Image by New York Public Library via FlickrI 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 him.....to 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 overseas....it looks like the wealth tax...Impot de Solidarite sur la Fortune.....is 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.