Crazy Client - do you think there is something we should do?

Thank you Catharine, I will do that. In the meantime I'd like to help anyway, specially since I have 23 years of "surviving in France" and much relevant experience dealing with the in and outs of the French construction industry, devis and artisans, mostly as a project manager.

Tim; she just signed and dated it but she did not put the signature in the relevant boxes just at the bottom of the Devis. No other words. Original Devis was 28 August and date de validité was 30 jours. She signed it on 19 october.

I like it David, it would have to be a bit of an untruth as he never gets stressed, its me who does that. Our one single problem client seems a breeze compared to what you have had to deal with.

Tim just leave the link on your SFN home page and direct any interested parties there - that way everyone is happy :slight_smile:

Tracy, and Robert, It is the most accurate piece of information posted so far and I am trying to help here, which is what I also do for a living. I am hoping that Jayne Warner will answer my post with the information on the signature then I will be able to help her further. Almost all contracts in France have to be preceded by the handwritten "Bon pour accord" which is the signatory confirming that they are legally able to sign the contract. When I have that information, and the dates which are also important, I will post the relevant links, which are from the French Code Civil. And yes I will post a photo as soon as I can find one where my eyes aren't closed or my tongue hanging out!

Your Husband is most likely within his rights unless she claims a verbal contract from his side and then it may get tricky.
To pre-empt this your Husband needs to write her a formal letter with proof of delivery. The letter should state, in a business like way, that she acted in a number of ways.
eg. Blamed him for EDF outage…refused him entry…demonstrated insecurity so that any sane man would think twice about entering her house in case he was blamed for other things.

Was actually hoping for the link to the French text text it was translated from. I already checked out the site and was discretely trying to ignore it as it was done in subtle terms ;o). However, now it's been mentioned I'm sure Catharine or James will be along to zap it. Shame though as it seems to be the most accurate piece of information we've received so far and would love to see the original text as it gels with what I understand of a French devis. Maybe it could be edited to still leave the very useful answer?

Tracy, the link you seek is to Tim's own you still want it? ;o)

Great reply Tim on what defines the devis contract in France, which is where we are talking about after all, please could you send the french link where you found the info for confirmation. Any chance you could upload your photo so we know who we are speaking with:-)

Not sure about the French legal position but if your husband's offer was accepted in writing that may make a contract. However in the UK most offers are time limited in the industry, due to inflation, increasing taxes and increasing materials costs. If there was a big delay it may be possible to get out. It's important to differentiate between an "estimate" and an "offer". According to my dictionary a devis is an estimate, but it may be a good idea to check with a Chamber of Commerce.

In the UK we had a few difficult (some very difficult) clients over the years. As professional architects we had to be very careful, and on several occasions we ended up making huge losses on projects because the client was incapable of making decisions, or of attending meetings other than very early, or very late, or over the weekend. I had one client who sent me several pages of faxes every day, was abusive to my staff, and told me at the end that he had thought he could break me but hadn't managed (won't give his name as he is a famous suer). I had one lady client who turned out to be a serial victim, told untruths about her financial resources, and then tried to sue me for misinforming her. Several clients used to set up situations so they could avoid paying fees. One ran away doing a round the world yacht race but I had baillifs waiting to impound his yacht in Florida and he then paid immediately! A few went to prison. One disappeared flying solo over the Channel.

One thing I would say is if he tarts the job I would confirm everything in writing. I am not sure that I have ever met a "Stress Consultant" but if they are like some psychiatrists? There is often extreme tension between a home owner and trades men that's why it's often best to have an architect or surveyor in between.

Maybe you should just tell her that he can't start because your husband is suffering from stress?!v It would appear that he is!

As a subscriber I checked this out for you with the bilingual helpline. The devis is a contract between the parties. Your husband does not have to sign it because the devis itself, properly formulated on headed business paper, is his half of the contract. he is offering to do the stated work.

However, there are some important points to check:

1.The devis should have mentioned a period of validity, usually on month from the date on the devis. Did your husband's devis state this?

2. You say she phoned well over a month after the date of the devis and your husband gave an 'oral' agreement to do the work and gave a start date. This is also a contract, albeit oral, between the parties though difficult to enforce in law.

3. Most importantly however, when she returned the devis signed does it have: Her full signature, the date she signed AND the words "Bon pour accord" in her handwriting? To be a valid contract it must have these three elements.

If these handwritten words are not present then the devis is not legally binding on your husband.

That's a very interesting point Robert and would love to know the answer. I am under the impression it does but do not know definitively - any one know the French law?

Actually Shirley, that is the point, if a 'devis' has been signed both sides are obliged to complete their side of it. That is why, quite rightly, Jayne is trying to find out her legal obligations and options.

poor woman

Just out of interest, if no Terms and Conditions are offered at the time of Devis being signed, does a default set of T&C's come into effect. I.E. does the Chambre de Metiers have a recognised standard?

If they do, them getting hold of a copy may prove useful. It may well cover "unreasonable" behaviour by either side for example...just a thought

That was the whole point of the post Nick. We do not want or need someone like this. He was not going to start the job after that so I needed to know what would be the worst case scenario, just in case she was a professional at this sort of thing.

Most of our French clients are through recommendation and she wasnt, which indicated to me that she had exhausted her local artisans and was trying an English one who did not know about her. I felt she might not have paid too.

Patrick, I agree. And now I am prepared with paperwork at the ready should we hear anything.

Shirley, UK law does not apply over here. A Devis is an offer of goods and/or service at a fixed price. It is considered to be the contract, and once accepted & signed (within the terms and conditions of the offer) by the client it is legally binding and you are obliged to provide the goods and/or services offered. In a similar manner, the client who has accepted the offer is obliged to pay the amount quoted in the manner stipulated in the terms and conditions.

It is also obligatory that a copy of your standard terms and conditions are provided with the Devis.

Jayne, In this particular instance, there is no point drawing attention to the situation by going to any authorities, because the first thing she will do is come after you. If she is not complaining at this stage better to let sleeping dogs lie, and on the very slim chance that she decides to complain, just be ready with the appropriate reason for not continuing the works.

Remember this is France, and if you stir up a hornet's nest, expect to get stung !

Do you really need a client like that ? Is it likely she'll ever pay for the work ?!

Shirley, I agree, I will not let him touch it. Just wanted to protect him from her.

No Ron, I would not let my husband do the job. There are far too many risks and we need to earn a living. This is one that is better to walk away from.

I am sure her neighbours and other people around her are far more duty bound than an electrician doing a one off job to notify the appropriate people. And I see no reason at all that just because of her condition he should do it at cost, that is just ridiculous. Anyway I have received plenty of good suggestions from SFNers and I will leave it at that. We would never see eye to eye on this one.