Hi all, just wondering if any sage souls out there had any helpful suggestions....... I moved to France with my small son in Aug 2008 after my divorce. Initially I was offered a position as an 'Agent Commercial' with a local estate agent and found rented accommodation in a property that had been on the market for a number of years but was reassured that it was extremely unlikely to sell in the near future and that the tenancy was secure. We arrived in August and by December sods law decreed that a buyer had been found and we were given until 1st week in March to vacate. By this time the estate agent I had been working with had closed her business ( a combination of the slump in the market at that time and certain 'legal problems' for which she was apparantly notorious - unbeknown to me).As small son was happily esconced in his new school and with no CDI, renting was obviously going to be difficult, so armed only with a grim determination to stay in France and a couple of CDD contracts (I'm a Celta qualified Business English teacher) I took the plunge and in Jan 2009, under pressure to find somewhere to live fast,I offered on a brand new house, which seemed like the quick and sensible option ( trying very hard to change the habits of a lifetime!) - low maintenance, energy efficient etc etc. The property was built but not finished when our offer was made and accepted and is situated on a new development of 2 apartment buildings and just three houses of which mine is the end house. At the beginning of Feb 2009 I received the devastating news that my father had died whilst on an extended Christmas break in the UK ( he lived in the Charente ) and I had to return to the UK to organise the funeral and then hotfoot it to the Charente to finalise his affairs and clear his house. Immediately upon my return, I then had to pack and prepare to move into the new property, which I was then told would not be completed until the first week in May, thus requiring that all my worldlies went into storage for two months as well as incurring the cost of renting short term in a holiday complex until the completion date.
Finally got the keys at the beginning of May, but had to wait another fortnight before EDF could lay on the electricity however, apart from this inconvenience and a few technical problems with the telephone cabling that had been laid outside, we moved in and whilst surprised by the condition in which the builders had left the property ( covered in plaster, blobs of concrete, etc and with the garden area much reduced from the land area proposed when I first offered and the ground undiggable, awash with concrete, stones and 'buried treasure' ( T shirts, and even some underpants!!) I was informed that this was perfectly normal when you buy a new house here.
Anyway to cut a long story short, the first problems were encountered in the first year. The house is just 75m2, I had no dishwasher, tumble drier or much else in the way of gadgetry and mindful of my dad's experience with electric heating had bought a calor gas heater. (In any case, I had had to remove both radiators from the living/kitchen areas in order to accommodate some of Dads furniture). Based on our previous consumption, I elected to pay EDF by monthly direct debit of 100e, a slight increase on before and which EDF suggested should more than cover it. At the end of the year, the meter was read and I was absolutely astounded to receive a bill for an additional 800e, bringing the annual bill to a mind boggling 2000e!! Within the week, my neighbour had paid me a visit to ask if i had received a huge bill as they too were taken unawares by a bill that was even bigger than mine.the only house that was unaffected was the house in the middle, owned by some friends of the builder and electricity/plumbing contractor that laid on the services to the new development (funny that!) Even EDF admitted that it was an abnormal consumption, but as the meters in both houses were found not to be faulty, they couldn't do anything about it. in the course of my enquiries, I also found that additional services had been requested on my account, using my name, but giving a birthdate of 1978 ( very flattering as I'm 47!) and incorrect birthplace. Again EDF said that this was peculiar, apologised and cancelled the additional services, but repeated attempts to get to the bottom of what happened have drawn a blank. With an extremely limited income, the right to absolutely no assistance at all ( as a homeowner, albeit with a bloody great mortgage and as a foreigner, my application for RSI was refused by the department of Vaucluse on those grounds and that I was obliged to have sufficient funds to support and my child in France for 5 years after entry)
Other electrical 'weirdies' were the occasional smell of burning around the front door and occasionally from the staircase area and the absolutely arctic conditions for the past two winters on the first floor of the house, with the wind whistling through the roof space and resulting in many a 'duvet day'!
Hard on the heels of this horror came the demand from the syndic of the co-propriete for 700 e ( having informed me when I bought the house that the charges would not exceed 200e annually - my neighbours were told the same thing) these charges mainly relate to the cleaning and maintenance of the two apartment buidings as well as their security lighting and the maintenance of the ' espaces verts' which seem in part to have purloined from the garden land the house owners hadbeen expecting when we offered on our houses!
Over the period of time we have lived here, we have been made aware that the builder/developer in question is known to be a crook and a chancer of the first order, he has a shocking reputation locally, confirmed by the very kind lady at the CAF whose heartfelt advice was to sell the house and get the hell out of here.
Even with 5 different jobs, financially it has been a nightmare and so the house was put on the market and finally I received an offer in October. The DPE was carried out and surprise surprise, we have lived here for nearly three years with NO insulation in the roofspace whatsoever!! ( photographic proof) additionally it has come to light during our notaires investigations that the development has being built in direct contravention to the permission and spec demanded by the Mairie for the site, the apartment buildings are misplaced by a significant distance, the wooden shutters approved replaced by rollers, garages built with no permission resulting in two of the three houses being misplaced ( not lost, just not where they should be!) and the list goes on.
At this point I lost my cool and armed with a copy of the DPE ( energy rating E on a new house, thus affecting its mortgageability) photos of the 'naked combles' and copies of the threatening letters sent to the developer from the Mairie and legal representatives regarding the infractions of his original permis de construire ( he risks a 300000 fine at the minimum - not sure if worst case scenario would be demolition & rebuild - difficult as houses and appts all either sold or rented now) I went straight to his office and slapped the documents on his desk and demanded an explanation. He was evidently a bit taken aback that I had copies of the correspondance pertaining to his infractions of the building permission and agreed to send a company to insulate my property within a week, which he did.the DPE rating was then revised to D and the sale is progressing.
I'd be interested to know whether the illegality of the development as a whole would invalidate any part of the regles de co propriete ( not sure if you can apply legal obligations to a development where people have bought in good faith but is later found to be contravening perhaps both european standards and departmental/local law. At the 2010 annual meeting of the syndic & co propriete The houses were assured of a reduction in charges to take into account our subsidy of the apartments and our lack of benefit from most of the incorporated charges and services - naturally this has not materialised.
Would there be any point in seeking redress from the developer given that the houses clearly didn't conform to spec or accepted standards of construction etc
I am still left with the residue of a huge electricity bill to pay, thankfully edf have been extremely patient and have made it clear that they too believe something to be amiss and have given me numerous stays of execution. My own feeling is that either a) we were charged for elec used by the developer ( the bill initially arrived in the name of the SCI) b) the middle house has been pulling electricity from the two either side or c) there's an major wiring problem.
I'm now facing my 4th move/house clearance on my own in three years, my son who has dyslexia and mild Aspbergers)has recently had to return to the UK to live with his father due to a combination of the uncertainty and a deterioration in his behaviour probably caused by school stress, my own stress and the long hours I had been working which haven't even allowed us to 'break even'. I have no idea where I will go, do not have an income that will support another mortgage and am feeling more than a little 'punchdrunk' with it all!
A big 'Thank You' in advance to those that have read this and managed to stay with my ramblings' I'd really appreciate any advice from anyone with a better knowledge of building rules, regs and legal process here than I have!