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Just Jump On The Bandwagon!

Today, I am fighting the battle of a lifetime with bureaucrats in our local Trésor Public. They want us to pay over 1,300€ water rates in outstanding bills left by the locataires. Madame S vacated our ‘pile’ on 30 September 2012, Monsieur C vacated on 31 December 2013. Well, Monsieur C actually returned to the ‘pile’ for an unspecified period during January this year to clear the last of his possessions, but, it seems he forgot to remove his rubbish from the loft – the rubbish that will fill two transit vans to the roof, the rubbish that we must fund for removal!

I am not a happy bunny, but I am hopping mad.

The bureaucrats are adamant that, as we are the property owners, we must pay the outstanding water bills in full and fight to retrieve our cash from Madame S and Monsieur C! We know we would not get our money back, even if we had that amount in our bank account! But, the bureaucrats refuse to take on the debtors and have chosen to hang the debts on us. They can, and will, put an Order on our property if we don’t pay the locataires’ outstanding water bills. 

So, fair warning to any and all out there who rent out their properties in France – watch your back when your locataire vacates, s/he might just leave a sting in his/her tail!

Tom and I weren’t having a bad week until the letter arrived this morning from the bureaucrats. We were still feeling pretty good after Tom’s most recent appointment with the Limoges Hospital Consultant last Friday. Medical tests and assessments results carried out in March, just before we bowled over to the Auvergne to pet-sit two delightful puss-cats, HRH and Bibi, proved without doubt that the CO poisoning sustained by Tom in 2012, in the Gers, severely damaged his throat, bronchial tubes and lungs. The damage is only minimally reversible – Tom’s oxygen level read 31% in March, it had improved to 33.8% when he was tested on Friday last week, the Consultant is hopeful that this will further improve to 40% within the coming three months. However, he warned us that 40% is the best prognosis he can offer. Accordingly, it has been recommended that Tom’s condition should be given ALD status as soon as possible. We are waiting to hear further. 

For those who are not familiar with the term, ALD is the acronym for Affection de Longue Durée, ie a long term major illness. That status will ensure that Tom receives the care he needs without us having to pay 200€+ every month, the basic amount we currently pay because we have only hospital in-patient health insurance top-up.

The Consultant asked us if we planned to sue the owners of the property where the CO poisoning occurred, due to the chimney not having been swept for goodness knows how many years. We told him we will not sue, the owners genuinely believed they were helping us. In return for them putting a roof over our heads for that very short period, ie no longer than ten weeks, Paul had re-decorated the rooms they requested to be re-decorated – they supplied the materials, he is a qualified, experienced painter and decorator. Paul had also maintained their property grounds throughout the period that we were there, including strimming their grass – a heck of a lot of grass to strim, each cut took two full days to complete! In all, if he had required payment for his work, the facture would have been for an approximate amount of 1,400€.

When we arrived at the property in the Gers, we discovered there were burst water pipes, caused by exceptionally cold weather and inadequate insulation (that’s what the plumber told us). We called out a plumber who repaired the pipes, four pipes in all. We paid the plumber’s repair bill and we told the property owners not to worry about it as we needed the water in order to live there, allbeit for only a few weeks. Stands to reason, we needed the water, they were in the UK and didn’t need the water!

A couple of hours after we received the bureaucrats’ bombshell this morning, Paul received an email from the owners of the property in the Gers, they are demanding 120€ from us towards their electricity bill!

Is there anybody else out there who wants a pound of our flesh? Just jump on the bandwagon, you might as well, it’s a free ride! 

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in World

 

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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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Money Flowing Like Water

Just before we headed back to the Dordogne, Tom and I travelled to Champagnac to collect our accumulated mail from our good friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC. As we pulled in outside our house that can never be our home, several neighbours were standing, chatting, in the Place de l’Eglise, they looked towards us as we left the car. Within seconds, they had all joined us and were talking ten to the dozen, shaking hands, kissing us on both cheeks, as we struggled to keep up with their excited questions. Eventually, our former next-door-but-one neighbour, Madame ML, a retired Moulin Rouge dancer who had retired many years before to the commune of her birth, Champagnac, from Paris, took control and politely asked us if we had returned to stay, and had we won our fight for justice against “the people who have treated you shamefully”. Briefly, with Madame ML translating the more complex aspects of the French language, we clarified our current position to the dozen or so villagers who were clustered around us, and who were listening intently. Each and every face dropped and they became still and silent as we spoke. Then, gently patting Tom and me on our shoulders, kissing our cheeks again, they all wished us good luck and started to walk away.

Suddenly, Madame ML, who must be in her late 80’s, possibly older, slowly walked back to us, hugged us both and told us, “You are very strong. You are strong like la résistence, you will win. Have faith in your family strength.” That was very encouraging for us, especially during the months to come!

There was a lot of mail for us to open. But, we recognised a Toulouse postmark on an envelope, and we opened that envelope first. Inside, there was a neatly worded facture (a bill) for over €4,000, the anticipated cost of the forthcoming Appeal hearing. Tom and I were stunned, we had already paid that amount towards the Appeal, to Monsieur MA months before. I telephoned Julia’s office and spoke with the office secretary, she politely advised me that Julia was in hospital but she would ask Alexandra to contact me as soon as possible, hopefully, later that same day. We were given to understand that Alexandra was our replacement avocat, in view of Julia’s severe health issues.

Somewhat reluctantly, we opened all the other envelopes – Foncier and d’Habitation property taxes, water rates, Social Charges! A total in excess of €3,500.

Water rates of over €1,000? Yes, water rates payable by the hairdresser, but the hairdresser had refused to pay for the water she used, because we would not sign her Lease Contract!

Social Charges? Yes, because our locataires were paying rent – not to us, because we refused to receive or acknowledge payment of rent, as we had been advised by Monsieur MA. The rent payments were received directly at the local Trésor Public (Council Tax Office), to pay the annual property taxes. Both rents had apparently never been increased since the late 1990’s when Madame T had initially started renting out parts of the house, so the monthly rents were, in Monsieur MA’s words, ‘Little peanuts, just enough to pay the annual taxes for the property, if they do not increase too much before your Case is resolved.’

Taxe d’Habitation? Tom was 63 years old, and we didn’t (couldn’t!) live in the property. That was apparently of no relevance, because the house was considered to be our maison secondaire (holiday home), our tent was considered to be our main home, and we were considered to be rolling in money because we had “two homes in France”! The facture was for the difference between what had been paid via rent and what the Trésor Public estimated was still owed from the previous year’s facture!

Tax Foncier? Yes, the majority of us must pay that property tax. But, the facture was for the difference between…yes, as above!

It was obvious that Monsieur MA had not done with our money as we had instructed, and entrusted, he had just banked it for himself, and for the new business venture he has since started as an avocat!

It took the lion’s share of the rest of 2009, plus all of 2010, plus the first half of 2011, to prove we did not owe the money demanded in the envelopes that we opened that day. Well, we’re still battling over the water rates facture that now stands at €1,900, and is still rising, despite Tom and I formally requesting that the water supply to the building be turned off!

 

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