Rental problems in France with UK resident landlord

Hello everyone reading on this discussion.

Thank you SFN for a great webisite and knowledgeable community.

I joined SFN in the first place having been recommended to it by Finn - this was after I contacted him initially for some advice re french landlord housing problem in October 2012.

So having moved from the last problem rental last year, we find ourselves yet again with problems renting in France. I am posting this in the hope that some of you may have some idea or advice as to what to do in this situation.

At end of December 2012 we moved from last problem house to another house with a different but sadly and somehow similarly dishonest french landlady and again had problems. So we moved from there six weeks later in February 2013 into the house we currently inhabit.

We have been here for eight months. This time the landlord is absent living in the uk and is english. We moved in and gave the agent acting for the landlord our cheques for first months rent plus one months deposit. She, the agent, was supposed to come around with a regular french contract for us to sign. However, once we had moved in, the english landlord then said that they wouldn't sign a french contract but wanted us to sign their self created typed out contract which was in english. For a further two months this went on with us asking for a proper french contract and they refusing. Finally in April, two months after we had taken possession, now stressed out as we still had no rental contract, we felt we had no choice but to agree to sign a contract dictated by them but which was in english and now, at our request, also translated into french. It was for 12 months tenure which ends next february 2014. It stated that we had to pay the electric bills and the rent each month and that the contract could be terminated with one months notice by either side. We didn't want to sign this but felt blackmailed into signing it seeing as we had already been living in the house for two months. We also noted that the contract omitted the landlords address in the UK and they refused to give it to us in spite of us requesting it. We had the contract countersigned and dated by the french lady who was the acting agent for the uk resident landlord. The contract was apparantly sent to the UK, counter signed by the landlord/lady and then sent back to us. We have this with original signatures. The agent continued to collect our rental cheque each month. Each month she told us how clean the house is and how good the garden looked and how well we were looking after the property.

All was fine until people suddenly started to arrive to view the property. Turns out that the house was up for sale at the local agencies.We were not told that they were coming - they just turned up. We think that the estate agents were not told that there were tenants but were told that we were there as holiday visitors and weren't staying long term. We let people into view as we didn't want to cause any trouble. When we discussed all of this on the phone with the landlady (its an english couple) she told us that the house wouldn't sell in this dreadful housing market and that the house had been up for sale for the previous 3 years and had had only 2 viewings. I pointed out to her that, if the house did sell, it could take several months for us to find another suitable house. She said of course and that she would give us several months notice to quit in the event of a buyer being found. She promised that she would never ever tell us that we had to go within a month. So we had signed their contract, paid the rent each month by cheque to her agent here in france, took good care of the property and the garden and all was quietish.

For some reason, back in the summer, the landlords agent changed from the very nice french lady living up the road to an english chap living 2kms away. He has been collecting the rent cheque etc.. each month and letting us know when people are coming to view the property. He continually told us that the house wouldn't sell, it required too much work etc.. etc.. He also told us that the landlord is in deep financial doo-doo and that if the house didn't sell by next March 2014 then the landlord would lose it - to someone who made a bridging loan in england to stop the bank in france repossessing the house! We don't know how much, if any of this, is true.

Two days after yet another chat with afore said landlords agent telling us how the house will never sell, we suddenly received a letter sent lettre recommandee which had been sent from our local village. It was apparently from the UK but had no address of sender on it, nor had it been posted out in the UK. We received it on 16 september even though it was dated august 29th. It said that we had to vacate the premises by the 15th October (so in effect 29 days notice). We were to continue to pay the rent (which we already had done on the 5th of September) and that our deposit would be returned unless deductions were made for any damages (there aren't any damages). It said that if we didn't vacate by October 15th, that they the landlord would take all legal action to get us evicted.

Since then, the landlords agent who lives in the nearby village from where the letter was posted, has admitted that he himself posted the letter to us. He says that the landlord emailed a copy to him. I then asked him if he printed it out, signed it for the landlord and then posted it to us? He insisted that he had not signed it but it was a genuine signature by the landlord and he had merely posted it locally. We however have good reason and potential evidence which leads us to believe that the agent has been signing for everything all along including our original rental contract and rental receipts and that it is not the genuine signature of the landlord even though the signature is in the name of the landlord.

Also, since receiving the letter, we have discovered that there is an offer on the house and that this is the reason for the letter asking us to leave. This is not mentioned in the letter in which there is no stated reason for asking us to vacate. Nor is there any mention of the house being up for sale on our rental contract.

We have requested the landlords address from the agent. There has been no address forthcoming. We cannot reply to the landlord by registered letter as we have no address to reply to. We only have the landlords landline number in the UK and his email address.

We have read comments on another discussion which says that normal mail can be sent online. First question I think is, if anyone can advise us please, can we send an online registered letter by email to the landlord?

Since we received the letter from the landlord and/or his agent, we have been looking for another suitable house to rent but have so far been unsuccessful. I should add here that this is our primary house and that we do not have a house in the UK or anywhere else or any other accomodation. My OH is currently on sick leave as he is undergoing treatment for a serious works injury and had another operation just the day after we received the letter to vacate. We have called the landlord's agent here in france several times - to ask him to collect the rent for October - but he has not come round nor returned our calls. We have not received our receipts for the last two months rent from the landlord but have taken receipts from the agent who collected our cheques. The agent promised me that he would ask for the receipts from the landlord as well as giving us their address but nothing so far. We are pretty sure that the landlord and wife are not declaring our rental income in france. We think that potentially they don't want to give their address in the UK due to things like french tax avoidance or due to owing money maybe to a french bank here. We can only summise as we have no absolute knowledge.

We can prove we have paid our rent every month until now as we have always paid monthly by cheque made out to the landlords name. Our bank can produce the copies of our cheques having been cashed and also state who cashed them.

The landlord insisted on the electric and water staying in their name. We have paid the bills (agent gave us receipt for payment of water and electric) and asked in the past few months by email whether it would be easier, simpler and better to put the bills into our names. We received no reply to our email.

So next question is: what do we do?!!

We have no way to pay the rent for October 5 to November 5. The agent doesn't come to collect and we have no address to send it to.... and anyhow are loath to pay a cheque without receiving some kind of receipt for our cheque. Will the landlord be able to try to claim that we are not paying the rent and therefore can evict us? But we cannot pay the rent for the aforementioned reasons.

We are again left stressed, upset and in limbo.

Finn, can you give us any advice please? Does anyone have any idea as to what we can do in this position. We are living in terror that if we go out one day we may return to find that the landlord or his agent had turned up whilst we were out, break into the house, put all our belongings is just horrible. We don't trust the french police to assist us in that event as we are english and don't think the french police will bother as we are not french.

Yet again we have problems with renting in france and we have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to rent peacefully and happily in this country......Back in the UK before coming to france, rented a house for 10 years, never had a problem and became firm friends with the landlord who was always decent. He wasn't french by the way...

For those who are experiencing difficulties with their french rental whether now or have done in the past, please know that it seems to be a normal course of events for tenants to beware in france. Probably why the french stop paying their rent and live rent free for ages before they leave. After our experiences we now don't blame them for withholding their rent. We have been advised by a friend who has lived and rented in france for over 12 years that we should just stop paying the rent and then we shall be in the winter time when a tenant cannot be evicted. We however want to pay our rent, we want to live here honourably and are happy to move once we find somewhere decent to move to. But we are here in this house with all our furniture and belongings and simply cannot just move out on 15 October (the letter gave us 29 days notice).

All we want is to rent a nice normal house which we can make into our home for the longterm time that we are there. We have moved three times in the past year and looks like we have to move again. It is simply making us unwell as well as being disruptive and very expensive for us each time we have to move. Are there no decent landlords out there?

Seems that the landlords are always asking for references from the tenants but we think that the landlords should provide references for themselves to the prospective tenants. We should be able to check up on the landlord just as much as the landlord wants to check out the tenant.

Any advice re our current predicament would be very much appreciated.

Thank you for reading this......

wow Paul....a man after my own heart!

Hang in there .Do not have sleepless nights .You have the entire weight of SFN members behind you .

Yes , look for other accomadation ,but do not be bullied by the present owners .

If you can find out who they are , they deserve to be dropped in the proverbial bigstyle.

Keep you chins up and keep smiling .You have right on your side !

haha....nice one Martin...well you have probably insulted the majority of the people on SFN with that comment! sorry...thats a joke....not all of us Brits are A**holes!

I would say that the first round of inny-outty with them about the contract should have been your warning and tell tale sign that something was amiss. I, given that situation, would have been out of there within a week, no matter how "homely" the place was starting to feel.
You stayed, you signed, and now you're stuck in a terrible situation. I would say ,but can not be sure, that your "contract" will hold no water in a courtroom, and that getting out of there as soon as possible is your only option. As has been said, they can't kick you out, over winter, so, if it's not an option right now, at least start looking for when you eventually DO leave. Fighting to stay in a hose that you are clearly not well in is not a good idea.

as a footnote, I will add that I (we) have never had hassle with renting here.... it's always been straightforward, and where we live now, we've been here 3 years, and the landlord is very reasonable, and is often asked to come in for Apero if we see him pottering around. The majority of people we know are happy with their homes/landlords.

I'm very sorry about it... but I'm not surprised... travelling around the world I always met people who hates British people... I didn't understand why, till I worked 3 years in UK, I suffered deep discrimination... I met everyday British people very happy to manipulate me and people from abroad just for business...

I can only echo the advice given so far - and add that if you know which notaire is handling the potential sale, go directly to him/her with a copy of your "contract". A notaire cannot legalise a sale without making sure that any pre-emption rights have been exercised. I would suggest that where there is ambiguity as to the validity of a lease, as in your case, a notaire would (or should) also be reluctant to endorse the sale without further investigation.

P.S. You can also obtain the owner's full details by approaching the "service cadastre" at your tax office and giving the address and cadastral reference numbers (the mairie would have the reference numbers if you don't know them).

It did cross my mind as well, something does smell a bit strange. By law the owner pays Fonciere and the tenant habitation on the place they are resident in on the 1st January of that year.

taxe foncière is usually the landlord and taxe d'habitation is the locataire ;-)

Also one thing did cross my mind. Are the agent and the house owner/land-lord, one of the same person. And also who pays the taxe Foncier and Taxe de Habitation. Very fishy methinks.

There are also laws about selling property with tenants. My law knowledge is about 5 years out of date but it used to be that the tenants had to be notified by ARAR and if an offer is made on that property the tenants have first refusual to purchase the property, that too has to be made in writing ARAR. The tenants then have a set period of time to refuse ARAR.;jsessionid=16E645A3426221250F5494ABD83D5260.tpdjo01v_2?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006118906&cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000509310&dateTexte=20131013

Like others on here I don't believe your contract is legal which is a bit of double edged sword.
What would I do in your situation? Find an assitance social (ask for an appointment at the Marie) to help as your husband is off sick, get put on your communes housing list and keep looking, there are good landlords out there and I'm sure you'll find one. Good luck

PS......Save this months rent! use it for a deposit on the next house.

I know this might sound stupid, but so far all the advice you are receiving is excellent. There is a service at the Mairie called assistance juridique (ADIL), they can help you write the letter to the agent (as technically you have no idea who the landlord is). An English rental contract will not hold up in a French court of law. Furthermore, your landlord or agent has no right to let the prospective buyers view the property you rent, without first having informed you by LR!! You cannot be evicted, without first being informed of the prospective sale, and then the sale and should either have taken place, you should have been offered the right to buy as the sitting tenant (s). You took the property in good faith, paid your bills and the law does not allow you to be evicted ad hoc; particularly as the landlord or agent has in no way adhered to the 1989 tenancy law. You also cannot be evicted under the present circumstances without the authority of a judge sitting at the Tribunal. I would also report the agent and landlord via ADIL to the tax office, as quite clearly someone is ripping off the tax office, and that person is not you.

My only information on squatters in France is the opposite Melissa. We have heard of lots of instances where the squatters have stayed put for anything up to 3 years, with the Gendarmes unwilling to become involved. I think the cardinal rule with all rentals is to have everything in writing, all phone calls followed up with written confirmation, and all emails saved. Nothing, ever, should be accepted on a handshake or word of mouth, doesnt stand up in court.

Amanda, yours sounds a horrendous saga when all you are after is a roof over your heads and peace. We have heard stories of how squatters can be evicted immediately by the heavy hand of the local gendarmerie, but that it is almost impossible to evict paying tenants, particularly in winter.

Our only experience with a tenancy was when our daughter was helped and given a room for rent in a shared flat, by a kindly landlady in Toulouse who turned out to be a bit crazy; so when our clean, tidy, conscientious 20 year old student daughter left after giving required notice the woman refused to give her back her deposit - no explanation at all in written or verbal form. Without expensive recourse to an avocat the money was gone. This was a horrible unnecessary lesson for our daughter, who was working in Toulouse at the time, to learn and left us seething.

Just a small comment as I think you have been given very good advice here. I would suggest that all your correspondence to the landlord / agent is made in French with a translation to English in case this ends up being sorted by french advocats, mediators, gendarmes, notaires and or other officials. to my mind this shows a willingness to work within the law of France where you have rented , makes everything instantly clear to people who may have to sort out who is right at the end of this. Sorry if this seems obvious.

Stay put and let them do the work they are clearly in the wrong.

Amanda, you have been given very good suggestions by all. Now to find the name and residence of the owners you only need to go to the Mairie they will have that information. Bonne chance and a speedy recovery for your husband .

Ben Mongoose is about right in what he says. That private contact is not worth a light under French Law. I have a feeling that someone is trying to duck out of paying his or her financial responsibilities to both the French and maybe the British tax authorities. Also your local Maire may well have the owners address as well, its worth looking there.

You cannot be evicted at a whim in France so sit tight and find yourself's if need be an English speaking legal bod to advise on what to do whilst you look around for a new home.

Hi Amanda....Finn isnt here anymore....but if you want to get hold of him let me know and I will contact him and forward his email to you. I understand that you dont have anyone to contact right now as I think you said the local agent has stopped coming around and you dont have his address or contact details, nor the owners. I would agree with all the info you have received to date...change locks...make sure you have some food stocks...I would try to ensure one of you stays in the property at all times, dont want to freak you, but it has been known for a casement window to be popped to allow someone in.

I would add that apart from letting the Notaire know the situation, I would also talk to the Maire. You are on the right side of the law, the owner isnt. I am sure its stressful, but make sure you have any paperwork in a file and show that to the Notaire and Maire. I am sure you will be told you can sit tight. In the meantime, you may find it pays to have a look around and see if you could find somewhere less stressful to live in. Wish you all good luck in the future.

Hi Amanda

Hope OH gets well soon.

There is a government org that is set up to help tenants and landlords with legal queries etc and they have offices in most areas (not sure where you are in France). They are very good at answering email enquiries and may be a good place for advice for you.

I would also suggest that you find out which Notaire is dealing with the sale of the house and let them know that you are the 'sitting tenants' as this may well change the minds of the owners as to purchasing the house or not!

I second Paul's advice and would suggest that you change the locks immediately, which you are legally allowed to do provided you put the original locks back when you go or hand the landlord the new keys.

I also think that the english contract is illegal even in english law as it was not signed by the landlords - I presume that it does not give the agents name and state that he is acting on their behalf?

Would the previous agent be willing to give you the landlords address and information if they are no longer dealing with them?

Just had a thought - they have to pay their taxe fonciere as owners of the property and their purchase of the house would have been known to the Mairie's office - have a word with them as I expect they would be sympathetic and may be able to provide you with where to find the landlords address or point you in the right direction.

You could also pay the monthly rental cheques to a notaire to hold in 'escrow' for you if you cannot pay the landlord. That would prove that you were not failing to uphold your part of the contract so it gives the landlord no reason to evict you.

We have UK and French properties rented and I am amazed at how well the French tenants are protected under the law, so do not give in, you are within your rights to stay put for the foreseeable future.

Good luck

Oh, and buy a camera.

Whenever someone is at the door, open it with your camera ready positioned and take a picture.

Then close the door.