer hot and cold weather clothing twice each year to and from the house. We really do have that off pat now!

We telephoned our friend, Madame ZC, to let her know we would be visiting and collecting our mail, and she invited us to stay overnight in her house to break the long journey. I suggested to Tom that we should perhaps try once again to sort out the hairdresser’s water rates issue with the Tresor Public in Saignes, as we could not persuade the hairdresser to take responsibility for her debt without our intervention. Tom agreed and I put all relevant documents into the car. Before doing that, however, I calculated the rental payments that had been made to the Tresor Public by Monsieur C and Mademoiselle S (the hairdresser), added to the amount that we had paid because Monsieur MA (our first avocat) had done a runner with our designated money, and I balanced the total against the taxes foncier and d’habitation that had been due for payment since 2008. The bottom line was an amount of +€1000. Tom and I decided to suggest to the Tresor Public that they clear the hairdresser’s outstanding water rates bill with that excess, we refuse to accept the rent payments, as advised by Monsieur MA right from the beginning. Off we set the following day, before sunrise.

We arrived at the Tresor Public just after 11am and were relieved to see the duty clerk was not our sellers’ relative. The relief was short-lived! Within seconds of approaching the clerk’s desk and laying our neatly printed paperwork in front of her, she just glanced at it and, without a word, walked into a back office. Tom and I were at a loss! What should we do? Stay or leave? People can be so rude, sometimes.

Just as we were walking towards the exit door, the clerk returned and literally slammed a jotter pad onto the counter, we just looked at her quite shocked. Then, she beckoned us over and started copying figures from a print-off. Eventually, the clerk turned the jotter around so that we could see the figures, and she pointed to the bottom line, it was nearly €2,000 less than my calculations and gave us a deficit, but I immediately saw the reason. I told the clerk she had miscalculated three years tax d’habitation, it had not been payable because my husband and I are both pensioners, and Tom was over 60 years old when we moved to France in 2007.

The clerk looked me squarely in the eye and said, “The house in Champagnac is your second home, you live more often in a tent, that is your primary home. You must pay taxe d’habitation for the house. You must also pay the water rates bill if you don’t sign the hairdresser’s Lease.” I calmly asked the clerk to put the details in writing, and I assured her that we would wait, she shook her head and said nothing further.

We walked out of the office and have not returned, we feel a return trip would be a wasted journey. We have never received a written receipt for, or a written breakdown of, the payments made by the locataires directly to the Tresor Public. We do know the annual rent payments made total €3,234:24, and the tax foncier last year was €806, after €200 was deducted due to changes at the Cadastre.

We’re quite surprised that France still has a National Debt!

 

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