In need of property advice

Hello All, I have been reading SFN articles for about 6 months and really enjoyed most of the posts. For the last 7 years I have owned an apartment in the old town of Nice. I used to work down there as a private chef in the villas and super yachts. I have a lady who works for the Estate agent who I bought the property through who looks after the long term rental of the property.

The property rented out really quickly and for almost 4 years I had good tenants who unfortunately had to move away for work. The property was rented out again to a family, the agent said that they were getting some financial help from the government to pay the rent but she thought it was okay so I went along with it. It all went okay for almost a year then the agent said the tenant was having difficulties the rent was paid intermittently then stopped all together. This is where the nightmare begins, for the last 2/3 years I have had no rent paid. Eventually we started proceedings to get the family removed but they knew how to play the system so they have been living rent free all this time. So the the agent sends me a message that I owe €2500 to the lawyers/bailiffs who managed to get them out. I asked about the property she says that she is going round to view it last Monday. Tuesday I get an email stating that the property had been left in a very, very bad state, bin loads of rubbish, rats, insects and graffiti all over the walls. One of the toilets is unusable, the bath blocked and the tenant has diverted the communal electricity supply of the building through the apartment as that has been cut off. I know this sounds like a bad joke but it is very real. I ring up a friend of mine ( painter and decorator) from the old days and ask him to go round. He rings me at 8:30 am next morning telling me it is as bad as the agent is saying he said he would do the whole place for €12,600.

So the advice I would like other than the one that I have been SO SO STUPID!!!!!!! I am left with a huge bill for the legal, another huge bill for the plumber and electrician (who knows how much) and then a whooping bill for the decor. I do not have any insurance to fall back on ( I know STUPIDITY again) Do I have any come back with the agents????? Can I get in touch with the prefecture and will they care???? I just don't think chasing the tenant will work they have gone but they still have no money or work. to make matters worse I am very busy at work here in England and cannot go over at the moment, so I am at the mercy of the agent. What is to be done....................?

Good point about the agent, because they should really have checked to see if they had Locataire Insurance and it is usually written in to the tenants contract that they have it. It really sounds like the agent is potentially playing on what they think is ignorance on your part. I am sure that the agent must have some sort of legal responsibility. Did they follow all the rules that they should have? If they are a reputable agent, They must have some sort of code that they follow. Maybe they think you know nothing and therefore will not challenge?

I dont know where you stand legally as I had somewhat similar problem with some tenants in my house (which I have now moved back into). It cost me nearly 1500 eruos to get it back to what it was and more to replace taken goods. However why not advertise for someone to decorate who wants a working holiday there - only a thought. Of course you will have to pay to get plumbing heating sorted unless the tenant is a builder also. Also holiday lets is good - just advertise to find reliable people who will look after the place for you.

Also do you know anyone around that could sort the place out for you for a small!! fee if you are busy in england I do help people in a somewhat similar role here and if you were nearer would be happy to do so. Dont despair - I dont think you will get anywhere with prefecture, but try the agents surely they have some insurance for such things.

Good luck

The only thing with the insurance for gites is that realistically it will only pay for legal costs to try and get them out, it will not pay for any damage. Ours is with AXA and they have clearly stated this. I asked, 'well what are we paying for', which their reply was, the legal costs and your public liability. They have said that they would pursue the tenants travel insurance to reclaim costs, which is why we, now ask the renter for the details of their travel policy and in ask for it to be in place in our terms and conditions. No one has objected to this and we are fully booked and have had no problems. Otherwise,you are left totally wide open to large repair costs etc...

Hi Keith, if your agent was charging you a monthly fee from rent or for managing your property then they are responsible if they allowed a tenant in on a social agreement. If a property is rented to someone where the rent is paid by the social then they issue a rental agreement signed by tenant and agent , this does have some come backs on tenant in legal terms and is recognised by French law. The name on the utilities should have been changed to the tenant , which obviously wasn't done , if it had been, which is correct procedure, then you would not be liable for electricity costs ! If you have anything in writing from this agent then try and get it together and seek legal advise. If however it was just a private arrangement with this lady who works for the agent and no contract for letting in place-----You haven't a hope of recovering much at all, but it is worth seeking professional advise just to make sure. Good Luck

Just heard the white van mob disappeared shortly before lunch. They emptied the chemical toilet into the swimming pool, sprayed the walls with anti-ownership slogans, wrecked the furniture and stole the two containers of gas for cooking. I've not seen it but just hearing what the man from nearby who had rubbish dumped in his field said, the place seems a total write off until thousands are spent refurbishing it.

Same with all social benefits and laws to protect the vulnerable - there will always be people out there who will take advantage out of greed rather than need. Luckily most people are decent and honourable, but if your income is dependant on them being so (such as tenants), then you need to be careful because there doesn't seem to be a way of checking people's credit here as there is in other countries (or is there?).

My advice is to vet them and don't be afraid of asking them awkward questions. If they are above board then it won't be a problem for them - are they local (less likely to act badly in their home town if it's a small one), do they have family around them (more support if things go wrong), are they employed and working (if they want to view in work hours need to ask them why/what contract do they have/are they in a probationary period etc), are they desperate to move in quickly (always spells trouble for me), use your gut feel; if it feels wrong it probably is - gauge their behaviour not what they say - get a guarantor (unless they are earning net income well above 3x the rent), get proof of where they were living before (bills, fonciere, attestation de habitation) and quittances de loyer from previous landlord, take out insurance against unpaid rent/damage (if you can afford it) etc.

Treat it like you're interviewing them for a job - it's not personal, it's just business. Be friendly but professional at all times and remember if you give them an inch they WILL take a mile. They will not respect you and you won't respect yourself, if you give in to something you feel is wrong and NEVER rent to someone just because you feel sorry for them - you'll end up being more than sorry.

I always do the first viewing, but only after I've checked they have the right credentials so that means I ask on the phone or email about their work, salary, pets etc. Then after the viewing, if I don't have the right feeling or want to think it over, then I'll say we're waiting for feedback from another prospective tenant (which sometimes is the case)or I'll say that my husband will have the final say and that can avoid an ugly confrontation!

Take your time and find a decent tenant. I always find that those who are polite and maybe say "désolé de vous déranger" on the phone when they ring up about your advert are always the best tenants! So far. Had some horrible emails where they just use text language - don't even answer those. If they can't be bothered or are not able to write a polite, proper email to a potential landlord, what does it say about their respect for me or my flat?

Something needs to change here, it's a terrible thing for you to have to face.

It does seem as if the french law is unfairly allowing destructive, avoidant, fraudulant people to take advantage of the system which I understand has evolved / designed to protect tenants from slum landlords, which has been traditionally a HUGE issue here. Many many more people rent here than in the UK and huge numbers of them do get unfair treatment by owners, with extreme rents for dangerous, unsanitary,& cold living conditions..

I also wanted to speak up for the millions of good tenants who need help paying their rents from the CAF, due to low wages, part time work,unemployment, disability or self employment. We have been renting from a French landlord for 3 years and have never missed a payment, despite having a twentieth of the income we had when we moved in.

I don't want this scenario to put people off from renting to genuine people. There are still more of us than those you have sadly come across.

Hey! if you feel like selling up and getting good tenants again, we are looking for a rental in Poitiers!

Can understand your disinclination Keith....we bought a flat in the Languedoc...not far from a beach...with all the comforts of a holiday let...and initially it was our first home in we use it for our holidays at the has to earn its keep. We found a great couple via SFN who do our handovers....its hassle far as that is concerned, and it is paying for itself at the moment. We chose to manage our own bookings but there are companies out there that you hand the flat over to and they do the lot. Living or owning property in a foreign country is always a learning curve....sadly many of us learn by our experiences rather than research before we rush in. good luck in the future...

Barbara, thank you for your reply. Once I get back on track I will sort out some insurance

Carol, thank you very much for your reply. I'm not sure about the holiday let, who I would get to do the change overs, more hassle. I just wanted the quiet life pay the mortgage off, give somebody a decent home then this happens. It really does knock you flat.... scuse the pun!

A very close friend of mine, French and living at La Test rented unfurnished...many of us pleaded with

her to rent furnished as the owner has more legal power.

She had,, of course a three year contract....and she paid a percentage fee to the agent for managing

the property. Rent arrears began and all sorts of damages and demands for repairs started to be fired

at her.

She had a legal;insurance ....COSTS something like 50 euros a year but they really helped her identifying how

she stood within the law. The animosity and stress was huge.

She had to establish that she was going to sell the property OR live in it herself ......... and give the Locatuer....SPELLING? first option to buy.

It is sad when you hear of people taking advantage of others and making their live's a misery.

We all make mistakes ....It is really not easy to be perfect.
Lets hope that all goes really well from now on.

So sorry to hear this......and like Brian...can only sympathise.....and comment...this isnt the UK.....or at least...this is like the UK was 15 - 20 years ago...when this could happen with no comeback.... This is the reason many folks wont rent out in as the owner....lose all control. For some inexplicable reason...the law is all on the side of the tenant and it seems they can wreck, ruin and refuse to pay rent....and get clean away.....

As your flat is in Nice...can I suggest once you have sorted out this rent the premises as a holiday will make more money and not risk any of the problems you have renting out long term.... Thoughts are with you...hope you sort this out soon...

Amazing... here its 30 days max. In NYC it might have taken a year max.... makes me re-think renting a place.

Easy done, it seems, so apart from the consequences don't feel you are the first or last to walk into that fine mess. Follow Simon's advice and if ANYTHING can be done that may be where you'll find it.

He might have just not wanted the work I think

Chris, you might as well cast your question to the wind. With the gite nearby the whole neighbourhood is asking very similar questions and the people with two gites, but living in a connected house, about 100 metres from the occupied one have asked their lawyer the same. He does not know why either.

Thank you Brian I feel so stupid but with the first 4 years being so easy I was just too busy in England to really think about it but I will surely now pay for my sloppy attitude

Is it really that common to have difficulty like this with French tenants? Why does it take 3 years to evict?

Thank you Kate, I have a day off tomorrow so I will try and follow these good suggestions up