No idea where to turn

Bit of a long one, so, apologies

In July 2012 we purchased an isolated old farm house up in Ain. Due to its location etc (and the mairie refusing to cash up to supply electricity to the tiny commune..) in rder to live here, we had to install solar panels for power, and solar heating panels and a cuisiniere for hot water and heating.
We, of course, met with several companies and awaited their quotes. We then chose a company, did all the usual FAQ's, are you insured? yes. Decinal? Yes. Are the installers your employees, or are they contractors? No, no, they work for me, they're not contractors.. Two week installation, due to commence September 19th 2012
In total, the cost was around the 54k mark, we paid 23k upfront for materials etc.

So september 18th we get a call, we cant start tomorrow... deep breath;;;
They started the work in october, and within a day or two my wife was concerned. Tiles were being left off over night (in the rain), broken tiles we in place... i shall just point out now that the roof was in perfect condition before their arrival
So, although we had many discussions with the guy regarding our concerns, yes, yes, it will be done today or tomorrow..

Pipes were leaking, new fittings were rusted within days (??!), roof tiles, broken surrounding the brackets that secured the panels to roof and at this point the two week installation started in oct was now the back end of november.
Throughout all of the installation, my wife repeated on several occassions to the installers and the owner, that no further payments would be made until the system worked as it should, the installation was to our satisfaction and all damages repaired...
All over christmas and new year 2012 the weather was horrendous, my wife was house bound unable to leave due to all the leaks, someone had to be there 24/7 in order to catch and empty all the leaks. We had water running down our lights, walls, lintels, ceilings bulging..
So we decided to get out a huiser to note the damage and send a copy of the report to the company ( who at this point were saying, there were no issues, and they were satified with the installation..

In January 2013 we agreed for them t come out and repair the broken roof tiles and leaks. They fixed half of them. But obviously there was the other half and still all the leaking pipework etc. So we made a payment to him for the section of work they had 'repaired'... within a week, everything was broken again and we could see properly why. The brackets had been placed unevenly, ranging from 100cm to 170cm.. Mre leaks, worse than last time.
Within days of having made this payment we received a court letter for non payment!
So, to cut a long story short, a court appointed expert has compiled a report (taken from jan 2013 until december 2013 to complete??!)
During this investigation, his employees are infact contractors. The company we employed have NO insurance what so ever, and what he does have dos not cover the type of business he is doing..
We have now discovered after MAAF the contractors insurance have aggreed to the repairs, damages, compensation in general... the insurance was not actually paid for and infact they have not been insured since 2011...
We are left with no hot water or heating (living in the alps) since February 2013, a leaking roof, and a solar system that gets minimal charge as the wiring is inverted
Our solicitor wants us to pursue him personally for his assets and have him arrested, criminal damage, no isurance etc etc..
I have no idea how we are going to repair this ourselves.. It was quoted to cost 44k to repair, i have around 12k spare..
Do you think its worth pursueing him?
Do you think our house insurance can help with the repairs?
Advice- even if you're shown an insurance certificate, it means nothing.
The french system is a joke
If anyone has any useful advice please offer it ha

Exactly, what is the point in any of it, if there is no punishment for not following the rules?
During the installation I warned them over and over again, if the system isnt running and the problems resolved, there will be no further payment, and i will be contacting the consuateurs...

He really didnt gve a crap
Still doesnt give a crap and neither does the french system.
Everyone keeps telling me, oh you should have checked the certificates of insurance- I saw them, it said they were covered, what more is a person supposed to do? call up the insurers and double check? Well the insurers took 6 months to realise there was no coverage lol, so that wouldnt have helped either ha...
Ah, its just all so ridiculous
The other issue, is that I should have been able to claim around 15k back from my installation via the credits des impots... but i have no receipts.. wondering if, at the very least, court can issue me with some kind of documentation to cover this. doubt it
I think your idea is great, and i really appreciate your efforts.
I will get a letter written out (after i find out if he has assets of course!)

Thanks very much Doreen, I will look at this when i get home, phone is playing up at the moment. I really appreciate you bothering to even look

Thanks very much, I need to see my avocat again, our last appointlent when he told me about the decinal being unpaid, and the liabilty insurance not corresponding with his buisness..
I really couldnt get my head around it all... now i have so many questions.
His insurance certificate says that he is some kind of metal cutting business.. nothing to do with renewable energy.. so therefore invalid...

Cynthia - why indeed? About ten years ago I investigated opening a branch of our Australian company here in France to handle European Business. The procedures were simply farcical, and incomprehensible. I visited the Chambre de Commerce and was advised that before anything else I would be required to take a Course in Marketing (in French) to 'prove' I was worthy of running the business. I would also be required to pay some 2000 euros (or maybe it was francs at the time, I can't quite remember).

When I pointed out the intention was to employ French people and that I was also a current (checkable ) Professor of Marketing for European Business Schools in Brussels (MBA & BBA) perhaps this element was superfluous - other than my French was not the best, I was told in no uncertain terms that it 'must be done'.

When we also checked up on the direct taxation, indirect taxation, labour laws, Social Charges and all the rest, we decided against the whole proceedings and still do our business out of Australia.

Now I am part-retired and still live in and love France, but I have never regretted not doing business here. The horror stories mount up at all levels, from the sheer bureaucratic nightmare, to the thuggish Trade Unions are now known worldwide and hardly encouraging for France to any investor considering Europe as a base of operations.

In my experience now of working in other EU countries like Britain, Belgium, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and working WITH Spanish, Polish and Czech companies, France simply doesn't even enter the equation. It's also next to impossible to get a print quote here - stunning!

As these postings show, even with all the nonsense surrounding small business here, there are no protections in reality. I haven't checked the French figures, but in most countries it is a fact of life that SME's account for more employment (collectively) than even the bigest companies (collectively). This doesn't seem to register here.

It is a tragedy but I have yet to see any politicians of any persuasion ready, able or even willing to turn this around. Yes, I have heard the words often enough, but still no action.

More in sorrow than in anger - but I can understand how those involved can be totally frustrated and dispirited.

You'll be hard pressed to find an installation company of renewable energy through word of mouth in France, especially if you are planning on being off grid. You have to ensure that the correct tests are done, altitude, sun movement, snow, etc etc for exact location (even though ours was done, and i provided him with the exact gps coordinates, he still managed to do it for a location 25 minutes away..!)
As I have previously said, if you are hiring a company, I have since found out that there are only 5, yes 5, registered as professional installers.. and obviously the price will reflect this..
Also, join as many off grid forums as you can (there is too much advice out there from people not living off grid, only dreaming of it) until you speak to people who are doing it or have experience of it, its all very rose tinted
There is a really good group on FB, but it is mostly american, so suppliers etc dont really help, but the general ideas and suggestions are good. Good luck to you!

Yes, well, you never know what Karma (natural or not) may bring his way in the near future.
The thing that gets me, is that he is a complete p**** and a total coward, my wife scared him, i really dont know where he got the b*lls to do this to so many people..

Ricky, I am led to believe it is very hard to ride a Motorcycle with either a broken arm or leg? Just a thought..............?

Yes, there seem to be a heap of folk like Ricky who have come up against unscrupulous bandits; we can only hope that everyone gets what they deserve. Unfortunately, it's somewhat less satisfying if you don't get to see some of the less-worthy get what they deserve... ;-)

I think word-of-mouth recommendations are often the most sensible when seeking reliable tradesmen. I hope you find the right sort of help when you eventually arrive.

Thank you Kent, yes manchester is still grey and wet and I will seriously look into free standing systems as would like a shot at self-sufficiency, feel so sorry for Ricky, even after researching well we are still open to villains, who are we to trust or are we to simply ‘skill up’ and DIY?


Yes, I actually found that we do have cover on our bank account, but only when months (and money) already in.
I would advise anyone that doesnt already have it, get it!
Although my solicitor is a smallish town one, he seems to exceed our coverage, so we have that to cover. I have contacted our insurance to ensure that if i pursue this, to sue and criminal we are covered.. hopefully

so sorry to hear of your problems. i cannot offer any real advice but check to see if you have "assurance jurudique" - this is something I h pay for each month through my bank. I believe it is designed to assist in just these situations

good luck


Thanks. I really dont think the mairie will give two hoots to be honest.. ive already gone further than they can into court, and if the mairie were prepared to help, the commune would already have electrcity and all of this would never have happened, but hey ho..
The only other thing I have recently thought about is after we had bought the place, and we had our plans in via an architect, we found out that the house is of registered historical interest... i wonder if maybe some kind of grant to help, even if minimal, to repair damages..
The only other human living in the commune does have some kind of status in the mairie... perhaps she can investigate further

Thanks for the offer Annie, I fear the drive from the Alps may be a tad too far :)

Ha, way to sugar coat it Norman! ;p
Yeah, well, he is a well thought of motorcycle champion... we'll see..
Its already taken all my calm and nice talk to keep my family and huge polish friends away from him.
Either way, he will get his

OMG! you poor things, I also have no real suggestions other than go for the jugular! Stop him doing this to some one else. I think Anne-Marie's advice is good, go to the Mairie, always a good first stop shop.

Keep us up to date, let us know practical stuff we cna do......showerss, meals, bed for the night, bit of TLC..........???

From my ancient platform, I can only agree with others who said 'how ever hard - bite the bullet' and accept you have been done like a dog's dinner, trussed up like a chicken and spat out by the crooks. Want to chase it legally, well look past the natural huge aggravation and insult that it all implies, and seriously consider how much it will cost to pursue it.

Elsewhere I have explained how I had to do this in the UK multiple years ago, when the amount in current terms would now have exceeded your €50,000. Hard to accept, of course, but the costs to be incurred in the fond and spurious hope that 'the Law will sort it out' is quite simply naive. OK the lawyers will be there rubbing their hands with glee at your efforts, and they WILL make the effort knowing that YOU will still have to pay for everything, no matter what the judgement is.

You are quite simply in a moral right, and practical 'no win' situation. Nobody likes it, but that's life - the crims. are always with us.

Probably (and I have seriously considered establishing this) there should be a Debt Collection Agency as I used in Australia, who were shall we say, somewhat robust in their methods - a percentage of recovered debt was a great incentive!

It is not French, British or Hindustani - these scumbags are everywhere, and as I also pointed out thanks to the 'Human Rights' crap we are subjected to, they will ALWAYS get away with it. Broken arms and legs can be a MAJOR disincentive.

End of Old Fart's rant of the day!

We did use a french company, but the french people i have spoken to about all the problems, really are not surprised by them, and really dont seem to have any confidence in french tradespersons..

He will not be pursued criminally, unless I do it.. I have already had this explained to me via my avocat and the court appointed judge i paid for. Seems bonkers to me.
If I have to think of myself as being French, all my common sense would have to be thrown out of the window ;p
No he certainly is not in touch with reality it now seems. On one of the court visits, thankfully it was raining, when it came to the walk around part after talking and talking for four hours over the same details, the ar**h**e decided that he had another appointment and couldnt do the walk around at which point my wife lost her mind! Anyway they all entered the attic and barn, it was like standing under a waterfall... leaks everywhere, dripping, tricking, running... The expert turned to him and asked, do you still feel that this is a satisfactory installation M.?... why yes of course. At this point all persons including his own avocat rolled their eyes and looked at each other like is this a set up?? He is mentally ill??
To be honest, the emailing and txt msgs were from my wife purely because it was easier for her than talking with him on the phone... it has helped no end though in this matter to prove numerous things.

My wife (and family) is Swiss and with my bro-in-law building a little summer house in the mountains saw how often it was inspected, which does not happen at all here. He did most of the work but had to use contractors for some things and their work had to be signed of by an inspector before it was OK-ed and he paid. That, unfortunately, is a dream for us.

Yes a Judge can do that - as I said yesterday it shouldn't be up to you. Try to think yourself into being french and ask the question - if I were french would I be expected to carry the costs of this? I think you'll find that the answer would be a resounding "Non".

Also do bear in mind that this fellow has no understanding of both french and european law.

Save everything - as with our problem people he doesn't seem to realise that text messages and emails are acceptable as evidence in court in Europe.