All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Abroad thoughts from home....

The Country Parson (cinema 1915)Image by New York Public Library via Flickr
I may be the other side of the ocean, but as I haven't sold the house yet, I still have concerns in France.

If only one of these gentlemen who have stashed away loot while fighting the Taliban, or who have inherited millions from African officials with sticky fingers would just produce some of it and buy the place I could rest easy.
Mark you, the other day I had a follow up letter from one of them asking anxiously if I did not trust which I cannot yet trust myself to reply.

Things go from bad to worse.

 I apparently now have to have an energy rating to put on any advertisement for the house.
Given that I call it Wuthering Heights you can imagine the rating I'm going to get...despite insulating the entire roof, double glazing all except the few windows with the original glass remaining and draught proofing everything in self defence.

My new agent...a delightful woman...tells me gloomily that the inspectors downgrade everything that is not dry lined and I have to agree with her assessment given that when I sold the small house the bank providing the loan wanted the house dry lined even though the stone walls were a metre thick!

The inspection, like all inspections in the property sector in France, has nothing to do with reality.
It is just another form of tax.
I gather from the same agent that the chaps doing the lead inspections are now getting cancers from the machines they are using...and no, I'm not saying
Serve them right.
It is dreadful that it is happening....and all for what? Detecting the presence of lead under five coats of paint.

Dry lining this house, all four floors of it, would not only be expensive in the extreme, but would completely ruin the dimensions of the rooms....and it is not necessary.
Still, that won't deter the inspector from downgrading the house.

Then there is the tax situation.

In order to prevent hardship on the part of those who have vast property holdings and little ready cash...probably because they've salted it away looks like the wealth tax...Impot de Solidarite sur la going to be abolished next year.

I do hope you are all much moved and grateful to Sarkozy, abolishing at a stroke the necessity for rich old ladies to nip down to the pawn shop with the family jewels in order to pay their taxes.

I do hope you will be equally grateful when you discover that to make up the shortfall Sarkozy intends to push up Capital Gains Tax!

I have to keep an eye on this as at some point the taxman will declare the house as no longer qualifying as my principal residence and thus subject to Capital Gains Tax at the point of sale....and increased Capital Gains Tax at at that!

What I really need is to be bought out by an institution looking for a country annexe to house disturbed teenagers from the Paris suburbs, which would add a certain spice to life in the locality......but even then I expect the 'norms' would require that the walls were dry lined before said teenagers could legally be installed.

And on top of all this, my septic tank has not yet been inspected.
Were I Parson Woodeforde I might say that the subject of sewage disposal rises oft in this blog (here), (here) and (here)...and those are just the posts I remember....but given the circumstances it is not surprising.

The European Union has given France a deadline for cleaning up its water, and sewage disposal is included in this programme.
Thus water boards have been sending out inspectors to see what's what and to force people with inadequate systems to upgrade them.

This has roused both opposition and emotion in rural areas where since the year dot we have been paying a tax on our water bills for the installation of mains drainage from which we do not benefit.

Further, the inspectors turned out to have
a) a hidden agenda in that  enough installations had to be found to be in good order to avoid the water board being obliged to install mains drainage
b) some very strange methods of assessing the installations in review.
Some people had them crawling about with phials of red and blue colourant, others could just give their word that their tank was O.K. and some were told that all was well when they didn't have a septic tank at all.

Assosciations were founded and started taking a strong line with authority...not a common phenomenon in rural France.
They decided that their adherents would be out when the inspectors called.
This resulted in the initial fee of 85 Euros being raised to 170 Euros when the inspectors came back, catching adherents on the hop.

Some more enlightened local authorities decided to bite the bullet and install mains drainage.....all very well until they looked at their budgets after the loss of the income from the Taxe Professionelle and the drain on resources of welcoming civil servants whose pay had been shifted from central to local government.
So some communes find that because the local authority had not scheduled putting in the mains before the end of 2010...when the service was free.....their inhabitants will be paying for the installation...despite paying for mains drainage already in their water bills since the year dot, as mentioned above.

The inhabitants affected are not totally happy with this state of affairs and are asking where the principle of equality comes in....they can ask away all they like, equality in France is limited to one of the words over the door of the Mairie.

But the poor inspectors are still doing their rounds in the unenlightened local authority areas and have come up with real opposition.
My correspondent in the village next to the one in which the incident took place tells me that they descended upon the property of an elderly couple and stated their intention of starting the inspection process.

The pensioners said

No they were not.

Yes they were.

No they were not.

Who's going to stop us?

The last reply was where they went wrong, it seems.

Roused to wrath by the defiance, hard words were exchanged, the way to the septic tank was barred and blows were exchanged.

The water board says that the pensioner slapped the inspector who then retaliated.

The village gossip says that the inspector threw a punch and the pensioner slapped the inspector.

Both sides have complained to the gendarmerie.

No septic tank inspection took place.

So far, pensioners 15,  inspectors love.

Why am I bothered about whether my septic tank has been inspected?

Because my keyholder does not live alongside the house and  if the inspectors turn up without his knowledge my neighbour is very likely to do a deal with them by which his total lack of sewage disposal will be certificated as being in the norms while mine won't be....even though it is.

This is, after all, France, where form is more important than substance and the figures have to be made up somehow.
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  2. So not like when I bought my house in Wales

    'It looks sound enough' I said

    'So you're not having a survey?' asked Jane

    'Just done it.' I said

  3. Eric Castelli, thank you. I will indeed take a look.

    Mark, if only it were a survey! The energy efficiency rules have been in place for new builds for a few years and then letting property was included...and now any property up for sale.
    Total con, just like the electricity inspection, the asbestos inspection and the death watch beetle inspection.
    I bought a property complete with its death watch beetle inspection access to which could only be gained by one doorway, securely fastened by a lock to which no key existed.
    And they didn't come down the chimney either....when I took possession and sawed off the lock there were no traces of footprints in the dust of ages.
    I do your sort of surveys, I think.

    The best one was the death watch beetle inspector who came with his apprentice.
    They spent a good deal of time discussing the main beam of the house, trying to decide what wood it had been made from.
    I eventually told them it was an RSJ covered in plasterboard and neatly made to look like wood by swirling and scoring marks in a mixture of glue and plaster, coloured with walnut stain.

  4. Is there a French equivalent for the phrase "money grubbing"? ;-)

  5. Well, not exactly...'rapacite' isn't heard in everyday life. 'Machine a sous' - a slot machine - is the nearest equivalent but whenever you see words like
    'solidarite', 'contribution' or 'participation' you can bet your bottom dollar there's money grubbing at work...

  6. Oh my, Fly! Remind me not to attempt property buying in France...

    Of course, if I told you all about the wee sinkhole problem here after purchasing this flat, and the loss of use of my home for nearly a year, and having to pay nearly $8000 for repairs after the board had spent a bit over two million in insurance proceeds and the money for repairs ran out, you might think me daft...

    I'm not, true story. Add to that that the board was directing what the contractor fixed and I had no control over any of the work on my residence, and what you have is something akin to what you're describing...

  7. e...not daft and can quite believe it.
    I wouldn't mind all this rigmarole so much if it were not so amateurishly done.
    All the equipment and no brains behind it.
    Just like your board....

  8. Another everyday story from rural France.

    You have to go through the rigmarole of all the inspections even when the house is brand new, as we had to when we sold the house we'd just built (cos of divorce).

    They searched for dry rot and termites too. Of course, it cost an arm and leg to have these useless inspections, yet more taking the financial piss out of ordinary people. Selling a house is an expensive business now!

    Mind you, so is building. I didn't know there was a building tax until it dropped through the door - 12,000FF (at the time).

    I agree that the only equality you'll find is written in stone.

  9. I start to see why people might burn down their houses for the insurance.

  10. Hey, Fly, are you sure that's all true? I've watched loads of programs on the telly about people moving here to "live the dream" and I can't remember them ever mentioning any of that. :D

  11. Sarah, Madeleine told me years ago that whenever you do something in France, someone always has to be paid....usually for doing nothing.
    Still at least I just missed the days when the notaire would stick to the money paid over by the seller for a couple of months....

    Pueblo girl, I suspect if I did it they would miraculously discover I had been using the wrong fuel in the boiler or something equally mad and refuse to cough up!

    nodamnblog, and such is the power of 'the dream' that people deny the existence of reality even when the bills are dropping on the doormat...

  12. I was just wondering and i got here, I really gt amazed by the blog. Very informaive and very helpfull thanks for providing the post. Hope that we will get more in future.

  13. Chjeap Hotels in Berlin, and I shall be looking for a discount when I visit!

  14. I'm always interested in crazy stories of angst and woe in France by expats on blogs, and it's got to the point now where I have started categorising them into totally genuine without any angle, resigned but still seeing the funny side, and exaggerating greatly never having tried to fit into the local community and just going for cheap laughs. I'm not putting yours in the last category :-)

  15. Sab, what's crazy about angst and woe?
    I worry about the ones who just pay up regardless and don't ask questions!
    I know what you mean about categorising blogs on France though...though my categories differ from yours.

  16. we were supposed to have an inspection before our new fosse was installed, but when we arrived at the Mairie to arrange it and told them who was installing it, (a local village guy) the planned inspection was waived - "oh, he knows what he's doing, forget it then" so I do hope it is up to all regulation, or I guess it was for the first month it was installed.

  17. Roz, par for the course. You should be all right for the next five years.

  18. When they came to inspect our fosse we didn't actually know where it was. I spent hours with the SPANCman and his long bit of metal prodding the ground in suitably hopeful spots but to no avail. In the end he left without finding it. 18months later a report arrived saying it was of 'faible nuisance' to the local environment! I must admit to feeling very depressed after reading about all the inspections that have to be carried out now. I don't think there will be anything left when we eventually sell it :(

  19. My flat is infested with Death Watch Beetle, it drove me mad in the Spring as the little beggars were tapping out their merry tune constantly, night and day. My Landlord refuses to do a thing, so, I am currently searching for different accommodation. I can't bear to go through that again.

    Obviously a lot of the inspections get passed with a backhand, of course, rather like some of the kitchens I've seen that are NOwhere near European norms.

    Oh well, France is rather where I choose to be, right now. And I know that no place is perfect, it's all about being comfortable with the level of corruption you have to deal with day to day. Well, for me at least.

  20. P(V)LiF, know how you feel....
    I wouldn't mind so much if it served any useful purpose.

    If any child wants to gnaw the skirting board and get through four layers of paint then it deserves lead poisoning.

    And as for asbestos...well, that's one thing we don't have anywhere...the house is older than asbestos!
    But we'll be paying anyway....

  21. Kitty, so glad you're blogging again!

    I decided that France wasn't where I wanted to be any more...for various I've exchanged the death watch beetle for assorted scorpions and tarantulas....which left in disgust once we took up full time residence.

    I hope you find somewhere good to live...there seems to be a lot of British owned rental property about at the moment...

  22. This just underlines, highlights, and boldfaces my earlier resolution to never own property again...particularly here in France. Yikes! I did just receive my taxe d'habitation bill however. Let's see, I turn on my television about 6 times per year, for no longer than an hour at a time, and I'm paying 121 euros a year for the privilege. It's not a sewage system but.....

    What's dry lining anyway?

  23. Delana, and just try telling them you don't have a TV set!

    We didn't have one for a number of years and when we did go to buy one our Turkish builder told us to be sure to buy it in an assumed name to avoid the tax....

    Then they just lumped it in with the taxe d'habitation...

    Dry lining is where you put up walls inside the walls of your house...I think it's because the French don't know what a damp course is..