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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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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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The Reality For Us?

I must first apologise to readers who may have found my previous two blog posts somewhat confusing and little short of chaotic! But, that’s how it was for family and me throughout 2010. There were very few periods of peace and stability, our lives were anchored only by the unconditional support of good friends, including a family who will be anonymous because they, too, have suffered great hardship due to corruption, theft and fraud during their property purchasing processes in France.

One day, they may decide to take it further, it is never too late to seek justice.

The family gave us our first home, ie a caravan, since we had left Champagnac in 2008. We were able to sleep off the ground, with a solid roof over our heads, not far from the bank of a truly beautiful lake. They included us in family leisure activities and events, introduced us to their extended family and friends, both British and French, and for a brief period on several occasions during 2010 and 2011, we felt totally ‘normal’!

If this blog is being read by any member of the family, you will know who you are! Thank you for your unconditional support, despite having your own very heavy cross to bear. Our promise remains, if Tom ever wins a EuroMillions jackpot, half will be yours; our half will spread very well around our family and other good friends!

Well, we never know what’s around the corner, and we always try to see that our glass is half full, not half empty!

2010 was a year that will remain forever inscribed in our memories as the year in which our well-being and dignity were almost buried under bureaucracy, and under the knowledge that corruption in this physically beautiful country always lies sleeping  beneath a vividly ugly side that is only ever masked. During our quality time with the family to whom I am referring, I spoke with a number of their French friends and neighbours; it was their observations and life stories that showed us just how unfair and difficult life can be for so many French families, some of whom have also seen behind the mask.

Whoever enters the Elysée Palace as the newly elected French President, later this year, has a lot of work to do to inspire at least some of the people of France, where justice versus corruption is concerned!

Christmas 2010 found us, once again, pet/house sitting for Sue and Rick near Montpon-Ménestérol in the Dordogne. It was a bitterly cold Christmas, with a lot of snow falling throughout December – we had an emphatic White Christmas, our third in three years, but, thankfully, that one was also not spent in the tent! Our poor ‘old girl’, our car, had covered some 50,000kms during that year, and she was struggling! So, our Christmas present to ourselves was to get our ‘old girl’ rested, appropriately ‘medicated’, and back on her wheels ready for 2011.

The beginning of February 2011 saw us heading further north in France than we had ever wandered before, to a pet/house-sit on the outskirts of Chateaubriant, in Brittany. There, we were given the warmest possible welcome by Nikki and her ‘menagerie’! We remember all the names of the animals we have cared for over the years, and Nikki’s pets are no exception – 3 dogs, ie Dippy, Hector and Forest; 4 cats, ie Marmalade, Spice, Boo and Ghost; Nanny the Pygmy Goat; Jerry the pony; the goose and the gander, nicknamed, by me, the Gruesome Twosome, the gander can be a very feisty fellow, and the chooks. We had some fun and games with that little lot during the coming months! We still call them the ‘Super Squad’! Just as we still call Diane and Brian’s not-quite-101 tortoises the ‘Boys & Girls’!

Sadly, the Super Squad is now two members short. Dippy passed away after undergoing what should have been a simple veterinary procedure, when Nikki was back in France on holiday with her pets; and she emailed us, not too long ago, to let us know Nanny the Pygmy Goat had also passed away, of old age.

By the time we arrived in Brittany, we had come to the conclusion that there was nothing else left for us to do, with regard to the house Case, and now was the time for me to resolve my increasing health issues. Sadly, that was not to be! Again, before we had cleared the winter months, the bureaucratic forces were upon us once more, and, in response to my calmly delivered complaint about corruption in the Tresor Public in Saignes, I was equally calmly told, “Madam, this is the reality for you in France.”

 

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In The Loop

Rather unfortunately in some cases, foreign buyers tend not to have surveys carried out on French properties, pre-purchase. A false sense of security exists within the purchase processes, although the seller must provide the notaire with information relevant to the property’s strengths and weaknesses, eg lead content, the presence or treatment of asbestos, termites or active woodworm, energy efficiency, electrical installations efficiency, and so on. Since November 2007, after we purchased the property in Champagnac, the list has increased, but more stringent revelations and control are apparently in the pipeline.

Having heard a number of horror stories about sellers ‘fixing’ surveys by offering ‘back-handers’, we decided we would commission an independent architect to carry out a survey for us, the buyers. Our Immobilier was visibly astounded when we told him about our decision, but, he could see we were determined, and he recommended Monsieur G who operated out of an office in nearby Bort-les-Orgues, in the Correze, Limousin. That was the only good deed the Immobilier did for us, as it turned out!

The property is a three-storey, traditional stone house that was originally a stable when it was built in the mid 1800’s. According to the Deeds and other relevant documentation, the building was renovated and given change of use to residency status in the 1940’s. It was further renovated in the 1980’s, when our sellers purchased it,  and changed the use from a family house to a commercial outlet on the ground floor, an apartment on the first floor, and two apartments on the second ie the top floor. At this point, I need to clarify that our sellers changed the layout and use, but they omitted to inform the Cadastral, ie the Land Registry Office in Aurillac, in the Cantal. But, we didn’t find that out until November 2010! In fact, the property must not be used for commercial enterprise, including as a rental property, unless permission is given by the Church. Records show that appropriate permission has never been sought or granted. We were advised in 2010 that permission would not have been given because the front door of the house is just a stone’s throw away from the Village Church. The house is one of four properties built on former Church land, now known as the Place de l’Eglise.

Monsieur G, our architect, agreed to conduct a full survey, and to draw up a set of Plans, in accordance with our instructions, to return the property to family house format, extending into the very high loft area. Tom and I have a large family, it was our dream to be able to accommodate all our children and their families during family holidays together in France, without worrying about space!

An integral part of our plans was to include a lift from the garage, located on the ground floor directly beneath the First Floor apartment, to take us up to the first floor where Tom and I intended to live. Tom was diagnosed with advancing emphysema in 2005; I am a Type 2 diabetic with a cardiac condition that had given me two heart attacks between the ages of 41 years and 56 years. Stairs were obviously going to be a problem, so purchasing the property was very much reliant on whether we could have that lift installed. The architect’s Plans, costings and reports included the lift, and he confirmed there would be no problem. That information was, later that day, shared with the Immobilier when we visited him in his Egletons office, in the Correze, and he told us he was delighted for us because we were “such nice people”. He was always calling us “nice people”, it was rather embarrassing at times.

The full Survey Report, together with the initial set of renovation and modernisation Plans, was with us just a week later. Copies were sent to the notaire directly from the architect’s office, we handed another set of copies directly to the Immobilier, for him to pass to the sellers, before the pre-sale Contract was signed. All parties were kept in the loop at all times, We realised, even at that stage, it was vital that all parties were fully aware of our expectations as buyers.

 

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Losing A Friend And Meeting New Friends

Nothing else is more clearly defined in my mind than receiving the news about the death of our dear friend, step-mother to my three eldest children from my first marriage, in December 2008. Although we could always be contacted by mobile telephone at that time, we didn’t receive that shattering text message until a week after the funeral. Obviously, death and a funeral do take precedence over all other events and considerations, but, that was when we started to discover just how much family opposition there was to our fight for justice in France. Immediately after receiving the text message, I contacted my sister, I didn’t know if she had been informed. She had been informed, before the funeral. My sister was verbally disappointed in me for not returning to the UK, for choosing to fight for justice in France, and that was the last time we had mutually agreed contact, she has no wish to have further contact with me. But, we send her and my brother-in-Law birthday, Christmas and Wedding Anniversary cards, and we send them postcards each time we move to a different commune. We must respect the wishes of others, but two wrongs never make a right.

During January, Tom duly returned to Champagnac to help load our furnishings onto the lorry for Troc to take and sell. Unfortunately, the village was snowed-in for ten days, so we didn’t see Tom for nearly a fortnight. It was an unnerving period of time, being apart reduced our team strength and our focus. We were much happier when Tom was able to return from one thawing village to another!

Mid-February 2009, we packed up the car, said fond farewells to Jacques and Natasha, after letting them know we hadn’t packed the teaspoons! They both laughed with us, we had shared the story with them, weeks earlier, over mugs of steaming hot chocolate in their wonderfully traditional, rustic, farmhouse kitchen! Then, once again, we were on the road, leaving behind us the towering, snow-encrusted twin peaks of Les Mont d’Olmes, heading to Castres in the Tarn Department.

Through the forum, I had found another camping site on the outskirts of Castres that remains open throughout twelve months of the year. We arrived in Vielmur-sur-Agout well before dark, booked into the camping site and had the tent up, car unpacked, meal cooking, and we were drinking mugs of hot tea as the sun disappeared from sight. The Vielmur-sur-Agout camping site is run by a lovely, warm-natured French family. They allotted to us a pitch opposite the children’s playing area, where we were protected from the icy winds by tall, dense hedgerows on three sides of the pitch. Just as we have always found in France, wherever we have pitched our tent, the shower blocks and toilet facilities were immaculate. We have landed on the Vielmur-sur-Agout camping site, often without giving prior notice, several times during the past three years. We are always warmly welcomed, and that same pitch is never booked to anybody other than to us!

Finding an internet café in Castres, I visited the forum to find other camping sites closer to Albi. Tom and I, with my sister and brother-in-Law, had visited Albi in September 2003, during an extended holiday spent mainly in the Midi-Pyrenees. We had promised ourselves that we would return to that magical City one day. But, that had to wait until a later time, through the forum I found another member asking for a pet/house sitter in Department 12, the Aveyron, I contacted her immediately, and she booked us for five weeks starting on the 1st March. We couldn’t believe our luck, a house, a log fire, beds, a cooker, a bath, and a super little cat to make it all just purrrrfect! But, first, we had to get through two weeks of camping in February’s unforgiving, harsh weather.

The worst time during that two weeks was right through a night when the temperature dropped to -18C degrees. Two of us in the car, two in the tent, three of us didn’t sleep at all throughout that long, extremely cold night. By the time the sun rose, we knew Tom had at least two frost-bitten toes. Despite obtaining medical treatment that same day, Tom suffered almost continuously with pain in those toes until gangrene set in; He finally lost one and a half toes to amputation in February 2010. Surgery had become urgently required to save his leg. But, that’s another story!

 

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Mountains And The First Judgement

Following the ‘stolen teaspoons’ fiasco, we headed for Nice and the possibility of a pitch on a site that remained open throughout twelve months of the year. We were thinking about Christmas, wondering how we could celebrate Christmas in a tent with a ‘hobo’ cooker! We were also thinking about our family in the UK. By that time, our youngest grandchild, born in the UK in August 2007, had come through various life-saving treatments, but her condition still gave cause for concern about her future development. Her mum and dad were under constant pressure and, for the first time ever, I could not be there for one of my kids. Nobody will ever know how I felt during that dreadful period, I was torn apart by the need to ‘be there’ with family on both sides of The Pond. When people mention the word ‘compensation’ to me, I know they are referring to money. No amount of money could ever compensate for what we have suffered, that applies to our entire family living in two countries.

Earlier in the year, I had become a member of an on-line Francophile forum. Whenever possible, I would visit an internet café and keep abreast of the news for the British community living in France. Our telephone was still connected at the house, and I would spend a couple of hours on the forum when we went to collect our mail. The forum was ideal for locating camping sites that would remain open the year round. I also made time to offer other forum members information when I was on-line.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the camping site near Nice, that should have been open, we found it closed with an à vendre (for sale) notice at the entrance. The forum had not been very helpful on that occasion! So, we headed inland. I was the GPS and, usually, my map-reading skills are very good, but, not that day! We headed up-country from Nice, aiming to reach Villars by late afternoon, where we knew we could pitch the tent for one night on a commune camping site that offered space, fresh water and toilet facilities. Somewhere along the route, we took a wrong turning and strayed off course.

The terrain assumed an undulating form, then the hills became very large hills, until they turned into mountains! We were in the foothills of the Alps between France and the Italian border, on a road that was one way only! The road back to the coast, to Monaco, was some 500 metres below us. Solid mountain to the right, a sheer drop to the left, I was mortified, I’m petrified of heights and that was not a wide road! Kilometre after kilometre, every time we rounded a section of jutting cliff face, the road seeming to hang off the edge of the rock, I hoped to see flat land in front of us. Instead, there was just another purple mountain, taller and more heavily snow-laden than the one we were on. Several hours later, a road sign took us away from the Alps and back down-country to Gap. That’s when we added our jerry can of petrol to the tank! That night, we slept in the car in an aire de repos (equivalent to a lay-be with a picnic area and shower facilities). We were shattered, and Tom, our only driver, was exhausted to the point where his face was grey and his eyes were red-rimmed.

We spent the next three weeks moving from camping site to camping site, spending occasional nights in one or another of the many aire de repos facilities that are widespread throughout France. One day, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the village where Brad Pitt and his family lived, I spent at least twenty minutes with my nose pressed against the cold car window, hoping for a glimpse. No such luck!

We returned to the house very early one morning in December, on the day of the Tribunal, to wait for the telephone call giving us the justices’ decision. We waited all day, but that call didn’t arrive. We stayed in the home of a French friend in the village for a week. The house was tiny, and we were obviously over-crowding the home of our friend, although, she never gave any indication of being unhappy about it. On the seventh day, I telephoned Monsieur MA to politely demand the verdict. Taken by surprise, he told me, “The justices did not find in your favour, and you must pay €1,000 compensation to Monsieur and Madame T. There will also be Court fees to pay, and my final bill will be there after Christmas, to give you time to pay. But, I think you should Appeal. I will send the documents to you by post. L’Huissier (the Court Bailiff) will bring you the Tribunal’s Judgement document.”

We couldn’t even cry, we were stunned. We just hugged each other closely together against the cruelty and the injustice of it all.

 

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People

Different people respond or react in different ways when life suddenly turns turtle for themselves, for loved ones, or for friends. Our family and friends were no different when we told them our house in France could never be our home. But, I think the worst parts of the responses and reactions have probably been associated with the sheer disbelief that we have met since August/September 2007. In all honesty, I can’t blame anyone for not believing what has happened to us during that time. I can’t blame anyone for not believing the difficulties we have faced during our fight for justice in France. It is a fact that nobody could ever have envisaged how we would be living now, compared with how we lived our lives in the UK before we moved to France.

I digressed because I am now receiving stunned messages from family and friends who, understandably, have not realised, probably have not believed, just how serious our situation has been throughout the past 4 years and 6 months. In simple terms, it must have seemed incredible, ridiculous, unbelievable and beyond all comprehension. But, for each and every paragraph I write, there is a formal document to confirm the content of each paragraph.

A few days after our initial conversation with Monsieur MA, avocat, the resident locataire, Monsieur C, sent  a formal, registered letter to Tom and me. In the letter, Monsieur C refused, point blank, to allow any repairs or restoration works to be carried out on any part of the property that was rented to him. He also referred to our ‘family’s dream’ becoming our ‘nightmare’. What a charmless person!

I telephoned Monsieur MA and was able to speak with him immediately, his cheerful greeting was confirmation that we did, indeed, have a vice caché Case against our sellers. I asked if our property insurances policy would cover the cost of the legal fees, Monsieur MA replied that we were not covered under the policy. Tom and I had €50,000 set aside in our French Bank account to pay for the restoration and conversion works, €10,000 more than our architect had quoted. We also had £25,000 savings stored in our UK Bank account, the rest of our life savings. I asked Monsieur MA for a ballpark figure for the cost of the proceedings, his reply was €4,000 to €6,000. I quickly explained to Tom and he immediately agreed that we should proceed.

Monsieur MA was totally incorrect. To date, the proceedings, other expenses incurred due to French law, the extra costs associated with owning one property and having to live in other properties, plus the expense of having to constantly move around France, in addition to having to pay in full for all medical treatment, has cost in excess of €55,000. Our remaining life savings, plus £5,000 loaned to us by our eldest son, plus £1,200 jointly loaned to us by my sister and my cousin to pay towards my breast cancer and cardiac issues, well, that little lot just saw us through the three years until my pensions kicked in and started being paid! It took a little under eight months for DWP to finally start paying my pensions, that was after I had contacted an MEP about the delay. The MEP (then) was Caroline Lucas, she is now the Green Party Leader, a wonderful, caring person.

Monsieur MA had some bad news for us, though, we could not undertake any works on the property during the proceedings, but any existing works Contracts would have to be honoured, in French law, and the cost would be claimed from the sellers in due course. So, we paid Monsieur MA’s initial bill, he thanked us; we paid the architect’s bill, he thanked us; we paid the double-glazing guy – the new windows and external doors had already been ordered – he thanked us; we had paid for other materials up-front and we gathered all the receipts together.

But, temporary repairs on the toilet and other plumbing requirements gave up the ghost, the plumber was unable to carry out further repairs and we weren’t permitted, in French law, to have new plumbing. The electrical installations that would have been entirely replaced under our ownership, were suddenly considered by EDF to be ‘dangerous’, but we weren’t permitted, in French law, to have a re-wire. Yet, it took EDF over three years to disconnect the meters, so we had to keep paying Standing Charges until the meters were eventually disconnected! People, eh?

Oh, and Monsieur MA was (for want of other words and terminology) incorrect, our legal costs would have been covered by our insurance Policy – if Monsieur MA had bothered to contact the agent! Some people are just not thorough. However, we didn’t actually discover that little gem until over a year later.

Bottom line – we had to move out of the property.

 

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