Tag Archives: French

Chapeaux – Frederic And Family!

During the past 5+ years, my menfolk and I have learned about many other vice caché Cases across France. We have shared the pain, heartbreak, frustration, disbelief, stress and distress felt by others who have lived in limbo, as we have done, as they and we still do live!

Many families have given up, returning to their countries of origin with nothing left to show for their lives in France, with nothing left of what they originally brought to France to start their new lives and live the dream.

Of course, there have also been French families embroiled in vice cache proceedings, we have met several. Likewise, there have been families with mixed nationalities, eg French and British, American and French, British and Dutch, French and Dutch, etc.

Wherever possible, when we meet victims of vice caché, we try to help them. We always extend a genuine hand of friendship, we share our experiences, we offer support and guidance if we have already come through processes and difficulties that they must still face and overcome.

My menfolk and I are hobos! Across France, there are other hobos, people who exist in a similar fashion to us. Some of them still have their homes, but face losing their homes. Others, like us, have properties, but they have already become homeless through no fault of their own. Some are virtually penniless (okay, centless!) and exist on handouts given by caring and concerned family, friends and neighbours. Others, like us, have low, fixed income to sustain them at base level, but they can’t afford to rent on top of property taxes and other costs relevant to the upkeep of the property they own. Whatever, we are all hobos with a common denominator, vice cache, and a common purpose, to persevere until justice has been attained.

A little over one year ago, Paul and I set up a forum. The main aim of the forum was to attract other hobos in order to unite and support, guide, advise and help each other. Naturally, we also hoped other interested people, ie non-hobos, would join the forum, we set it up to include ex-patriots living in France and folks who were planning to move to or holiday in France.

Within a few months, several people had registered as members of the forum to share their vice caché experiences. One of those people was Frederic. Frederic and his young family have been battling with fraud, corruption and the French judiciary for the best part of eight years. Just before Christmas 2012, they were being threatened with eviction from their home. They had lost their Grande l’Instance attempt, lost their Appeal, and had not been given leave to Appeal to the Cour de Cassation. They were also virtually out of money and were unsure about how or where to apply for Legal Aid to get their Case heard in the Cour de Cassation. Avocats had proved to be, at best, inefficient – at worst, corrupt!

Well, the experiences of Frederic and his family have not been so far removed from those of my menfolk and me! So, comparing, sharing, researching and signposting was relatively easy and painless – although, the sword of Damocles was definitely hanging over Frederic and his family.

Today, Frederic posted some wonderful news on the forum, he and his family have been given 100% Legal Aid to cover the costs of having their Case heard in the Cour de Cassation. Here is an excerpt taken from that excellent post –

“We have been given total costs!!!!!!!!!

As you know, there is no automatic right to have your case reviewed by the Cour de Cassation, and an application for legal aide is subject to a preliminary review by a panel of avocat’s specialising in cases that may be placed before the Supreme Court. In other words, you have to show that you have a watertight case before the French government will pay for your specialist avocat.”

I take off my hat to Frederic and his family. They have suffered enormously, and I really do know how much they have truly suffered, I chat with Frederic behind the scenes, but they did not give up their fight for justice. They did not give up hope.

Frederic and family, I know you’re out there – chapeaux, dear friends.

For those of you who would like to know more about Frederic’s fight for justice, and about how we worked together to prevent that dreadful sword falling on him and his family, here’s a link, you are very welcome to access the forum as a Guest –  


Posted by on February 21, 2013 in World


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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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Taxes And More Fraud

We spent all of 2010 pet/house sitting, camping around France, and fighting various battles with French tax officers and the Cadastre (Land Registry) in Aurillac. It went on throughout the year until we received a letter from a senior tax officer called Madame Regine Cosson, she is based in Mauriac (15). What a wonderful person she is, and we have much for which to thank her.

We had received an unexpected taxes foncier and d’habitation facture from the main Tresor Public in Mauriac, a facture for a total of over €3,000, relevant to the years 2008 and 2009. It was a ludicrous situation, there was no rhyme and no reason to the figures, and I immediately replied to say so. I also requested a full breakdown of the payments made by Monsieur MA, on our behalf, and of the payments made directly by the two locataires. To this day, we have never received a breakdown, not even a bottom line figure!

Every time I wrote asking for the same information, we received yet another facture – with different figures! Eventually, after receiving a third facture with different figures, I took the bull by the horns and I phoned the Tresor Public in Mauriac. I find it much easier to speak French face-to-face, and to write French, than I do to speak with a French person on the telephone. But, the situation was really getting us down. We had estimated that we were actually in advance with our property taxes, very much so because we should not have been paying taxe d’habitation.

A young man answered the phone and I managed to explain my enquiry. He asked me for my telephone number and said he would investigate and phone me back. I thought that was that, yet another Gallic Shrug! So, Tom and I decided to drive to Mauriac the following day, to sort it out over the desk. Ten minutes later, the clerk at the Mauriac Tresor Public office phoned me back! I almost collapsed with shock! Very pleasantly, he told me the local Tresor Public office, in Saignes, had clawed back everything paid since 2007 to cover an outstanding water rates bill.

It really does take an enormous shock to shake the wind out of my sails! I should think most, if not all, of my family and friends would quite happily confirm that I can, without any difficulty, talk the hind legs off a field full of donkeys! I was totally speechless! After a rather long silence, the young man seemed to think out loud, he said, “That does not look correct to me, Madame.” He then told me he would speak with his superior, Madame Cosson, but he advised me to telephone Saignes in the meantime.

Having already had several skirmishes with the Tresor Public staff in Saignes, about the hairdresser’s water rates that she refuses to pay, I decided to have a cup of tea before making the call. How British is that!

But, before I could make the call, the young man at the Mauriac office phoned me again to tell me not to worry about speaking with the Saignes staff, Madame Cosson would be writing to us, the letter would be posted by 5pm that afternoon.

Three days later, our friend, Madame ZC, phoned Tom to let us know a letter from Madame Cosson had arrived at the house in Champagnac; we arranged to travel to the village the following day to collect it. It was a long journey for us to make to collect one letter, ie ten hours round trip, but that letter started the ball rolling that would eventually lead us to the Cadastre, and to evidence of yet more fraud that had been committed by our sellers. Tax evasion.


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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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