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Moving Back To The Cantal!

Since our house Case started, family and I have often wondered if our biggest error was made when we didn’t carry on down-country to settle in the Midi-Pyrenees. The Midi-Pyrenees was where we were heading to in 2007, but the mountains of the Auvergne were Sirens that persuaded us to end our house search there! However, in recent weeks, we have reached the conclusion that the Auvergne was, and remains, right for us, individually and as a family unit.

We miss the Sirens! Tom and I miss the relatively good health we enjoyed in the Cantal, and we all miss the space, soaring Golden Eagles, green lizards with blue heads, rural peace, crisp ‘dry’ snow that melts without leaving filthy slush for days on end, dry heat with relatively low humidity, spectacular storms that follow the meandering rivers and crackle and drum-roll below the top of the high plateau where our house is located. We miss the excitement of discovering exotic orchids that long ago disappeared from the British countryside – not just one or two orchids, but fields filled with orchids! We also miss the kindness of the villagers who made us feel welcome, valued and valuable. Only a handful of folks are responsible for our plight.  

The house we purchased was our primary home, not a holiday home, and we were the first British family to buy a primary residence in the village. We burned our bridges before leaving the UK, sold our house and most chattels, bought one-way tickets and moved to France – lock, stock and barrel!

Of course, those who have read my blog from day one will already know our house that’s not a home is the only property in the world that we own. But, other folks, who have cherry-picked – for whatever reason – when reading my blog, don’t know about that fact. In recent weeks, a couple of people have asked me why family and I didn’t just up sticks and return to the UK when we had to move out of the house in Champagnac. There are reasons, very valid reasons, as previously mentioned in my blog, but there are two extremely important reasons. The first is that we can’t obtain legal aid in France if we live in the UK, and we can’t obtain legal aid in the UK to fund this last step of our house Case in France. Secondly, we moved to live permanently in France for several reasons, those reasons still apply today, just as they did when we initially decided to move to France. Voila!

So, we will be returning to the Cantal. The hairdresser, Mademoiselle S, is due to vacate our property on Sunday 30 September, as confirmed in her formal Notice to us that was delivered by l’Huissier (baliff). Recently, the hairdresser sent a brief letter to us requesting permission to delay her exit from our property until March 2013. She told us (in her letter) her new business premises won’t be ready for occupation until then. She also asked us to ‘take pity on’ her business. Needless to say, we have responded to the letter with an emphatic “non”!

Copies of all relevant documents have been sent to the Cour de Cassation and the ECHR. Of course!

However – and, yes, this is the ‘but’ that tends to accompany most (all?) of our plans in France! Says she, rolling eyes! If Mademoiselle S decides to remain in our property until March 2013, leaving us out in the cold for another winter, our fifth winter as hobos in France, we won’t be able to do anything about it. Why not? I will elucidate next time!

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in World

 

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Two Plus Two Equals Five!

During the past month, Tom and I have wished we were both at least twenty years younger! That’s a first for both of us, we are normally quite content with our ages, life experience, mental and physical capacity, achievements, and our levels of life skills learning and knowledge. So, why the change? It’s simple, we both wish we could walk further than we can, carrying our home on our backs! When our ‘old girl’, aka our long-suffering Citroen Picasso Xsara, flipped her clutch, she left us in a real quandary. Scrap her and walk, or have her repaired and break the Bank to pay for the repairs? We chose the latter because we truly can’t manage without her. She has carried the four of us over 130,000 kilometres during the past four years; Tom and I can’t do that sort of ‘motoring’ on our aging ‘pins’. Simples!

So, we were already somewhat stressed and distressed (and broke!) when we travelled to Champagnac and Mauriac to collect documents from our friend, Madame ZC, and from l’Huissier. We knew the documents would be relevant to the illegal tenant hairdresser’s written Notice to quit our house that can’t be our home, following intervention by the Cadastre (Department Land Registry). But, our immediate concerns were about how Monsieur C might be responding, or reacting! As things turned out, we didn’t need to concern ourselves about Monsieur C, he is definitely a happy bunny! More about that next time.

The documents we received were a revelation! Confirmed within the text, Tom and I were definitely stitched up on 6 July 2007 by the female half of our sellers, and, we strongly suspect she wasn’t on her own! On that day, according to the notaire’s statement, she acted on notification received some time earlier (no date given) from Madame T that Tom and I had agreed to allow the hairdresser to sell on her Rental Lease. Now, why the notaire didn’t demand documentary verification, we have no idea! But, the fact of the matter is that she didn’t demand such evidence. Had she done so, she would have had no doubt that we hadn’t agreed, because we knew nothing about it, and there is no documentary evidence because Tom and I didn’t sign any such document!

On 6 July 2007, several weeks after we signed the compromis (‘promise to buy’ pre-Contract), and three weeks before our purchase was completed, Madame T and the notaire completed their own transaction, and they effectively landed my menfolk and me in the judicial mire that is the French legal system where the hairdresser is involved! Although, of course, Madame T already knew at the time that she was defrauding us by withholding evidence of Monsieur C’s tenancy!

Tom and I now believe the 6 July transaction was the reason why the notaire withheld €2000+ from our sellers on the day of completion. After all financial business was concluded on that day, Madame T looked at her cheque and announced that the cheque was ‘more than €2000 short’. I understood what she said and I looked at the notaire – our Immobilier was trying to hurry us out of the office. The notaire’s face reddened and she told Madame T to telephone her later at her office. Well, that would not ring bells if Tom and I hadn’t been informed, later the same day, that the notaire apparently left her office to go off on holiday immediately after we all left her office!

Strange? Not if the notaire had deducted €2000+ for other services rendered during the sale/purchase proceedings!

The documents contain a number of peculiarities and ambiguities. We know a commercial Tenancy Lease is for a period of 9 years; a residential Tenancy Lease is for 3 years. The original hairdresser’s contract started in December 1998, according to the copy of the Attestation we were given. Therefore, her tenancy period was due to expire on 31 December 2007; she confirmed to us that she had not applied to renew for a further period of nine years because she was closing down to concentrate on extending and raising her family. We wished her good luck, and everything was confirmed in writing between us and the Immo. He confirmed that the hairdresser’s tenancy period had not been extended beyond December 2007. That was further verified in the pre-Contract, and it states that we would have ‘sole use and enjoyment’ of the property.

Of course, that was never going to happen, Monsieur C was skulking in the shadows. But, we were absolutely shattered when Mademoiselle S suddenly appeared in November 2007, and we were informed that she would be with us for nine years!

However, according to the documents handed to us by l’Huissier, the notaire confirms that Mademoiselle S was given a ‘three years commercial Tenancy Lease’, and that it would run from when the previous contract ‘expired in October 2008’. Confused? No more than we are!

Even if we’re wrong about the December 2007 date (we know we’re not wrong, but never mind that!), a 3 years contract would expire in 2011 if it began in 2008. In that case, why is Mademoiselle S still running her business now, in April 2012?

According to l’Huissier, nobody was able to give Notice to quit to the hairdresser until the cadastre intervened, so she probably just stayed put! Well, ok, this is France, so that’s feasible. But, also according to l’Huissier, because Tom and I didn’t sign any documents giving permission for the commercial Lease to be sold by the original hairdresser to Mademoiselle S, the notaire had signed in our absence, as we were ‘in default’!

We left Champagnac thoroughly confused, fed up, sick to our hearts, and that was definitely my lowest ebb since this whole fiasco started. Thankfully, Tom was in British Bulldog mode, and by the time we joined our lads I was over the worst of my ‘blues’!

Today, copies of all documents were posted to the Cour de Cassation, and to the ECHR. Tomorrow is another day!

 

 

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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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